What I Learned about Forming New Neural Pathways from My Morning Smoothie

What I Learned about Forming New Neural Pathways from My Morning Smoothie

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #6

If you’re a morning smoothie fan like I am, you likely own some kind of blender like a Nutribullet or Ninja. They’re small, but heavy duty and they mean business. You can stuff 16 ounces (400+ ml) of frozen produce in there and top it off with some kind of liquid (creamy oat milk is my current go to) and blend away.

If you’re like me and watch the smoothifying process somewhat obsessively, you’ll notice an interesting pattern beyond the whirring. While the motor starts out strong with the blades whacking through the frozen stuff with abandon, it looks and feels like hard work. Frankly, you’re not sure it’s ever going to come together. But then, all of a sudden, in one simple, clarifying moment, the banana chunks stuck at the top of the cup finally get sucked in and, whew …it’s smooth sailing from there.

What’s this got to do with neural pathways?

Our brains’ most prominent patterns (kind of like software code that govern our outlook and behavior) are the product of years and years of living, coping and surviving in a world that doesn’t guarantee anyone’s safety, on top of centuries of inherited programing for the survival of our species. This means the primary focus of our brains is to simply remain alive at the end of the day, one day at a time.

According to the NeuroLeadership Institute: “Our brains have evolved to really like certainty, which stems from our basic drive to survive. We have evolved to predict and control our circumstances because doing so optimizes our ability to live.”

(It’s interesting to note that Merriam-Webster provides the following antonyms for the word “survive”: fail, fizzle, give out, peter (out), run out.  So we can see how our perilous it would be for humanity if we let the ball drop on the survival idea.)

But don’t we get to do more than simply survive?

If you’re motivated to do anything more than simply survive, like thrive maybe, then you’ll need to adopt a workout regimen of sorts for your brain to develop some new neural pathways. You know it can be done, because I’m sure you know at least a few people who arise each day not just experiencing joy and contentment, but actually expecting to do so. Every day.

That’s not just personality at work. Nor does it have anything to do with wealth, health or privilege. It’s the product of a set of decisions (whether made consciously or not) to focus on living, not just surviving. And in the beginning, it took work.

Getting back to the smoothie…

Once we are fully formed adults, changing our mindset – the way we think, expect and behave – requires intention, commitment and discipline. It requires forming new neural pathways that allow us to go beyond focusing on minute-to-minute survival in order to experience, express and create more.

It’s not a simple thing. In the beginning, it feels a lot like stuffing a bunch of frozen produce (our intentions) into a blender cup, adding some liquid (commitment) and pulsing the hell out of it (discipline). Like with the blender motor, it looks and feels like hard work in the early days – awkward even. But keep the pressure on long enough, and all of a sudden, all the efforting dissolves into ease. And, lo and behold, you have formed a new neural pathway or two, and likely, an expanded mindset and experience.

This conscious and intentional evolving of our mindset is a prerequisite to developing ChangeAgility – the skills and practices that make change suck less and enable us (and our colleagues, families and communities) to thrive.

Check out earlier episodes in our Make Change Suck Less series:

  • Episode #1: What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck
  • Episode #2: Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!
  • Episode #3: What If?
  • Episode #4: What Does It Take to Dig a New Groove?
  • Episode #5: Reasons to Like Contraction AND Expansion

Expand your ability to respond to change in ways that will positively alter your life with our program “The 3 Essential Practices to Make Change Suck Less: Mindset, Resilience, Identity (MRI)”. And check out YOU LEAD, our peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders, or catapult your capability and impact with one-on-one executive coaching.

Reasons to Like Contraction AND Expansion

Reasons to Like Contraction AND Expansion

Make Change Suck Less – Episode #5

In episode #4, we introduced three sets of questions that have a remarkable ability to change the way we think. That was before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

It turns out that stopping the world as we know it has provided an incredible opportunity for many of us to practice these questions, letting go of what is outside of our control and seizing that which remains.

With my deepest condolences to all who have lost loved ones to this horrific disease, those who struggled and overcame it, and immense gratitude to those who have stepped up in ways none of us could imagine just months ago, I aim to share how this experience has added insights and tools to my personal arsenal for making change suck less. I hope these will help you as well.

Insight #1: Contraction and expansion are both necessary and natural occurrences in our universe

How this is playing out for many of us: At this time of economic instability (to say the least), most of us are working to find every possible opportunity to shave the cost of living. At the same time, I am acutely aware that what we focus on is what we manifest.

So how do we square this focus on minimizing our costs with desires and intentions to amass financial abundance? I believe it is by understanding – and embracing – the rhythms of contraction and expansion in nature …and keeping the larger vision front and center. (Remember the adage “go slow in order to go fast?”)

The truth is that the vast majority of us will survive the contraction and make it to the expansion that awaits on the other side. The question becomes, how can we weather this journey and raise the odds of making it to what is next — while minimizing the pain?

Aside from the obvious can’ts, don’ts and musts that we are all experiencing — where in this contraction can we let down our guard and find the spaces and opportunities to cherish, relish and simply enjoy? Where we can drop the fierce resistance and stalwart strength we have been relying on to carry us through from moment to moment? The small, precious moments in which we can experience the magnificence of expansion in the moment? Where we are simultaneously shrinking and creating / building? 

For me, it looks like this.

Contraction:

  • Refinancing my mortgage to enhance cash flow
  • Eliminating those pesky little automatic monthly charges we sign up for in the dead of night and promptly forget about
  • Getting creative – and activating my passion for environmental sustainability – by pulling various stray items in my pantry and figuring out how to make meals out of them (for more on that, you simply MUST check in with @thescrappychefny on IG).

Expansion:

  • Investing in professional development to learn new skills and upgrade my certification in my chosen field
  • Enriching my personal life by connecting with family and friends through individual and group Zoom calls
  • Practicing my active and open listening skills by debating current topics with my “grown and flown and now back home” young adult children whose political views are very different from my own!

Insight #2: Embracing the contraction defangs our fear

There is no more obvious example of contraction and expansion at work than in childbirth – literal or figurative.

Sheila Hay, author of Ecstatic Birth, explains that when we hit a rough patch on the road to our desires, that’s a contractive moment. Our natural tendency is to numb them, to avoid them at all cost. But, she points out, contractions are an important part of labor – with each one, our body opens a little more to lead to birth. The more we resist these contractions, the more painful they are and the more fear we kick up. It can become a downward spiral. Rather, she coaches, surrender to the contraction in favor of what we know is on the other side.

Here’s what that looks like for me:

  • As I got into retooling my finances, looking for places to cut back, it started to feel like a game. With each item I eliminated or reduced, I got a hit of immediate satisfaction, prompting me to look for more. It’s kind of like weeding. I dare you to limit yourself to only the first five weeds you spot!
  • Same for the culinary adventures: The more I figured out how to use stuff that had been lying around in the pantry, the more creative and virtuous I felt. As if the universe were giving me a pat on the back.

When we focus our attention on those moments of joy and expansion in the midst of the rest of it, even for a few moments every day, we disempower the struggle and give strength to the beauty and growth instead. It really is about being in the moment …not fighting it.

Check out earlier episodes in our Make Change Suck Less series:

  • Episode #1: What I Learned About Change From a Very Weird Plant on My Deck
  • Episode #2: Resist Wisely… It Requires an Incalculable Amount of Energy!
  • Episode #3: What If?
  • Episode #4: What Does It Take to Dig a New Groove?

Stay tuned to learn more about our new program: The 3 Essential Practices to Make Change Suck Less: Mindset, Resilience, Identity (MRI). And check out our peer coaching program for new and emerging leaders called YOU LEAD. We’ll be digging into all kinds of ways to make change suck less by activating your voice, your impact.

 

Four Ways Work and Focus Has Changed in a 2% GDP World

Four Ways Work and Focus Has Changed in a 2% GDP World

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy. It represents the total dollar value of all goods and services produced over a specific time period. (Definition from Investopedia.com.)

The higher the growth rate of our GDP (the more we’re producing), the better the outlook is for our economy.

Where are we today? Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO of General Electric said earlier this year that, “In a world of 2 percent G.D.P. growth, you really have to be good at everything you do.”

What does “being good at everything” mean? How has work – and focus – changed in a lower than typical GDP world? Here’s what we’re seeing:

1. Focus on one thing. Organizations are refocusing on the one thing they want to be good at moving resources there. What’s your one thing? Your company’s?

2. Look at where your industry is headed and prepare now for the future. Think Artificial Intelligence (AI). Think digital industry. What’s changing and what do you need to know/do to be on top of those changes?

3. Change is a constant. Learn and practice the skills you need to be agile and flexible amidst constant transformation and ambiguity.

4. Be a business person first and a functional expert second. Understand the needs of your business, your customers and your team, and apply your functional expertise to meet those needs.

What are you seeing?

Tips to Navigate Change in Your Organization

Tips to Navigate Change in Your Organization

Tips to Navigate Change in Your OrganizationChange is here to stay, and to a certain extent, it is always disruptive. Regardless of whether you are planning a large change or an update of some kind, engaging employees through effective communication is key. It can compress the transition and minimize the disruption. Check out our tips for navigating change here: http://bit.ly/298p7Nf. What would you add?

For more information about leading change and communicating to engage your employees, email me at tracy@on-the-same-page.com.

Workforce of Tomorrow: The Rise of the Gig Economy

Workforce of Tomorrow: The Rise of the Gig Economy

Workforce-of-Tomorrow

What will the workforce of tomorrow look like? Several factors are conspiring to reshape the traditional corporate workforce; in an interview with Bloomberg Radio, On the Same Page CEO Tracy Benson shares insight on how the business landscape is changing and what’s causing the shift.

Listen to the interview

 

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.