- On May 16, 2017
I’m working from the back porch at my niece’s farm in SC today. The morning breeze is still cool, belying the prediction of 90’s today. As I lay out my writing goals for the day, a cacophony of chirping is punctuated by the treble crow of the rooster next door.
Quite a change from my suburban Virginia morning, where the traffic alerts, not the rooster crow, prefaces the start of another busy day of work, home, and social commitments
I’m here because:
1) I’m so proud of my niece and the work she’s doing (she’s an Occupational Therapy Assistant, starting a hippotherapy business to help kids with disabilities)
2) I am addicted to travel, and
3) It’s time for a new experience to boost my brains creative juices.
A few weeks ago I was updating my calendar for the rest of the year. One of my 2017 intentions is to take a trip to a new location every month. I looked at May and panicked–No trips scheduled! Fortunately a quick flight to Charlotte resolved that conundrum.
I love the work I do, and sometimes the daily schedule begins to feel routine and my energy for it lags. Whether it is an out of town conference, vacation, or long weekend in a new place, following a different schedule and immersing myself in new scenery helps me reconnect with my energy and gives me the jolt of ideas I need to do my best work.
One of the foundations of the work I do as a coach and consultant is to understand emerging research about the brain and apply that to becoming a more effective leader. Neuroplasticity–strengthening the brain’s capacity to stimulate new connections–is critical to leading, and living, effectively in a stressful, constantly changing world.
One of the ways to stimulate neuroplasticity is put novelty in our life. Doing something totally new creates a different awareness and forces the neural synapses to connect in new ways to make sense of what we are experiencing.
My brain–not to mention my body–was processing in new ways when I offered to help my niece muck the horse stalls at the end of the day. First time experience for me–Novelty–plus a huge dose of Multi-Sensory, another neuroplasticity stimulator.
Studies have shown that even very young babies respond with curiosity and interest when they observe something new in their environment.
In the Scientific American book His Brain, Her Brain, David Dobbs highlights groundbreaking research by Dr. Elizabeth Spelke, a cognitive psychologist at the Department of Psychology of Harvard University. In her studies of “preferential looking,” Spelke found that the brains of babies, long before they are able to process speech or control movements, are stimulated by seeing something different from what they had seen before. After being shown a toy multiple times, a slight change in the toy–in one experiment switching from a stuffed bunny with two ears to one with four ears–increased the infant’s eye linger time. Their young brains had to generate new connections in order to process the change in what they were now seeing.
The more often we can inject novelty in our life—like moving to a different venue to shift the routine patterns of our day–the more our brain must stretch into new connections to make sense of it and the higher the potential to infuse our thinking with new life. Sounds like a good ROI if you are busy professional who relies on creativity and critical thinking to stay on top of your game.
Watching three horses feasting on fresh spring grass—a novel experience for me which I find both mentally stimulating and spiritually calming. Let’s see where that takes me in the days ahead!
How do you infuse new energy in your ideas when you feel things getting stale?
Photo credit: GGrubic, 2017. Beau, Cassie, and Gracie at the water trough.