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Unveiling Our Potential: Navigating Identity and Change Through Neuroplasticity

Tara Westover's inspiring narrative "Educated" is a remarkable testament to the transformative power of self-discovery and breaking boundaries. Westover's desire to study world affairs, despite her conditioned expectations, is encouraged by her professor who says "I think you should stretch yourself. See what happens." Aristotle knew it too "virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions", Westover distilled it beautifully: "First, find out what you are capable of, then decide who you are."

woman tackling obstacle to build her capabilities and her self-image
"I think you should stretch yourself. See what happens"

Westover's upbringing in remote Idaho, devoid of conventional education and external contact, sheds light on a shared human experience: the imposition of labels. Society's inclination to categorize us - shy, clever, disruptive, lazy, anxious - has the potential to inadvertently shape our self-identity and influence our future trajectories. These labels can become self-imposed limitations, steering us away from uncharted paths - "I can't do that", "I'm not creative", "I'm not brave". Expectations may drive us, but also constrain us. They may also make us anxious or even complacent as we attempt to meet those expectations.

Intriguingly, the emerging field of neuroplasticity offers insights into our capacity for change. Neuroplasticity, defined by the brain's ability to restructure and adapt throughout life, underscores the significance of experience in shaping neural pathways. Recent research by Hudson et al. (2019) emphasizes the critical role of not just desire, but action, in achieving meaningful behavioral change. This notion aligns with Westover's journey and Aristotle's wisdom, highlighting that real transformation is an outcome of action-oriented pursuits.

Neuroplasticity's dynamic principles further explain the potential for reshaping behaviors and habits. Novel experiences forge new neural pathways while redundant ones are pruned, leading to the fading of ingrained behaviors. While genetics, environment, and individual differences play roles, the potential for change persists as we age.

In this transformative voyage towards self-discovery, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool. Rooted in tapping into inner strengths, it aids in overcoming internal barriers like self-limiting beliefs and imposter syndrome. We work towards your desired future, finding tools, strategies and drawing on inner resources, without becoming hidebound by the past. This therapeutic approach aligns with Westover's narrative, reinforcing the idea that change is possible, with focus on the future to overcome unhelpful narratives we may have internalised.

Ultimately, the journey encompasses embracing one's desired future, trusting in one's innate abilities, and daring to venture into uncharted territories. In the words of Tara Westover's professor, "stretch yourself, see what happens." It is in this journey of stretching, supported by the intricate dance of neuroplasticity and self-awareness, that we unearth our true potential and redefine the boundaries of self.


  • Boaler, J. (1997). Experiencing School Mathematics: Traditional and Reform Approaches To Teaching and Their Impact on Student Learning. Studies in Mathematical Thinking and Learning Series. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  • Hudson, N.W., Briley, D.A., Chopik, W.J., & Derringer, J. (2019). You have to follow through: Attaining behavioral change goals predicts volitional personality change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 117(4), 839-861. [Link:,%202019a.pdf]

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