The Science of Confidence and Happiness

Have you ever wondered why you feel confident with some things and not with others? Have you ever wondered where confidence comes from or how you could more easily feel more confident with something? Some of the latest scientific discoveries may be giving us new insights into what confidence really is and how we can feel more of it more often.

 Neuroscientist have been studying two areas of the brain that they are calling the intrinsic and extrinsic neural networks. These two networks have been found to be the two areas of our brain that divide our experience into two categories: 1) What our brain thinks of as “us”, and 2) what our brain thinks of as “everything else.”

 Researchers have found that most of us spend our time focusing our attention back and forth between these two networks. In the book “Grow Happy” I call these two networks the “I Box” and the “Other Box” because it’s as if or brain has developed two boxes where it files all our experience into what our brain labels as either “Us” or “Other”.

Imagine it like there are two big screens T.V.s inside your head with two movies constantly playing. One movie is the movie about who you are and the other movie is about everything that is not you. Your attention is constantly focusing back and forth between these two movies as you go through almost every moment of your life.

Your brain is constantly comparing these two ideas 1) what it thinks you are and 2) what it things other than you is. This comparison process is what gives you confidence or a lack of confidence.

When you experience your concept of “you” as having more power than your concept of  the “other”  that shows up in a particular situation, your brain gives you permission to feel confident. When you experience your concept of “other” as having more power than your concept of “you” in a particular situation, your brain creates the feeling of a lack of confidence.

For example, you may feel confident about typing and not confident about playing the ukulele. If that’s the case, then your brain sees it’s concept of  “you” as having more power than the computer keyboard (other) and less power than the ukulele fret board (other). (BTW it’s opposite for me in this example!)

In any situation, the degree to which you are confident, is the degree to which you experience your concept of “you” as having power to influence the changing of your concept of “other”.

The degree to which you are not confident is the degree to which you experience your concept of “other” as having power to influence the changing of your concept of “you” .

Often times we make the mistake of believing that we can’t be happy in our lives until we feel confident about everything in our lives; that we won’t be happy until we are experiencing our concept of “us” as having the power to influence the changing in all the “others” that are in our lives: in our health, our relationships, our money, our life’s purpose etc. In reality, even if this were to happen, we would still not feel completely happy because we would still have the fear that this could change at any moment.

The degree to which you are happy is the degree to which you are able to now allow your attention to  get completely focused only on your intrinsic and extrinsic neural networks; to recognize the two movie screens as simply playing imagined stories and not reality. The degree to which you are happy is the degree to which you experience yourself and the world as neither “you” or “other” but as the power of changing itself.

-Andy

2 views