Is it true we use a fraction of our brain?

October 21, 2014

The other day, I was sitting within earshot of a group of intellectuals who were pontificating on the difference between the brain and the mind. One of the men said, “People only use 10 percent of the brain.”

Actually, we use our entire brain. Not all at once, but there’s no part that is unused. The speaker probably meant we only use a fraction of the mind’s potential.

There is a difference between the brain and the mind. The brain is the physical structure; the mind is the mental process. We use 100 percent of the physical brain. If we didn’t, nature would not have designed us to grow a brain that is several times larger than what we need.

Do you really think the human brain would have evolved larger and larger over the course of human history if only 10 percent of it was going to be utilized? Nature doesn’t work that way. Evolution adapts in response to the environment. It doesn’t give us nine times more of some bodily organ just for the hell of it.

Having said that, the average person does not use his or her full mental potential—particularly in the area of creativity. What is the limit of a person’s creativity? Is there any? I don’t think so. The mind’s potential is limitless in any number of mental domains.

Can you imagine the things you could do if you focused your mind on developing just one of your mental capabilities? Say you wanted to work on improving your creative problem-solving abilities. If you spent your entire life developing those cognitive skills, you might reach your potential by the conclusion of your life.

The thing is, you do not have enough time to fully develop your mind’s potential in every arena. You need to prioritize. What topics, skill, and talents do you really want to develop the most? If your mind did not limit your unlimited potential, you would not be able to do much of anything at all.

So don’t get all “guilted-out” because you haven’t yet become all you can be. You cannot be all things to all people in all situations. Give yourself a break. Most people have one area of expertise, and those experts are probably completely inept in other fields. That’s why they pay a mechanic, lawyer, computer technician, surgeon, farmer, or other professional when they need something done outside of their own competency.

What about the physical brain? Why does it sometimes seem to be in conflict? Why are we sometimes selfish, then giving? Angry, then forgiving? There is a physical structure in the brain for each of those emotions.

Brain scans reveal a region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens that lights up when a person is selfishly thinking of extreme pleasure, like gambling or winning the lottery. The nucleus accumbens is the pleasure center and it drives addictive behaviors.

Another part of the brain, the posterior superior temporal sulcus, activates when an individual is showing concern for others, demonstrating social consciousness. It’s the part involved with altruistic thinking.

When someone is enraged, it’s the amygdala that is firing off. Later, when that person is ready to forgive, the prefrontal cortex takes over. That’s the region that houses moral reasoning and ethical behavior.

Neuroscientists are continuing to discover the connections between the brain, mind, and body. I look at it this way: My brain is part of my physical identity; my mind is part of my essence; and my essence is my true nature.

Today’s Loving Suggestion: Realize that you have limits. You are not expected to reach your full potential in every aspect of your life. Focus your attention on developing your abilities in a few select areas you have chosen for yourself. Be satisfied with that. Relax. You do not need to be perfect. And the next time you hear someone make the false statement that we only use a fraction of the brain, realize that he or she is mixing up “brain” and “mind.”

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