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How to Find Your Path to Self-Awareness

Step 1: Tune into Your Thinking

In my years of research and practice, I’ve identified six types of troublesome thinking or triggers that cause people, including myself at times, to self-sabotage. These cognitive patterns, often deeply ingrained, can hinder our ability to make rational decisions, connect with others, and lead a fulfilling life. To truly enhance self-awareness, I believe it’s not enough to merely recognize these patterns; one must delve deeper to understand their origins and the underlying neural mechanisms.

With my pioneering approach rooted in neuroscience, I emphasize the importance of understanding the intricacies of the human mind to achieve lasting positive changes. My extensive research and hands-on experience have shown that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are intricately linked and influenced by neural pathways in the brain. By tapping into the principles of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections, we can rewire these patterns, leading to more constructive thoughts and behaviors.

To address these troublesome thinking patterns, it’s essential first to identify them. Let’s delve into these terms and what they mean:

  • Overgeneralizing/catastrophizing: Taking one fact and jumping to conclusions, usually negative ones. For instance, thinking a friend is upset because they didn’t return a text.

  • Should-based thinking: Relying too much on personal rules and expectations. Like thinking a friend should have replied by now.

  • Black-and-white thinking: Allowing only two possibilities with no middle ground. Like thinking a colleague is rude because they didn’t greet you.

  • Mind reading: Believing you know the thoughts or intentions of others. Like thinking you didn’t get a promotion because your boss doesn’t value you.

  • Discounting the positive: Downplaying positive aspects about yourself or your achievements. Like turning down a compliment instead of accepting it.

  • Personalization: Comparing yourself to others, often unfavorably. Like feeling inadequate when scrolling through social media.

To better understand these triggers, I recommend a simple exercise: Break up your next 24 waking hours into four equally spaced blocks of time and set an alert for each. When the alarm sounds, jot down what’s on your mind. After the fourth note, review what you wrote. Consider each thought within the context of the six types of thinking. Do any of your thoughts align with them? This exercise can be repeated over several days to spot triggers and identify which ones affect you most.


Step 2: Shutting Down Triggering Thoughts

Woman on grass with mirror experiencing self-awareness moment

In the contemporary world, the pace of life and the myriad of responsibilities can often lead to a whirlwind of negative thoughts and assumptions. Through my extensive research and experience in neuroscience-based life coaching, I’ve recognized the profound impact of these thought patterns on our daily lives. Consider the seemingly trivial instance of an unreturned text message. Such an event can spiral into a cascade of negative assumptions and emotional reactions. However, with heightened self-awareness, we can intercept these patterns and choose a more constructive response.

My unique approach to life coaching, rooted deeply in neuroscience, offers a transformative journey that transcends traditional methods. Over the years, I’ve developed a pioneering method that not only helps individuals understand their minds but also harnesses its power to reshape habits, beliefs, and perspectives. This ensures genuine and lasting change. By tapping into the principles of neuroplasticity, my coaching method redirects brain pathways, fostering enduring positive changes in the brain. This means that individuals can become the best versions of themselves without constant conscious effort.

Understanding the neural basis of triggering thoughts provides a comprehensive roadmap to manage them effectively. By pinpointing the specific brain regions and neurotransmitters involved, I’ve devised strategies that not only counteract these negative thoughts but also promote resilience and positive thinking. The brain is a dynamic entity, constantly evolving and adapting. By leveraging this neuroplastic nature of the brain, we can rewire our thought processes, ensuring that we respond to triggers in a manner that aligns with our goals and well-being.

Many of my clients, who come from diverse backgrounds and face a plethora of challenges, have consistently expressed their astonishment at the transformative power of this neuroscience-based approach. They’ve found that with the right guidance and tools, managing triggering thoughts becomes not just manageable but second nature. This is the essence of neuroscientific life coaching – empowering individuals to navigate the complexities of life with clarity, confidence, and a deep understanding of their own minds.


Step 3: Changing Your Old Ways

Antecedents, behaviors, and consequences are crucial components of our actions. By understanding the sequence of events that lead to certain behaviors, we can make informed decisions and change undesired habits. Tapping into the principles of neuroplasticity, I often suggest redirecting brain pathways to foster enduring positive changes.

Consider the example of my former client, Jessie, who struggled with procrastination. She would often fill her time with other activities, sometimes productive, sometimes not. Despite disliking the consequences of her procrastination, she justified her behavior. If you’ve ever said, “I do my best work in a pinch,” while knowing it’s not true, you might relate to Jessie.

Using the A.B.C. approach, you can dissect your situation. Start by identifying the long-term consequences you dislike and the behaviors associated with them. Then, examine the antecedents – what happens before you engage in these behaviors? What thoughts precede them? Recognizing and addressing these patterns is the first step toward lasting change.


Step 4: Crafting a Visual Plan with the Neuroscientific Rapid Planning Method (NRPM)

In today’s dynamic and ever-evolving world, many individuals find it challenging to uphold a consistent daily routine. Balancing personal and professional goals has become an intricate dance, with many feeling overwhelmed by the demands of modern life. Recognizing this pressing need, I’ve meticulously integrated the NRPM (Neuroscientific Rapid Planning Method) into my specialized, neuroscience-informed life coaching programs. This innovative approach has consistently demonstrated its capability to alleviate stress and transform one’s cognitive approach to planning.

The essence of NRPM is its ability to empower individuals, enabling them to proactively manage the multifaceted responsibilities of both their personal and professional lives while actually changing the way the neural networks of their brains communicate. It offers a sophisticated strategy backed by hard science to adeptly handle the pressures of an intense career, familial commitments, and personal challenges.

Many of my clients, despite being ensnared in a vortex of tasks and responsibilities, have expressed their amazement at the simplicity and efficacy of the NRPM. With an enhanced sense of self-awareness, they gain a more nuanced level of emotional intelligence. A deeper self-awareness heightens a greater understanding of what our brains DO and DO NOT respond to. They’ve found that embracing the Neuroscientific Rapid Planning Method feels almost instinctual. This is a testament to the unmatched potency of neuroscientific coaching, ensuring that every task is addressed sufficiently and effectively, even amidst life’s unpredictabilities.

So, what exactly is the NRPM? Drawing from my workbook, “Time of Your Life,” I describe the NRPM as a systematic approach to reclaiming one’s focus and realizing one’s vision. It revolves around consistently asking oneself three pivotal questions in a specific sequence. While NRPM stands for Neuroscientific Rapid Planning Method, it can also be perceived as a Results-oriented, Purpose-driven, Massive Action Plan. This sequence is paramount; without clarity on what you desire, understanding the reasons behind that desire, and then formulating a plan to achieve it, sustained action becomes challenging. This method ensures that you’re not just managing time but crafting a life that’s deeply fulfilling and continuously evolving.

The NRPM encourages individuals to delve deep into their potential. It’s designed to counteract the negative emotions often associated with planning, such as anxiety, fear, and frustration. By channeling one’s energy and focus toward achieving desired outcomes, the NRPM provides a robust framework to initiate and sustain one’s action plan. Through task after task, this combined method ensures that individuals ingrain in their neural circuitry these three crucial steps: the intended result, the underlying purpose, and the start of an action. This holistic, neuroscience-based approach not only reshapes one’s way of thinking, quite literally, but also paves the way for a life of growth, self-awareness, and unparalleled inner fulfillment.





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Dr. Sydney Ceruto

Dr. Sydney Ceruto

A Pioneer in Neuroscience-Based Coaching

As the founder of MindLAB Neuroscience, Dr. Sydney Ceruto has been a leading force in integrating neuroscience into coaching and counseling for over two decades. With three master's degrees in psychology and two PhDs in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, she is widely considered a top expert in her field.

Harnessing the power of neuroscience-based coaching, Dr. Ceruto's innovative approach focuses on neuroscience, neuroplasticity, and neural pathway rewiring to foster lasting positive change in mental health.

Dr. Ceruto holds esteemed memberships in the Forbes Executive Council, Positive Performance Alliance, Wharton Executive Education Program, the International Society of Female Professionals, and executive writing positions for Alternatives Watch, Brainz Magazine, and TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.

Dr. Ceruto's accomplishments include:

  • The 2022 CREA Award.
  • A lead research position at NYU Steinhardt.
  • Volunteer work with Covenant House and the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI).

Her science-backed method of Neural Rewiring has successfully guided thousands of clients toward happier, more productive, and more resilient lives.

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