Time Travel: Are You Going Forward or Backward?
It’s no use to go back to yesterday
because I was a different person then.
~ Lewis Carroll from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Ignorance is bliss. When I read a book about the many benefits of becoming vegan for my own health and the well-being of animals and the environment, I knew I had to either ignore the information or act on it. I couldn’t go back to not knowing.
Nothing changes if nothing changes. No new action is required. But as our knowledge and beliefs change, our actions must also change. If not, we create cognitive dissonance, a state of mild anxiety and defensiveness about our choices. Our brain knows that what we’re doing doesn’t quite match the beliefs in our head.
Neuroplasticity is what allows us to connect new actions with new beliefs or thoughts. New thoughts can bring about new actions which reinforce the thoughts, which in turn strengthens the new neural pathways. But the opposite is also true and can be used to help us make the difficult changes we want to make in our life.
Even if we don’t fully believe we embody certain characteristics such as patience, we can start acting as if it is true. Acting, doing things in a way that forces us to practice patience, tells our brain that this is something we already do. That also changes the pathways in our brain. We can choose to be a different person today than we were yesterday, or we can continue to lay down the same brain pathways to do the same things. The more we act like the person we want to be, the more we become the person we want to be.