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Inner You: Realizing Your Full Potential

Being a Leader

In 2004, Mike Pauletich started experiencing symptoms of what he thought was carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition that causes numbness, tingling or weakness in the hands. His aim with a baseball was off, his arm hurt, his hand shook a little and his wife noticed that he suddenly stopped smiling.

To confirm whether his suspicions were accurate, the 42-year-old technology executive booked a visit to his doctor. Following a thorough medical evaluation, however, he discovered that his coordination issues weren’t because of his arm or hand but were early signs of Parkinson’s disease – a progressive neurological illness caused by a deficiency of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine, with most developing symptoms occurring after the age of 50. With no known cure available, his doctor told him that within a decade or so there was a very high probability that he wouldn’t be able to walk, stand or feed himself.

While Pauletich didn’t deteriorate as much as had been predicted, he struggled with movement, speaking, writing and depression. It wasn’t looking good, and he became desperate to explore experimental treatments in the small hope that they could help him get better.

In 2011, he came across news of a Parkinson’s study being conducted by the company Ceregene. They were in the process of testing a novel gene therapy that sounded aggressive: the procedure involved the drilling of two small holes in the patient’s skull, followed by the injection of the protein neurturin directly into specific regions of the brain. It had been shown in monkeys that injections of this protein could alleviate the progress of the disease by protecting and even possibly repairing damaged dopamine-secreting neurons.

Despite testing on humans being at such an early stage, he was willing to enrol in the study to give it a try. He had a belief that undergoing this brain surgery would help him fight the disease once and for all.

The result?

Nothing short of an absolute miracle.

Prior to the surgery he found it painful to move around and had to explain to clients of his company that his slurred speech wasn’t caused by excessive drinking. After coming out from surgery, his shaking vanished, his mobility significantly improved, and he spoke articulately. It got to a point where it was difficult to tell whether he had any symptoms at all. His physician on the study, Stanford neurologist Dr Kathleen Poston, was astonished by these results. The disease had never before been reversed in humans. The best hope was for a slowdown in the progression of the disease, and even this was extremely rare.

Then, in April 2013, the final results of Ceregene’s study were released: it had failed.

There were no significant improvements in symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease for the patients who received the injection of neurturin versus the control group who had received a placebo treatment – those in this latter group had the small holes cut in their skulls to make it feel as if there had been an operation, but no neurturin at all was injected. The results both surprised and disappointed Dr Poston.

However, after looking closer into the study’s data, she was shocked to learn that Pauletich was in the group that didn’t receive any neurturin. He got the placebo instead. Remembering her patient’s miraculous improvement, she wondered how this could be when no treatment was received.

Pauletich’s recovery illustrates just how powerful the placebo effect can be on us. Flooding our mind with high expectations is what drives the placebo effect – a belief that becomes so potent that it has this extraordinary ability to heal. When story and imagination are in sync together like a flawless symphony, the results can be astounding.

Within the field of medicine, science shows that this placebo effect can trigger a neurochemical response through the release of endorphins or opium-like painkillers from the brain that intercepts and inhibits pain. In Pauletich’s case, the mind instructed his body to get better but in order for this to take form, he had to be convinced that change was about to occur when he signed up to the Ceregene study. It’s through the anticipation of recovery that our minds take on a role similar to that of a pharmacist, prescribing us with the medicine that we seek to heal us.

If the placebo effect proves anything, it is that you must never underestimate the influence that your energetic state can have on your wellbeing. Your thoughts can make you feel ill and stressed or excited and energized; it is the key that ignites the engine of healing and is a testament to the immense power of the human mind.

You are born with this extraordinary capacity to create energetic shifts in your reality, and to become your own placebo is to be conscious about your thoughts and what you choose to believe in, because it is in your thinking that your customized human experience of life is created.

Reality is nothing more than perception, and your perception of the world is determined by your energetic state. Transform your energy therefore, and you transform your life.

Awareness around the nature of thought equips you with the ability to bend your reality and shape your experiences towards a more desirable outcome. Thoughts are just thoughts – at any given moment you can choose one over another – and those that you believe to be true will manifest themselves into your reality. Your mind, therefore, is the birthplace of every victory and every defeat.

Just imagine what you can do and achieve when you believe you are worth it; when you silence that inner critic and instead listen to the words of the guide within. You might not be able to control what people think of you, but you can always control the way you think about yourself. This is why the most powerful dialogue is the one that happens within yourself every day, because what consumes your thinking influences who you become. The quality of your energetic state is directly linked to the conversations you have with yourself.

As Brianna Wiest writes in her book Ceremony, “You fall in love with yourself when you start to take care of yourself. You fall in love with yourself when you stop thinking of self-love as an infatuation, but a homecoming. You fall in love with yourself when the child inside looks at the adult you are now and sees the ease of their own approval.” It is self-compassion, not self-criticism, that gives you the energy to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

If you want to rewrite the narrative of where your story goes from here, you must change how you speak to yourself. Because when you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.

Simon Alexander Ong

Simon Alexander Ong is a personal development entrepreneur, coach and public speaker. His work has seen him invited onto Sky News, BBC Radio London and LBC Radio to be interviewed, while in 2018, Barclays UK featured him in a nationwide campaign asking him questions on how families could embrace better lifestyle habits. His insights has also seen him featured in HuffPost, Forbes, Virgin and The Guardian. Simon regularly speaks at organisations and keynotes public events and conferences. Some of these have included The Peter Jones Foundation, The World Business & Executive Coach Summit (WBECS) and the LSE. Book link: https://www.amazon.com.au/Energize-Find-Spark-Achieve-Better-ebook/dp/B094F5D3BZ

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