The Science Behind Connection (Part 4)

by Dr. Jay Kumar

The Science Behind Connection (Part 4)

“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.”

— Roy Bennett



Happy New Year! As you begin to make plans and plot your goals for the coming year, I have an important question to ask: “How connected are you to your life’s potential?” As someone who researches the brain science of happiness, I want to reveal why connecting to your potential is vital in order for your intentions to become a reality.  Having learned about connection to people, purpose, and passion, let’s explore further the “Science Behind Connection” in this series’ final piece that reveals your “Connection to Potential.” Read last month’s article.


What is potential? As the word potential implies, it’s connected to the word potent, both of which derive from the Latin potens “power.” It’s why I advance in my university Happiness course and corporate trainings, connecting to your potential in life begins by connecting to your Inner Power. To be more precise, it’s about harnessing the power within to overcome the doubts and obstacles we sometimes create in our mind that limit our potential for authentic health, happiness, and abundance. As the Buddha taught over 2,000 years ago: “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.”

I find one of the greatest obstacles that can prevent you from achieving your life’s goals are self-doubt and the self-created excuses we carry in our mind. Trust me, you’re not the only person who’s ever experienced this behavior, nor will you be the last. In fact, Buddhist wisdom seems to align with evolutionary biology and behavioral psychology. When taken collectively, they reveal how your brain evolved to favor operating in selfdoubt and holding on to the negative beliefs we construct over time. Isn’t that just great?

More studies expose a disturbing situation about human behavior—your brain is more strongly wired to remember negative experiences over positive ones. What this means is that every negative experience you’ve ever had or every negative comment anyone has ever said to you—that has convinced you to doubt your own power—is more strongly remembered than all the positive ones you’ve acquired. The research indicates that it generally requires five positive thoughts or actions to counter one negative one.

Why would your brain be so cruel to you? Believe it or not, this aspect of human behavior—known as your “brain’s negativity bias”—is an evolutionary strategy that favored human survival. Our ancient ancestors had to remember more strongly threats in their environment, such as avoiding a predator or a poisonous fruit, than remembering the pleasantries of the day. The rationale? This functional tactic enhances survival. The following phrase I feel best summarizes the concept of your brain’s negativity bias: Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but like Teflon for positive experiences.

So how do your brain’s negativity bias and Buddhist philosophy relate to connecting to your potential? Whatever you aspire to in life, I find the biggest sabotage for accomplishing your goals isn’t so much limited by your circumstances in life, but by the negative conditioning literally wired into your brain and imprinted in your mind. It’s precisely what brain science research and timeless spiritual wisdom reveal—all limits exist in your mind. It’s in the mind where you connect to your potential and power.

Here’s a beneficial exercise I engage with my university students and my personal clients in order for them to tap into their personal power and connect to their life’s potential (and purpose). Picture yourself at age 80 reflecting back on your life. What are three goals—you presently haven’t accomplished—that you feel were most meaningful to you and best exemplified your authentic self? Put another way, what are three aspects of your life you don’t want to regret never having accomplished?

While they can certainly be as general as becoming a good parent or buying a home, they can be more specific such as getting your Master’s degree in psychology, running an organization preventing teen suicide, becoming fluent in Italian, or learning ballroom dance. Whatever they are, I encourage you to write them down—of course, they can be more than three.

Here’s the second part of the exercise. As we begin the New Year, what is one concrete step for each of these goals you can accomplish by the end of the year? Notice how I’m not asking you to achieve the goal in its entirety in a year; rather I’m requesting you actualize one major step by the end of the year for these lifelong goals to become a reality. So, if your goal is to be fluent in another language or learn ballroom dancing, by the end of January enroll in a language course or find a dance studio near you. In the following months, accomplish one major step that gets you closer to your vision.

The point I make in the Happiness course is the same for you: “It’s not the promise of happiness; it’s the practice of happiness.” In order to achieve a life of abundance and happiness, you must actively practice and strategize to make it happen. Think of connecting to your potential as the vital fuel that will forever propel you in the direction of your goals. As the opening quote affirms: “There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.” Please enjoy this short video we know will help you start Connecting to Your Potential.

I hope you benefited from the content in this four-part series on the “Science behind Connection.” I greatly look forward to sharing with you more insights and applications in the New Year from my upcoming book The Science of a Happy Brain. Health & Happiness for the New Year,

Dr. Jay
The Happiness Professor

Dr. Jay Kumar is a professor of Happiness Studies, renowned public speaker, and thought leader. His expertise spans brain science and behavioral health; economics, politics, and culture; religion and science. He also holds a Master’s degree from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in international political economy. Dr. Jay recently founded the Applied Brain Science Research Institute (ABSRI) — an international organization that explores the dynamic intersection of science, spirituality, and society in order to advance solutions for issues facing our contemporary and complex world. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Currency of Happiness and the creator of the revolutionary “Pro-Social Behavioral Resilience” technique — a proven model successfully employed by professionals and individuals within a variety of fields.

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