By Kim Magraw
Although the human brain may soon be outsmarted by the computer, at present the brain is the most sophisticated and intricate machine we know of in the universe.
One of its most marvelous functions is automation. Once we’ve learned something handy – like turning our head, walking, juggling, typing, talking, driving or playing an instrument – our brain can put these activities on autopilot so we can focus our attention on some other activity.
But what happens when one of these programmed activities is unhelpful in a situation? For example, we move to a place where cars are driven on the other side of the road? Or we’re accustomed to speaking English and we move to a country where the language and sentence structure is completely different? Or we got a lot of attention from our parents by whining when we were young, but somehow all that whining doesn’t serve us at a later age?
When these preprogrammed habits are serving us, we are in a groove. When they don’t, we might think we’re stuck in a rut – a behavior that is really difficult to unlearn.
A trick is to have some tools to get us out of a rut. It turns out that a great first step is awareness. We quickly become aware when we’re driving on the wrong side of the road because that’s obvious. But a whiny attitude may be less easy to identify in ourselves.
After awareness, we can set the stage to bust out of a rut by putting some parameters in place:
- Urgency: “I’d better get in the other lane or I’ll hit this oncoming car.”
- Fascination: “This person seems so interesting, but she doesn’t speak a word ofEnglish.”
- Focus: “I’m going to find a quiet space for two hours to practice my mandolin.”
Yes, automation is an amazing adaptation. Better yet, and more uniquely human, is plasticity –the ability to change and adapt, no matter how deep and rutted our groove may be.
Kim Magraw, a licensed massage therapist, may be reached via the ConcordiaMassagePros.com directory.