How to use your reticular cortex

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The power of a clear goal

There's a mental process which you can go through, that will ensure the achievement of what you want faster than anything else. It's easy to do and it has an amazing effect on your progress. Your brain is a goal seeking organism: 24 hours a day it's occupied with figuring out how to get what you focus on. Notice I didn't write "what you want" - the brain doesn't react to your wants and needs, but to what you hold in your mind on a continuing basis. If you think about how much you hate your job, the brain will seek to give you more of what you don't want. It will lead you towards more jobs you don't like. That's why people who complain all the time, always finds more things to complain about - and why happy people always bumps into more reasons to be happy.

In what direction do you want to go?

If your mind is occupied with doubts about whether or not you can really learn to play like the best, your brain will manifest and create that reality for you. You are going to find yourself in situations that confirm your disbelief in yourself. When you learn to drive a race car, one of the first things you're taught is to focus on the direction in which you want to go. If your car gets out of control, the one thing you must avoid, at all cost, is to look at and focus on what you are afraid of. If you focus on the wall or the other car that you're about to hit, the likelihood of you crashing goes up 1000 %. You tend to steer in the direction of what you focus on, whether you want to or not. The same things goes for all areas of life.

Any professional sportsman or woman knows this. They consciously and deliberately keep any thoughts of loosing out of their mind and focus only on what they want instead. If they don't master this mental aspect of the process, they haven't got a chance in hell. You can be the fastest runner in the world, but if your mind is occupied with the fear of loosing, you cannot bring your body to perform at it's best. This is not some psychological fancy "think positive" babble, it's hard core reality.

"A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory"
Arthur Golden

The reticular cortex

In your brain, you have something called the reticular cortex. It's a little finger-like section of the brain that deletes most of what you hear see and feel. At any moment in time, there are 100 things to focus on, but if you where to focus on them all at once, you would go completely mad. How many things are you not paying attention to right now? How about how your feet feels at this moment? How about how your clothes feel on your back rubbing against the skin. Where you paying any attention to your breath? As you change your focus from one thing to another, what you delete shifts as well. The reticular cortex determines what to delete, but you have to decide what you don't want to delete.

What are you deleting?

If you decide to buy a red sports car you'll suddenly see red sports cars everywhere. If you decide to buy a car for the first time, you'll suddenly look at cars in completely different way. You'll start to notice what brand cars are and you'll see a lot of other details that you didn't notice before. In other words: The world you perceive changes depending on what focus you have. Where am I going with this? Well, if you focus on how hard it is to get better at playing fast, your reticular cortex is going to delete any signs that it might be easier than you thought. If you focus on how you can't find enough time to practice - your reticular cortex is going to delete ideas and opportunities that could help you find more time to practice - or ideas that could help you get vastly more out of the time you have!

The content of your mind becomes your direction

But if you focus on how you'd really like to be able to play in the future and how you really have every ability that you need to make it happen, your brain is going to show you more ways to get better faster. If you focus on how amazing it feels to get better, your brain is going to do everything it can to create more experiences like that. As you focus so it shall be. Speak and think that which you want to become and you'll create it. It's not really a matter of what you want or don't want, it's a matter of what you hold in your mind. The reticular cortex reacts to the content of your mind not your intentions.

Taking control

You must become very conscious about how you talk to yourself and what images you make in your head. Any negative thought will turn into some form of resistance later on. Everything matters. So the first step is to take control of how you talk and think about playing guitar. There is a time to be analytical and "negative" about what you do, but those moments are just that: moments. You re asses whether or not what you are doing is taking you in the right direction and then you launch again. If you constantly question and analyse what you are doing, you'll drive yourself crazy.

A simple but very effective process

Create big and small goals all the time. A goal is something you'd like to master with a deadline to it. If there's no deadline it isn't  goal but a wish. Ask yourself this right now:

1. What would I like to have accomplished a year from now?
2. What am I going to spend the next thirty days focusing on?
3. What is my primary focus the week?
4. Exactly what will I focus on in today's practice sessions?

If you are really serious about this, go buy a note book and write the answers down. Then revisit this note book often and write down new goals for the coming week, month or year. Create a goal setting journal that becomes your log book. This will also give you a chance to really see how far you have come. Very often we forget to celebrate how much we have achieved in the past. It's like the skill we worked so hard for, becomes a thing we no longer appreciate. But if we don't appreciate it, we teach the brain that whatever we're working on now also wont be that exctiting when we get it!

Bb-Major Legato Tapping Lick

Only you change

Keep focusing on what you want and how you can get it. Be systematical in your pursuit of the goal. Play the metronome game, measure your progress, celebrate every victory and go for more. Be conscious about how you talk to yourself. Refuse to think and talk about what you don't want. Instead keep focusing on what's possible, how great it's going to be when you achieve your goals and how much you really love to play that darn six string. Remember it's supposed to be fun to play and practice, the minute it isn't, something just happened inside of you. You just told yourself something or you focused on something that brought you to that negative place. The world remains the same. Your ability to achieve amazing skills remain the same every moment. Only what you focus on and how you focus on it changes. Take charge, take control and launch against the ultimate terror skills of your dreams, every single day...

"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy"

Sir Winston Churchill