I don't know whether it is more painful to watch a celebrity meltdown or to watch the social media frenzy around the implosion. Justin Bieber is only the most recent star in a series of spectacular, public, downward spirals. Being a talented singer, dancer, actor, or athlete, and having access to immense material resources does not mean that someone has the skills necessary to cope with the avalanche of choices that are available.
Despite examples to the contrary, human beings are uniquely designed with the capacity to self-regulate their behavior. Researchers at Oxford found that even our closest evolutionary relatives do not have the areas of the brain associated with future planning and complex decision-making that we do. We can imagine multiple futures, weigh options, forecast consequences, and put all of this into language. When the planning area of the brain is well-connected with the areas of the brain that produce urges to act, then an individual is able to practice healthy self-control.
Other research shows that reckless behavior has more to do with a lack of self-control than it does with the strength of our desires. In other words, engaging in risky behavior (such as throwing eggs at a mansion or street racing while under the influence) is a function of the brain's inability to check an impulse against possible consequences. Self-regulatory skill is the result of strong connections between the areas of the brain that produce urges and the areas of the brain that evaluate what could result from acting on them.
Mindfulness is an outstanding practice for building self-regulation skill. It turns out that the act of paying attention to sensations and thoughts with curiosity and acceptance - mindfulness practice - strengthens connections between the areas of the brain that create impulses and the areas that choose behavior based upon goals and values. It is so effective, that mindfulness has even been shown positive results in working with physical pain.
I wholeheartedly believe that Justin Bieber can develop the skills he needs to live a meaningful, enjoyable, and sustainable life. The irony is that he has millions of dollars to spend and mindfulness practice costs nothing. How "The Biebs" decides to use his celebrity is completely up to him. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he pulled out of the nose dive and his example served as motivation for his rabid fans to experiment with mindful self-discipline?
Dave Mochel is the founder of Applied Attention; a company dedicated to teaching and supporting the transformational practice of being present, open, and purposeful. He translates research in neuroscience, behavior, and performance into simple principles and practices than can be incorporated into any activity or organization. The result of his work is reduced stress and anxiety with improved performance, relationships, and quality of life.
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