I was speaking with a friend about subjects for my newsyletter this month. She suggested the colour blue – because she had heard an interesting lecture by someone who had spoken solely on that particular shade. Once she introduced the subject, my mind raced on how to diversify (a ‘blue’ or down mood, etc.) and then I realised that my initial reaction was “a whole lecture on blue – isn’t that too much of a good thing?”
I realise that I’ve labelled myself a ‘generalist’ in many ways – I tend to do and have done a number of very different things in my life and work – over time and at the same time. After thinking about how the mind works through the plethora of connections it can make through thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs and behaviours, it’s time to focus (or generalise) about the strengths and weaknesses of both single- and multi-mindedness.
1. Where did that come from? The connectedness and plasticity of the mind
Imagine all the stars in the sky (pre-haze, of course) all connected together with little links – that’s like your mind. On a conscious mind level situations, people and circumstances may seem disconnected, but the mind locates similarities and linkages between ‘likes’ and makes the (sometimes mastermind and sometimes incorrect) jump between them. So to expand the network, and increase the number of points from which to connect and integrate, a generalist would posit that the more varied experiences, the more the mind universe expands, creating even more connections and sources to draw from.
2. Change is a pain. The energy of learning something new
But how does that work for those of us who don’t like ‘being all over the map’? An article by David Road and Jeffrey Schwartz on neuroscience in leadership revealed that the location of thinking and learning (prefrontal cortex) requires a lot of energy to keep any “new balls” we’ve created in the air, while the basal ganglia, the habit performing part of the brain requires much less vigour to pull up the “same ol’, same ol’” of automatic responses. Yet based on this approach and study, there seem to be a few ways to help in making the process of learning, habitual.
3. Look here for answers! Look here for answers! Focus and Practice makes permanent.
I was just trying to get your attention, by the way. Because that’s what works for the mind – repeated exposure and focus. In my work, over and over and over, the subconscious loves and accepts repetition eagerly (even when the conscious mind is somewhat bored). Rock and Schwartz use the fancy phrase self-directed neuroplasticity – the more attention that is paid to a specific mental experience/ thought over a period of time increases the density of attention, and invariably its increased chance of absorption. As Arnold Palmer said about his golf, “It’s a funny thing, the more I practice, the luckier I get.” Science seems to agree.
4. Personal and Perfect Practice makes perfect
Long journeys begin with a single step, however that step can’t be taken by someone else. When I decided I was going to ‘become a runner’, there was no precedence for me – I just had never made that part of my habit-centre. So I started and fortunately I knew enough about the mind to get me heading in the right direction. I could have berated myself for not having done it earlier in life, or not going as far or fast as I ‘should’, but that would have drawn my focus to limitations and given my ample opportunities for not continuing with that particular ‘failed experiment’. So I implemented an ‘underachieve EVERY day’ policy – I’d go as far as my body could go (with a little push) and even if it wasn’t as speedy or the distance I intended, I revelled that I got myself out of bed and exercising each day (rather than saying I don’t have time for 10 km today, so I’ll just go back to sleep…). While it was a shorter version of the success I was looking for, I created expectation that I would both run and succeed at whatever distance I did, which happened over time.
I also focused on the good that surrounded me – the fact that I had two functioning legs and runners to do the work, as well as drawing in the fact that this was MY CHOICE, and so my mind took this internal drive externally. The words I spoke to myself were supportive and allowed for me to newly-connect my identity to someone who runs. I also took opportunities to imagine myself running successfully – another mental trick to help in getting to a mental node, solution and destination.
5. Too much of a GOOD thing
It seems that there is a place for natural generalist as well as focused and repeated specificity for successful learning, changing and growing. Maybe I was focusing on ‘too much’, rather than ‘good thing’. It’s all about good, however. When we focus on what we want, when we feel a part of the solution rather than the problem, when our focus rests on the benefits, then the mind tends to make speedy and profound shifts. I’ve seen this in the outcomes at Grey Matter Network (GMN) with shifts in perceptions, thoughts and behaviours creating a ‘renewed’ life. Scientists have confirmed that there are actually shifts occurring in the structure of the brain when we focus on reconnecting and changing. As Buddha mentioned “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”
Focus on having a great November.