What’s it like to change the way you think? Here’s the best analogy you’ll ever hear.

People often discount positive thinking and cognitive behavioral strategies as too “easy” or “simple” to work. They laugh off the concept of changing the way you think as silly and senseless, scoffing at stuff like The Secret and the works of folks like Wayne Dyer.  They oversimplify and often ridicule the idea.


Folks who spout such cynicism have clearly never changed their brains. It’s more complicated, more difficult and more life-changing than they could possibly imagine. Trust me when I say, IT’S SO HARD.

Without a doubt, modifying your state of mind and fundamentally altering your attitude about life is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Think climbing Everest with another person on your back. A truly tiresome person.

BUT, and this is a but worth waiting for, it’ll transform your life from top to bottom, so I’d say it’s a worthwhile investment of your energy.

Here’s the best analogy I can think of for what it’s like to rewire your grey matter:

Picture a dirt road; a well-traveled path winding its way through grassy hills. It probably looks charming, to passers-by.  But you’ve been traveling this road for eons. Your heavy wagon wheels have worn deep, thick grooves into the dirt below. The route is easy and familiar. The ruts lead you down a predictable path to your usual destination. And the destination is doing nothing for you these days. Same shit, different day.

But one morning, you’re aching to end up somewhere different. So you decide to forge a new path. You steer your wagon onto the nearby grass. But there are no ruts to guide you, so it’s slower going. Your ride isn’t as steady or as sure of itself on the slippery surface. You start to carve gentle new grooves, but they’re much more shallow and not nearly as easy to follow. You feel insecure and unsteady.

Then one day, the sky opens, and a torrential downpour slips your wagon right back into its original path. The ruts are wet, deep, familiar. It feels like you belong there. You want to give up and slide right along the regular old route, even though you’re well aware it won’t take you anywhere you want to go. It almost feels like the path is pulling you along; like it’s taken over. Its force is strong, and it’s so. damn. hard. to pull your wagon out of the muck and back to the other path. You manage to do it, but it’s tough.

It’s pretty rainy in these parts, so you slip back onto the old road fairly often. The muck tempts you. The easy, commonplace path is seductive. You never thought going a different way would take so much manpower.

But each time you hold firm and travel the new route — the grooves get deeper and deeper. The path gets easier and more familiar. Eventually, it starts to feel natural. You start to breathe easier, and your wagon rolls along unhindered. Then, one bright sunny day, you realize that even gale force winds, quicksand and a carrot on a stick couldn’t drag you back on that old path to nowhere. You’re on the right road, and you’re not wavering.

That, my friends, is your brain and its neural pathways. Getting away from the old ain’t easy, but it is possible. The key is vigilance, habit, and consistency. Because new roads don’t build themselves — not in this little analogy and not in real life. But happiness is worth the work.

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2 Responses

  1. Brent Berman says:

    Great analogy Hannah. This is the truth and phrased in a way that is easy to understand. Thank you.

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