On many fronts people feel the urge to change their lives — so why don’t they succeed? We live in therapeutic times. Advice surrounds us about achieving success. Yet when we set our minds to do something seemingly simple — losing weight, giving up a bad habit, acting nicer to people, and so on — something intervenes between the intention and the goal. This “something” exists in the relationship between the mind, which issues a desire or intention, and the brain, which is the physical apparatus for carrying out desires and intentions.
If you assume that the brain is the mind, which is the working assumption in 99 percent of neuroscience research, there is little room for solving the problem. It’s as if you hear a piece of music you don’t like on the radio, so you try to rearrange the radio’s parts. Obviously a mistake is being made there, but the relationship between mind and brain is subtler. It’s like a conversation between two people, where one person is dominant one moment and the other person is dominant the next. In the dialogue between mind and brain, most of the time the mind is automatically dominant. If you want to raise your arm, the brain sends the appropriate signals without obstacle of interference.