Our ability to access a new mindset is a key to our growth and evolution.
Because life continues to present us with new challenges and unexpected problems, we continuously get an opportunity to learn new ways to respond, move, think and communicate so we can get closer to achieve our desired reality. As we continue to strive for a life that feels fulfilling and desirable, we will continue to be faced with challenges and discomfort.
Our key then, is to re-associate the meaning we make about discomfort from engaging in new and unfamiliar challenges with opportunity for growth, rather than something we should avoid. The meaning we make of things dramatically influences our feelings, motivations, aversions and overall brain-body (including neuroendocrine) responses to stimuli.
If we see the discomfort and uncertainty that arises from change and doing new and challenging things as a THREAT, this will lead to a more dramatic aversive response. If we see this discomfort and uncertainty instead as an indicator that we are doing something NEW and must go through in order to change, this can help our brain-body system re-associate challenge, nervousness, effort and discomfort with OPPORTUNITY.
Opportunity is something that initiates movement towards, and exploratory mechanisms needed for learning. Threat activates self-protective mechanisms that shut down exploratory, curious and open-approach systems needed for learning.
Re-associating a stimulus to a different MEANING (shifting your mindset) is another super-power of humans that can help us achieve more than we may initially think.
Luckily, because we are mammals - and a special kind of mammal called a Human, we have a special skill to help us get through these dips and challenges. This skill is called 'social referencing'.
Social referencing is a mechanism we use to not need constant trial and error to figure out if something should be approached or avoided. Instead of experimenting and risking harm with new behaviors, we can use the evaluations and reactions of others to give us information.
We look to the people around us to help us know if something is harmful, helpful or irrelevant. We watch their expressions, pick up on frequencies emitted by their bodies and movements, and listen to the words they use. This is where we can get trapped in groupthink.
If we are around people who are, for example, quick to judge others, or afraid of looking like they don't know the answer or experiencing unfamiliar things, this fear will be transmitted via those signals.
Change and transformation REQUIRE looking like we don't have all the answers, and that we have space to make mistakes and be vulnerable without being judged or rejected. If we are surrounded by self-protective and defensive reactions and behaviors, there's a good chance our brain-body will begin to associate making mistakes and being vulnerable as something to be avoided.
If the groups we are a part of don't value growth, experimentation and exploration of new ways of being, there will be a lack of social cues that link these things with reward hormones. We will therefore not seek these out; they won't have enough value for us within our social matrix.
In the journey of optimizing our life experiences, there are three key things we can keep in mind:
- the plasticity of our brain
- our need for strong connections with others (as part of a neuroendocrine system that relates to our brain plasticity)
- meaning: the meaning we make of our experiences and the world around us, as well as the meaning and purpose we define for our lives
The mini-book I created for all of you covers all three of these. You can access it by subscribing to my monthly newsletter below. (or if you're already a subscriber, check your email!)
This mini-book reflects my own integration of what I strive to experience and apply in my own life. I created this book in my ‘down time’ between my full-time job at a neuropsychology clinic, multiple private clients, book-writing and a facilitation and leadership training academy. My stamina and ability to do this seems to be at its strongest when I:
- Optimize routines and lifestyle (still a work in progress, but this includes: early to bed, early to rise, intermittent fasting until 11 AM or noon, regular exercise and time outdoors, supportive friends and a partner who inspire me and believe in me, journaling every evening and twice daily meditation, DEEP rest and space for DEEP work)
- Envision a clear sense of my purpose and mission to constantly serve others. This means taking care of myself, but also always reminding myself that my voice is needed and can help someone possibly feel a sense of hope if they are currently feeling lost.
- Engage in my own training of re-associating fear and discomfort with growth and empowerment, which includes trying things I’ve never tried before (including self-defense, gun ranges, indoor sky-diving & flying lessons (soon) and having vulnerable and difficult conversations with family and important people in my life. The feeling of doing something that makes me nervous and then doing it again and again and getting more comfortable is one of the most empowering and invigorating feelings I’ve ever experienced.
A new addition to optimizing my resilience and ability to help others is also coming in the form of having more in-person time with others. This past year has been heavily focused on remote work, and as much of an introvert as I am, I’ve realized recently that what has always been a source of energy and inspiration for me has been experiencing as much of the world as I can and interacting with diverse audiences. I also know that I’m at my happiest when I’m working with children.
Although I foresee online facilitation and consulting as a continued part of my work, I have always wanted to lead retreats or some type of program, particularly for children and adults, as well as for adults wanting to understand their behaviors through a neuroscience and systems thinking perspective. My goal in 2023 is to create a much more purpose-driven, in-person way of sharing my expertise with others.
On another side note…
I’ll be headed to Calgary again Oct 1-10, and then attending a special academy in Boulder Colorado as part of my Mastery Faculty training for Google! If any of you are out there, let me know and I might be able to visit for a quick coffee/drink in the evening! My mom and dad and I will take a short road trip down the Road to the Sun and Glacier National Park, and look at Kalispell MT as a potential place for me to live starting in the spring of 2023. Something that has become clear this past year is that I am looking to be in a smaller, community-oriented place where I can really engage with others and hopefully lead in-person events as part of a team. I’ll be continuing to explore options and locations to do this in the coming months.
I also hope to do a podcast interview and/or online seminar for mental health and post-traumatic stress in December or January. More to come.
I’m looking forward to continuing my journey in partner-based leadership and facilitation, and will share more of that as it progresses. A model that inspired me is from one of my Neuroscience Project Coaching clients, Ryan Sawyer and his wife Heidi - who recently joined forces to launch a new Integrated Mindset podcast! (p.s. - I LOVE doing this form of consulting/project coaching and will potentially be taking 1-2 new clients this December depending on other projects. You can see Ryan’s testimonial of his experience with me on this page). I am grateful to Ryan and Heidi for their inspiration and belief in me and what I do.
I also want to highlight a special program - the Warriors Heart Foundation. They are supporting veterans in getting cutting edge, neuroscience-based treatments for healing and moving away from chemical dependencies. There is a special fundraising event this November 25 in Sacramento California led by an incredible leader, veteran and mentor who is an expert in preparedness, mindset and many aspects of learning and transformation, Mike Glover - the CEO of Fieldcraft Survival. Mike inspires me to get out of my comfort zone with his ability to transform his life experiences (both positive and negative) into fuel for being of service to others and aspiring to constantly grow and evolve. I am honored to be connected to him and I look forward to sharing more of his expertise with you in the future. He will be holding a short seminar on survival for this fundraising event. I highly recommend you check this out and support Warriors Heart!