The brain hardwires everything it can. It has to. We have so much information to process, and our working memories are so limited, that the brain takes any repetitive or otherwise important thought or activity and “hard codes” it into our more capacious subcortex (the part that holds long-term memories and processes).
It’s also an efficiency thing. Far less energy is required to think using well-established/deeply-ingrained hardwired patterns than to think anew. Try it now for yourself. Answer these sums out-loud: 1+1=? 2+2=? 10+10=? 156+75=? Did you notice, if just for a split second, mentally backing-off the last question? That feeling is a threat response: because (new) thinking takes resources.
To come at this from a different angle: an interesting study showed that elite sportspeople use significantly less of their brain whilst playing their sport than non-elite sportspeople, when intuitively you might think it would be the other way around. Which goes to show that the brain’s preference is for hardwiring. And also that our hardwiring is more dependable and more able to deliver results than our conscious brain.
So two things come to (my!) mind:
- Given how dependable and performant our habits are, wouldn’t it be great to ingrain peak performance as a habit?
- Given how deeply hardwired we are all, can we really break-out of the autopilot?
Unsurprisingly, lasting change takes effort and a whole new approach. And the way to do that is not just to counter the brain’s preference for hardwiring, but to leverage it.