Up to this point, the Thinking Path has provided us with an effective approach to understand our current state and define our desired state. It has allowed us to peer into our thinking and identify the thought habits that we use today and those we wish to use tomorrow. But is this enough to help our clients really change their thought habits? The answer is no. In my experience, most clients need something more to help them change their thought habits in a sustained manner. What they need is an action plan comprised of a set of goals and practices that transform the desired state into reality.

Most coaches know how to build action plans and most clients appreciate action planning. However, when most coaches build action plans they focus primarily on behaviors and results and construct a set of goals related to the new results and a set of behaviors to achieve these results. For most coaches and clients, this may feel like enough. I believe it is not as too often simply setting a new goal and identifying new behaviors to reach the goal leads only to short-term, unsustainable shifts. The New Year’s resolution is the most glaring example of these types of shifts. What is needed is another action plan aimed at sustaining the new thinking described in the desired state—an action plan that can ensure that the necessary change in thought habits actually does occur. We call this action plan a Thinking Path Plan; it is a combination of traditional planning oriented toward behaviors and results and planning focused on the thought habits in order to enhance the possibility of sustained change.

Fortunately, we can change our thought habits if we choose to do so, and we can do so throughout our entire lives. New research in neuroplasticity confirms this statement. We now understand that the brain’s primary function of receiving and storing data within its networks continues throughout our lives. As such, the brain can create new neural pathways within predisposed areas of the brain based on new data. These new pathways can be built in addition to the original neural pathways and over time can become stronger than the old pathways, providing us with alternatives. These alternatives are critical for a very important reason: the brain does its work extraordinarily quickly and it is impossible to intercept the firing sequence of specific neural pathways in response to data. As such, our interpretations are almost immediate. That said we can choose to keep or change the thoughts we have made, once we have made them. And if we choose to change the thought habit, we can select the alternative. And if we consistently choose the alternative, we have the possibility of quieting down the original pathways or extinguishing them altogether. As long as we can learn we can acquire new thought habits and even change or eliminate old thought habits.

A question now emerges: How do we encode the new thought habits from the desired state into our neural pathways so that they become viable alternatives the next time the original pathways fire? Not surprisingly, we must engage in an activity most of us experience throughout our lives: learning. It is

through learning that we discovered our A, B, and C’s, 1, 2, 3’s and do, re, mi’s. It is through learning that we acquired most of our thought habits. And it is through learning that we can encode new thought habits into our neural pathways so that they become viable alternatives

There are many approaches used in learning, and everyone has a preferred approach that works best for the individual. When using the Thinking Path, there are five approaches that are particularly helpful in creating new and sustained neural pathways: (1) repetition, (2) education, (3) visualization, (4) writing, and (5) conversation. Most clients will want to use more than one approach, but may not use all five at once.

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