Plan Your Growth and Build Your Support Network for a Better Future!

We all want to see a brighter future for ourselves. We envision our lives getting better and better over time, and we see ourselves as better people now than we were several years ago, with more accumulated experience, knowledge, etc. Yet real growth doesn’t just happen over time all by itself.

That’s why people often wonder how they can change and improve, especially when they’re focusing on specific areas of life. Whether the goal is to play a sport better, get a promotion at work, or become a better spouse or parent, you probably wonder what you can do to grow.

It can be hard to grow and change when you don’t know where to start or how to follow through. Here’s a guide laying out the basics of how you can achieve personal growth.Image of a plant sprouting in stages to illustrate growth and change.

Make the Unfamiliar Familiar

Your brain has one primary goal: to keep you alive. In pursuit of this goal, your brain has loaded itself with all sorts of survival mechanisms developed over thousands of years of evolution. Among these adaptations, one of the most prominent ones is fear.

Fear is your brain’s way of telling you to be cautious. It’s telling you, “Hey! That thing might be dangerous—stay away from it so we can be safe!”

One of the ways your brain decides whether to warn you about something is familiarity. If something is unfamiliar, your brain won’t already have pre-developed responses to deal with it. As a result, it defaults to caution, and makes you feel discomfort or anxiety, which are milder versions of fear.

This is why trying new things might often make you feel uneasy. It’s also what makes it so hard to change, since conscious change requires you to ignore your brain’s responses and enter unfamiliar territory.

How do you combat this? You make the unfamiliar familiar to set your brain at ease. There are two ways to go about that: establishing clear pathways, and getting support.

Develop Clear Neural Pathways by Planning Things Out

The first way to keep from getting “psyched out” by your brain’s natural responses is to plan out the change you wish to see.

Planning requires you to run through the process of whatever it you’re going to do in your head before you do it. Imagining things like this lets your brain experience what it will generally be like ahead of time. This is why we have imagination in the first place—it’s our personal staging area where we can practice dealing with challenges before we actually encounter them.

Once you’ve experienced something in your head, your brain will have a clear neural pathway to take when dealing with that thing, and won’t have to default to caution.

If you plan and visualize the change you wish to see before you act, your brain will grow familiar with it and let you “take the foot off the brake”.

Build a Support Network

The other way to help your brain take the foot off the brake is by getting support.

Having others around to help you is a way of bringing familiarity to the unfamiliar. Asking people for advice, assistance, or even just words of encouragement gives you something familiar to hold onto and anchor you. That way, when you’re facing a new challenge, your brain is more at ease and doesn’t fill your head with warning signals.

Getting support from people you trust is another way of making things familiar, so you can move forward with growth and change without anxiety.

Your support system includes friends, family, peers, teachers, and anyone else whose support you find reassuring. However, you might also consider how professional help can factor into your support system.

Critical Thinking for Success offers one-on-one cognitive training and therapy. This program develops the skills and strategies you use to visualize and plan your future, as well as build your support system. Give us a call at 847-845-0422 to schedule a consultation, and learn how we can become a key part of the support system that helps you grow and change!


Critical Thinking for Success
1121 Lake Cook Rd., Suite P
Deerfield, IL 60035

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