Victor Frankel was a Jewish psychiatrist in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. While death was certain, he observed that about 1 out of 25 of his fellow prisoners somehow managed to survive. He set about studying the characteristics of those who survived.

He found that it was what the survivors associated to that made the difference in their survival. While 24 out of every 25 focused on their pain and inevitable death, those who survived created meaning—a purpose—for their suffering, rather than accepting their fate and wondering why God was allowing them to die. For example, they constructed a reason to survive so that they could tell their story to their children, to make certain that this kind of atrocity would never happen again. It changed the meaning of their suffering to something that would make a difference—a purpose that provided a will to live. (Man’s Search For Meaning).

What you link inside your head—the meaning that you give—determines your behavior. You can change your behavior when you change the meaning. You can reprogram your associations and rewire your brain.

How do you condition yourself to make changes that last?

When you change the meaning of an association (neural conditioning), you change your behavior. There are three key principles of neural conditioning to make lasting change.

1. Recognize what to change.
You must get to the point where you feel you must change something, change it now, and that you can change it. Believe that change will ultimately bring pleasure. Recognize that not changing would be ultimately more painful than the immediate pain of the change process.

Questions to Ask:

  • If you don’t change your pattern, what will be the consequences?
  • What is the pain associated to the current choice?
  • What will be the pleasure with changing?

2. Identify the cues/triggers for the behavior.
The meaning you attach to a trigger determines your behavior. Observe the cues (usually emotional) that trigger an automatic behavior pattern. For example, if you want to accumulate wealth, yet do not, you immediately associate money to some pain or negative meaning.

  • I’ll have to work too hard and won’t have time for my family
  • Money will keep me from being spiritual
  • I’d feel guilty about having a lot of money when so many others don’t

Questions to Ask:

  • What are the cues or triggers for the automatic behavior pattern?
  • How can you interrupt your own pattern once you have identified it?

3. Create a new association that empowers you.
Condition a new, empowering association to the same cue. For example, if you have limited yourself or feel stuck in making more money, link making money with strength, power, and possibility.

Questions to Ask:

  • What is the new association to the familiar cue?
  • What is the change you want to bring about?
  • What, specifically, will you gain and enjoy with the change?

The science of success is the neuroscience of neural conditioning—of reprogramming your mind to attach meanings to what you see that will generate success.