The Power to Choose

January 4, 2017

As promised, today's post will speak to our power of choice. Several years ago, I was introduced to the work of Benjamin Libet, a scientist in the field of human consciousness at UC San Francisco. He discovered that the part of the brain responsible for movement begins moving  a quarter-second before we are aware of the impulse to move. I'm thinking of the expression - "That person acted without thinking." Yet, there is another quarter-second before the movement begins. In other words, there is a quarter-second lag time between the impulse to do something and actually doing it. There is a short blip of time between the impulse to nibble on more chocolate and the act of nibbling on more chocolate.  In this quarter-second, we can find the space to pause and observe our impulse. Author Tara Bennett-Goleman calls Libet's discovery the "magic quarter-second."

 

The "magic quarter-second" speaks to the beauty of neuroplasticity, which I wrote about yesterday. In this lag time, we can challenge our habits.  If we are able to catch that pause between impulse and action, then there is the potential  to respond differently. We can kindly question our impulse and unmask what might be hiding behind it.  One reflection question I have found particularly helpful to ask myself if I find that I'm eating chocolate mindlessly is -  "What unmet need am I trying to fill?" or "What unmet need am I trying to ignore by doing/eating _______?" Clearly, the example of eating chocolate mindlessly hits close to home. I've often found myself nibbling on chocolate out of boredom or simply eating it because it's around and nobody can tell me not to nibble on it. Notice for yourself what happens or doesn't happen when you pause in this "magic quarter-second" between impulse and action. 

 

Photo by WIX

 

 

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