Human beings are not perfect.

We never will be.

We are so much more — and more interesting — than that.

And by learning more about how we work, we can achieve greater success and fulfillment.

Those four sentences summarize decades, if not centuries, of research into human behavior.  They are confirmed by cutting-edge research into the function of the human brain.

These are not messages of despair or discouragement.  To the contrary, these sentences provide guidance, hope, and opportunity.  We can draw upon modern medical research, psychological studies, evolutionary biology, and even myth and legend to describe the story of human potential.  We can draw upon those same sources to learn how each of us can take practical steps to create more achievement, success, and enjoyment in our lives.

It all starts with the brain.  When I was a child, growing up during the 1960’s, researchers thought that the brain was essentially unexplainable.  They treated the brain as an unalterable and inexplicable black box, a machine that started life with all the power it could, and slowly petered out over time.  Under the then-prevailing behaviorist model of psychology, it didn’t really make sense to examine brain function – that is, cognition – because behavior was viewed as fundamentally a response to stimulus.  Control the input, and you control the output.

The cognitive revolution first challenged and then changed this dominant behaviorist model during the latter part of the twentieth century.  Cognitive psychologists believed that it was necessary, possible, and useful to study internal thought processes: memory, language, problem solving, sensory processing, and so forth.

During the same period, researchers made tremendous strides in understanding the biological functioning of the brain.  We’re nowhere near full understanding, but many of the “truths” about brain function that we’ve taken for granted for many decades have now been debunked.

Where do we stand, heading into the first year of the second decade of the new Millennium?  We know vastly more about ourselves, and that knowledge is both humbling and liberating.

This blog is going to explore where we stand.  There are best life practices. Hard research data supports that statement. These practices apply regardless of what one intends to do with one’s life—they apply, unfortunately, even if someone chooses to do nothing at all.  Like many others, I don’t always follow best practices.  I have at times failed to learn best practices, I have often failed to follow practices that I know are the best, and I have failed to take chances that might lead to much greater success.  But to the extent I have personally achieved success in my life, it is by following practices that have been identified for thousands of years, and which have had rigorous testing over the past few decades.

That is what this blog is about:  What are the best practices, why are they the best, and how we can apply them in our lives.  There will be a minimum of outright preaching, and I hope a maximum of solid, supported advice and observation.  I slog through the self-help literature to find the nuggets that help.  I pore over the psychological studies that have tested various hypotheses of human behavior.  I dig into the depths of biology, heredity, and myth to find the roots of old wisdom about how humans should act in order to maximize their potential.

I will end this introduction with a warning.  You will not find here the answers to life’s great questions.  I won’t tell you why you were put here on earth.  I do not know what your special purpose is, if you have one.  I don’t know the deep answers to life’s tricky questions.

Yet I want to provide a forum for answering many – or even all – of those questions on your own.  The principles discussed here will be based almost exclusively on research.  Where I stray at all – and the times will hopefully be very few – I will let the reader know.  When I don’t, I hope you will call me on it, too.