Have you ever stopped to think about what you are thinking about?
One cold evening, sitting by the fire, having a glass of fine red wine, staring at the flames, my husband and I adventured into a deep and meaningful conversation. A topic from our past… don’t we just love those?
As we were talking, it became clear to me that for some reason this particular conversation keeps coming up in discussion every time we decide to sit down and spend time making an effort to connect, to talk about our week, our aspirations and life in general.
Now, in the normal course of events, because I am only human, this particular topic might make me start to feel a little emotional. However, I’d been teaching all week and one of the topics of focus with the class was ‘Meta Cognition’, meaning not getting too emotionally involved – to practice instead of being the ‘observer of our own thoughts’. This was the perfect time to put this into practice. After all, we are a product of old conditioning and, to create change, we must make the effort to be the observer of our mind, so that we can deconstruct our thoughts and emotions and create new neural pathways to carry our new ones!
So, that’s what I did. And we had a productive conversation. I didn’t get bogged down in emotion. I was actually able to see what was pushing my buttons! I was able to thoughtfully, consciously respond to the conversation, rather than react to it.
The human brain grows as a result of learning, putting our learnings into practice and actually experiencing them. Trying them on for size. Applying the learnings will increase our knowledge and our synaptic connections. Therefore, this changes our physical brain, which automatically changes our emotions and behaviours. Voila, just like that! It’s that simple. You change your brain every time you pay attention.
Attachment and the Developing Social Brain
Neurons that fire together, wire together. Neurons out of sync fail to link.
Our brain requires stimulation and connection to survive and thrive. Connection is the number one human need. Our brain without connection to other brains and without sufficient challenge will dwindle and eventually perish. Social connections and relationships make a better brain. As a result, close supportive relationships stimulate positive emotions, neuroplasticity and learning.
This is why it is of great importance for all teachers, parents, leaders and facilitators to create a positive social experience in a classroom, workshop or at home. Enthusiasm, trust, encouragement and giving someone the benefit of the doubt have been shown to positively impact performance.
Our brains have evolved to pay attention to the behaviours and emotions of others. We as human beings automatically generate a story in our mind, we know what others are thinking, and we assume we know what they know, their motivations and how they are going to behave. As a result, we lose sight of our own motivations and negligence.
Taking our assumptions or thoughts of others is one thing, but trying them on for size is another. It increases our level of connection, attachment and empathy.
Creating the Light Bulb Moment
Our unconscious mind is a very powerful tool. It is how we make our decisions and what makes us do the very thing that creates more of what we don’t want. These unconscious habits have been learned over time. These unconscious habits are the by-product of repetition. Our thoughts and emotions hardwire our brain against changes no matter how much we want to change. So what do we do?
How Do You See the World?
There is this thing called unconscious bias that resides in every one of us. When you make an assumption or decision, how often do you question it? Not often. The reality is that our attitude and behaviour towards others can be influenced by a limiting belief or decision that we learned over time. You see, our brain is hardwired to make unconscious decisions.
Have you ever experienced meeting someone for the first time and it’s as if you have known them forever? Have you ever stopped to think why? This is your unconscious bias at work. For example, every time I meet a French individual, I feel as if I have an instant connection – why? I was born in France and I see French people as passionate individuals who enjoy living life. What impact does that have on my decisions? Well, I may turn a blind eye to their faults and flaws.
Sometimes if I meet someone who is creative, hardworking and we have deep, thought-provoking conversations, I automatically think, yes, they get me. I think we have a connection. Why? Because I am just like that, I work hard and I am creative. But actually, sometimes choosing to work with someone on a particular project who is just like me does not serve me or the outcome. While we might have loads of fun, what I actually need to make headway is someone who is more passive, specific and attentive to detail to get the work done.
It is important for all of us as masters, as teachers and as students to question our own and others’ assumptions, as well as how these might influence their feelings and beliefs. In other words, challenge your thinking.
Unconscious bias – being different – is the new normal. It’s up to you to rewrite the programs of your brain. Neuroplasticity is re-writing your brain pathways to physically change your brain. Only the walls you build yourself confine you. You can remove them.
If you want something you have never had, then you have to do something you have never done.