Preparing Your Brain For A Better 2021

Whew! 2020 is in the rearview mirror, and we can look forward to the year ahead!

I’m ready for a fresh year and am hopeful for what is to come in 2021. How about you?

One reason for my hopeful attitude is learning how to reprogram how my brain to think and act in new ways. After reading, 7 1/2 Lessons About The Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett, I understand how our brains are wired to initiate our actions BEFORE we are even aware  – our unconscious bias. Our actions are under the control of our memory and environment.

“Your brain predicts and prepares your actions using your past experiences.”

I think of this as my habits. Habits in my actions as well as presumptions I make in my thinking.

It’s one way our brains help us manage our energy. We can do things without spending much effort to think through HOW we do them. Consider the energy it takes when learning to drive, using a keyboard, or even taking those first steps as a toddler. There is a metabolic cost of learning something new. Learning from those experiences allows us to operate on auto-pilot, and frees up our energy for more complex thoughts and actions.

2020 was a year marked by differences and was manifested by great divides among people. I can see how we got here, and having read this book, I understand how it happened, knowing more about how our brains work.

If you want to practice changing your brain by changing your experiences, it’s possible!

Consider a change in what you take in. What you read – what you watch – who you are with – your environment. Mix it up. Choose to expose yourself to different content and try new things.

For example, if you spend time volunteering to work with the homeless, your attitude about the homeless will change. You gain new insights about what brought them to homelessness, and that deeper understanding changes the way you think about them.

Changing your brain takes time and intentional practice. We all have the power to choose how we look at the world and the attitudes we bring. It really is one thing we can control.

“Sometimes we’re responsible for things not because they’re our fault, but because we’re the only ones who can change them.”  — Lisa Feldman Barrett

After reading this book, I’m left with two actions I intend to implement in 2021:

  1. Pick a topic I feel strongly about and spend 5 minutes a day considering that issue from a different perspective. Maybe have a conversation with someone I disagree with, focus on listening, not talking. Or, read from a source I typically don’t.
  2. Look for opportunities to engage in new experiences. Until the COVID restrictions are in place, I may be limited to taking up a new hobby. However, I look forward to traveling to new locations with different cultures and languages or volunteering in new ways.

What do you think? Are you up for a bit of brain change in 2021?

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com to share what brain-changing activity you’re taking. 

Martha Duesterhoft