Your Brain, Growing, Evolving…Or Not



Goals are the outward manifestation of our inward meaning-making system.

They are expressions of our own sense of personal significance.  They are signposts of personal development.

What we are wanting and desiring is directly linked to how we are “making meaning.”

Structures of reasoning in the brain, that are more highly developed expressions of consciousness, emerge as we are specific and intentional about our lives- at least they emerge much more quickly.

Every want and desire, every goal, fits a transition, a movement from a stage or a settling in to a new one.  It can also represent the deepening of a present one.

It is this business of desiring and attaching that moves us on and allows the developmental structures of reasoning to unfold.

The most exciting structures of reasoning aren’t even possible until after 45 or 50.

The Developmental Stages after 50 are not yet fully understood. But we know that they have to do with broadening of perception, as our brain continues to grow and evolve…or not.

We are designed to get the bigger picture in such a way that the depth at which we experience and appreciate life is greater, more expansive and more satisfying. Life is simply just richer because of our history and our story.

The great gift of aging is that it lets us apprehend life at a deeper level of appreciation and awe. Getting the bigger picture, which is really akin to wisdom, is the source of a great deal of peace and inner contentment and the key to a capacity to more greatly enjoy one’s own life.

But if we stop wanting and desiring, stop setting goals, and stop experiencing this broader and deeper learning, we interfere with the unfolding structure of the brain or the unfolding structures of “knowing.”

The extent of suffering and decline in the aging process is really a battle against greater and greater aliveness and a “sell out” to some idea that age means decline.

How many of the maladies in the second half of life are simply energy and aliveness that has nowhere to go except to create some illness or difficulty rather than continuing to grow?

We are living in an age that is reinventing the second half of life and growing beyond the fear of losing youth, but fear is always difficult to look in the eye in order to watch it wither.

What is giving you your meaning?

What are your goals?

Can you define them?

What is the source of your sense of personal significance?

© Dr. William K. Larkin 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • Mary Garvey Horst

    Prior to my association with the Applied NeuroScience Institute, I found myself following the status quo of believing that I was aging and fearful about what that would mean as the ensuing years passed. However, in my concentrated studies and applied practices learned through ANI, those worries have dissipated. Particularly after reading “The Fountain of Age” by Betty Friedan, I began to embrace the maturation process of aging from a totally different perspective. As described in this blog post, I opened myself up to the wisdom of the well-lived life that I was experiencing and the subsequent goals that surfaced from within. Further, I agree with the perspective found here as it resonates with what has been true in my life. “We are living in an age that is reinventing the second half of life and growing beyond the fear of losing youth, but fear is always difficult to looking in the eye in order to watch it wither.”

  • Dr. gloria wright

    I am heartened by the current literature on the plusses of the second half of life. It’s great to know that we can manage and enhance our aging process. We’ve had lots of information on how to deter the negative possibilities in aging, but the brain info is new to me.
    Dr. Larkin draws attention to how our desires and goals are part of keeping the brain pliable and to keep us focused and motivated. His idea (and others) is that if we don’t have something to give our life meaning and personal significance, we can dwell on the limitations and “feed” illness.
    My work has always been a source of meaning and since I am in semi-retirement, I have tackled looking at what I want in this stage of my life. Putting my desires on post-it notes was harder than I imagined. What did I want? Where was my personal significance and meaning without the demands of work and kids at home?
    Dr. Larkin’s words, “It is this business of desiring and attaching that moves us on and allows the developmental structures of reasoning to unfold,” mirrors that of other researchers. In other words, it is GOOD for us to know what we want that gives our life’s meaning. With that information we can then spend our time and activities creating the
    life that we want. Sounds so simple, yet it takes intention and dedication.
    I may not be a spring chicken, but I still want some “spring”
    in my step and in my life! I life zesty!

  • Shuhan Yang, PHR CPCC ACC

    Brain goes through different developmental phases. Prior to age 18, the right hemisphere serves dominantly in the area of learning a language or short term memory, etc.. However with age (especially after 40 or 45) our brain gradually changes its nature to get the larger picture—it becomes a whole brain activity that will help focus on the “big picture” and the meaning making in life. It is the broadening perspective that enables that enriching experience in the second half of life that is far better than the dividedness and struggle of those young days.

    Our level of consciousness reflects how we reason and make meaning in each developmental stage of our brain. In other words, we can only think and reason from the consciousness level where we operate from. That explains why some people see things differently than others in ways that are more predictable than we might have thought. However the transition from one to another is usually not “clean”. It might even bring confusion or discomfort. But the bigger picture here is — during those transitions, we are morphing ourselves into the next stage of meaning making and personal significance. When we live in the UpSpiral, play to our strengths and score high on VibeCore, we are more open to desire and attach to the things we truly want. We are more vision driven. It is this business of desiring and attaching to a vision that moves us on and allows the developmental structures of reasoning to unfold. Therefore as a NeuroPositive coach, we are working to get people into visioning and get them in touch with their personal significance while learning to savor the joy in the process.

  • Alan Cohen

    At 55, my brain has never been more alert, and able to grasp the big picture. This blog post confirms that the best is yet to come.

  • Michelle Carl Rizal

    Given that goals are the outward manifestation of our inward meaning-making system, I really love the idea of goals being highly malleable too! Why? It gives me a sense of personal development that is in flow and constantly evolving and growing. The same goes for growing and building strengths. As I’ve learned in this course, build and grow neural superhighways of strengths in the next 5, 10, 15, and 20 years…and you grow a genius!

    This blog is also a reminder of defining what we want in the future. Do we choose to spend our lives fearing the loss of youth and attaching too much to the past? Or, do we spend our lives with an intention of planning for the adventure ahead during the second half of life?

    Using the learnings from the Applied Neuroscience course, I enjoyed the unfolding and creation of my goals, wants, and desires. What a difference it makes when you’re in an UpSpiral and using your strengths and developing these goals at the same time. This has significantly given me a sense of confidence, creativity, and flow—more than I ever imagined or expected.

  • Kelsey Abbott

    “Do one thing every day that scares you.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
    If we live by this message along with trying one new thing every day, we will continue to grow. We will expand our comfort zones AND build new neuropathways in our brains. This is true at all ages. Likewise, if we do not grow, expand and follow our curiosity, we will live as victims in a stagnant life.

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute