The Physiology Behind Success


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There are three parts of the brain:

  1. Brain Stem
  2. Limbic System
  3. Neocortex

All three parts of the brain are connected through a series of nerve fibers. The subconscious mind is found in the brain stem and limbic system.

The conscious mind is found in the neocortex.

Intuition, that little voice inside your head, is found in all three parts of the brain.

Brain Stem

The brain stem is the oldest part of the brain. It is sometimes referred to as the Reptilian Brain, the Reactive Brain or the Instinctive Brain. At one time, it was the first and only part of our brain.

The brain stem connects to our spinal cord which branches out to form our central nervous system.  It is primarily made up of the Medulla Oblongata and the Pons. The brain stem controls all of your autonomic processes such as breathing, heart rate, swallowing, and organ function. It prompts hunger, your sex drive and the fight or flight mechanism. There is no thinking involved with the brain stem. It exists to ensure your survival.

Limbic System

The limbic system is the second oldest part of the brain. It is sometimes referred to as the Emotional Brain. It is where all of our emotions reside and takes part in memory storage, both long-term and short-term. It includes the following components:

  • Amygdala – Memory and emotions.
  • Hypothalmus – Muscle vibrations and internal temperature. This is why you shiver when you are sick. The hypothalmus increases body temperature to kill bacteria. Muscle vibrations generate heat to kill bacteria. The hypothalmus also controls appetite and hormones.
  • Thalmus – Sits right next to the Basal Ganglia. Affects touch, pain, temperature and muscles.
  • Hippocampus – Where short-term memory is stored. During sleep, it will move short-term memory to long-term storage in the neocortex.
  • Olfactory Lobe – Triggers smell. This is why smell sometimes evokes emotions. They both are connected in the limbic system.
  • Recticular Activating System – Vets the sensory information you take in. Most unimportant sensory information is blocked out by the recticular activating system.
  • Cingulate Cortex – Creates Mirror Neurons that are critical to developing new skills and for survival. These mirror neurons program children to mirror the behavior and emotions of their parents, good or bad. It is sometimes called the Monkey See, Monkey Do process.
  • Basal Ganglia – This is where habits are stored. The basal ganglia acts like the hub of a wheel for neural pathways created in the neocortex. Habits are formed when you repeatedly use certain neural pathways. The brain will create a hub inside the basal ganglia and link to that often used neural path. The hub stays there forever. That is why habits are hard to break. It takes 18 to 254 days for the brain to create a hub in the basal ganglia and, thus form a habit.
  • Neocortex – This is the newest, most unusual part of the brain. It is found only in mammals. It is most of your brain. Fully 5/6ths of our brain mass is made up of the neocortex. It has the most neurons – 40 billion. It is sometimes referred to as the Thinking Brain, Higher Brain, Conscious Brain, Cerebrum or Cerebral Cortex. It is responsible for learning, long-term memory, thought creation and decision making. It is comprised of the four lobes: Parietal, Frontal, Temporal (vision) and Occipital (vision), the Amygdalae and the Corpus Callosum – a bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the neocortex.  It takes in and processes all sensory data.

Wealth Creation Programming

When a thought or action is coupled with any powerful emotion, the brain automatically creates a highly charged neural pathway which becomes permanent. These permanently stored emotionalized thoughts act like software programming in our neocortex.

When you repeat an emotionalized thought or action over and over again, the neural pathway created in the neocortex then creates what is the equivalent of a neural spoke (like a spoke on a wheel).

The neural pathway, by virtue of this neural spoke, is then linked to a newly formed neural hub (again, like the hub of a wheel) in the basal ganglia. This is how habits are formed.

Once formed, a habit stays with you forever or until you break the old neural spoke link by forming more powerful, alternate habits (i.e. it goes away only when you form new, similar, but more powerful habits).

The repeated emotionalized thoughts, which eventually become habits, reprograms your mind. They create the foundation of your belief system. If you create a belief that you will be poor or that you will never be rich, that programming sticks and will direct your behavior in such a way as to ensure you are forever poor or never rich.

Repeating a behavior over and over again will eventually become a habit. If that behavior is bad, such as watching T.V. for hours or overeating, it sticks and the effect is wasting valuable time or obesity that can lead to heart disease or diabetes or any number of detrimental health issues.

The good news is that your belief system can be reprogrammed through this same process. If you change your repetitive emotionalized thoughts you can reprogram your mind.

Similarly, by changing your emotionalized actions and repeating them over and over again they will eventually become habits which will alter your behavior.

Wealthy, successful people reprogram their minds for success by using a number of reprogramming tools and strategies:

  • Practiced Gratitude – Every day give thanks for any good things that have come into your life in the past or the present. Try to find at least one good thing that happened yesterday and give thanks for it. Practiced Gratitude is like software that reprograms your brain. Once this programming is accepted by the brain, through repetition, it becomes a daily habit and will actually create new permanent neural pathways inside your brain. These new neural pathways then go to work directing your behavior in such a way as to cause the creation of more things to be grateful for. It changes your behavior from bad behavior to success-oriented behavior in order to draw in more things to be grateful for. You become a success-seeking GPS.
  • Practiced Optimism – Practiced Optimism means not allowing any doubt thoughts even a second of life. It requires that you monitor your thoughts and when one flashes in your mind you stop yourself and replace the doubt thought with an optimistic thought. “I can’t” become “I will”. “Nothing ever goes my way” becomes “everything goes my way”.  When you Practice Optimism every day you are creating new neural pathways that will eventually become habits. Once they become habits, they then go to work directing your behavior in such a way as to create success. Much like the Practiced Gratitude Rich Habit, you become a success-seeking GPS.
  • The Future Letter – Write a letter to yourself from the future about how incredible your life is. Be lavish in your details about the home you live in, the car you drive, the ideal job you have etc. Read this letter every day for a month. After a month revise it and repeat the process of reading it every day. The future letter works by agitating the brain into altering your behavior in order to create the ideal life you persistently think about every day.
  • Visualization – Create a pictorial Vision Board of all of the things you hope to accomplish and have in life. Keep adding to it every so often. The brain thinks in pictures. The Vision Board is the perfect software to feed the brain. By viewing your Vision Board every day you are reprogramming your mind and creating new neural pathways. Once these pathways become habitual thinking, the brain will then go to work to alter your behavior in order to obtain those things that are on your Vision Board.
  • Daily Affirmations – Daily Affirmations are repeated daily software programming that agitate the brain by asserting something that is not currently true about yourself. Saying “I weigh 135 pounds” every day, when you clearly weigh 180 just pisses off the brain. If you keep repeating this affirmation the brain will eventually seek to alter your behavior in order to get down to 135 pounds. You may find yourself eating less, eating healthier, exercising more. Once the brain accepts the affirmation as reality it then forces you to change your behavior. You don’t have a choice. In order for affirmations to work they have to be tied to some goal. Goals are only goals if they are 100% achievable and require some action. Otherwise they’re wishes and the brain cannot make wishes come true. The brain isn’t magical. It doesn’t manifest things out of thin air. It’s an organic computer. Its real magic is in altering your behavior, by directing you to perform an action that will allow a goal to be realized.
  • Living in the Present – Have you ever been at a party or on vacation, on a golf course or in a bar and thought about nothing but work, family problems, financial problems, etc.? If you have, you’re not alone. Many people fall into this Poor Habit. When you allow worries to intrude in on what should be a Happiness Activity, you lose the Happiness Event forever. It’s just gone. Happiness Activities are the key to overall happiness. The more you have, the happier your life will be. It is critical, therefore, to make a habit of Living in the Present. When you find yourself worrying about something, while engaged in one of these Happiness Activities, you need to stop yourself and tell yourself “just enjoy the moment”.  If you make a habit out of this, eventually you will find yourself worrying less and you will also find yourself happier. Not worrying and Living in the Present gives your brain a breather. Living in the Present is good brain management and will allow you to employ all of the incredible powers of the brain. It relaxes your brain and you are able to think clearer when you have to.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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