I train people who are up to something to master the art and science of change so they can create consistently satisfying and meaningful lives and make the difference they want to make in the world.
Of course, I started doing this because that’s exactly what I wanted to do: learn how to create a consistently satisfying and meaningful life so I could make a difference.
This wasn’t a brand new concept. I’ve been doing this, or something like it, for a good portion of my adult life. And I’ve experienced the deep satisfaction of being fully engaged in meaningful pursuits. But those experiences, no matter how long they lasted, came and went. And often when they went, so did much of my satisfaction and sense of meaning.
The fact that my circumstances played a much bigger role in my satisfaction than I played became painfully apparent several years ago. I was out for a walk on one of those New Mexico spring days that was so windy each step I took was an effort. Walking against the wind is a good way to describe my life at that point. All of a sudden, I realized if this is how it’s going to be, I’m not interested. It was about as profound a sense of dissatisfaction with my life as I’d ever felt.
Unhappiness and dissatisfaction are linked with a release of cortisol by the brain. Cortisol makes us want to do something to change how we’re feeling. A low level of cortisol triggers us to do something to make ourselves feel better immediately: eat something sweet, buy something new, zone out in front of the TV. The response is automatic. No conscious thought is involved.
Cortisol also makes us pay attention, but more than a little of it has to be released before we pay enough attention to override the stimulus-response of cortisol and self-soothing behavior.
The deep discontent I experienced that spring day was enough to drive me to figure out not just how to feel better, but how to be better: how to create a consistently satisfying and meaningful life regardless of my circumstances.
My drive to understand why people do the things they do—many of which are obviously irrational—began in elementary school. I started reading Carl Jung in the seventh or eighth grade and went on to both formal and informal study and exploration in the areas of psychology, social psychology, philosophy, spirituality, and now neuroscience. I’ve explored personality theories such as the MBTI and the Enneagram (becoming a certified Enneagram instructor in the mid-90s), and I spent eight years as a substance abuse counselor. As a result, I already had access to a variety of processes and techniques to help myself that I’d either learned or developed over several decades.
But some piece of the puzzle was missing, and I started looking for it—whatever it might be. What I soon discovered is that there’s little evidence to support most conventional wisdom about personal growth and change. Not only doesn’t it help, in some cases it harms.
Change Is Possible, but It Isn’t Probable
The first thing we learn from studying our own circuitry is a simple lesson: most of what we do and think and feel is not under our conscious control. —David Eagleman, Incognito
Incognito was the first in a series of books on the brain and the mind that I devoured (see the Reading List). Most of the research these books are based on is brand new, at least in terms of our evolutionary history. Until 20 or 30 years ago, the technology to explore the brain we have now simply wasn’t available. To be sure there’s much, much more to learn, but what we have learned is enough to warrant a drastic change in our mental model of how we function in the world—and what is and isn’t possible.
Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it.
Unless we make a persistent effort to convince it otherwise, our brain’s autopilot won’t take our half-hearted attempts to chart a new course seriously. It will keep “correcting” us back to the same old well-worn path. Persistent effort requires conscious attention. But conscious attention is limited and easily depleted, so the solution isn’t to try to be more conscious; it’s to use our conscious attention more effectively.
Change isn’t easy, and it takes longer than we want it to take. But instead of allowing our brain’s hardwired tendencies to hold us back, we can use them to support our higher aspirations. I can attest to the fact that it’s definitely possible to get from here (letting our brain use us) to there (learning how to use our brain).
In order to end up where you want to go, you need to:
- Identify what you really want and have a sense of urgency about getting it.
- Learn how to stop getting in your own way.
- Rewire your brain to help you create more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.
That’s what Farther to Go! is all about.
Your knowledge and coaching skills equal the best I have experienced in the social/lifestyles arena. Your sharing of your life experiences aids the learning process and enhances your credibility. —J.G.
Enjoyed your personal examples, Joycelyn, and your commitment to riding along on our journey. —M.Z.
I’m very impressed with the process and sequence of activities you have developed along with your entire delivery style. —J.L.
Contact me if you have any questions or would like more information.