You know when your study of the brain has peaked when you hug your loved ones and say “oxytocin” instead of “I love you.” –Rachel Thalmann
I was nine the first time I skied down a mountain. I learned to snow plow – to point my toes together and put pressure on the inside edges of both skies to control my speed. This method works for beginners, particularly children. It worked again when I was 13, and kinda worked when I was 30, and by last year at 38, I wanted to learn a new way to be on skis. So this year I did…and it came with navigating myself more than navigating a mountain.
The problem that comes with the primitive method of snow plowing is the physical demand and exhaustion that comes with it. I’d cash out after 1.5 hours with sore shins and hips and frayed nerves. Skiing sucks.
So in my desire to enjoy skiing, I was determined to unlearn the old method.
With practice and practice and more practice I trained my feet and legs to get parallel and experienced the ease of the correct form. At one point I finally stopped thinking and my body went with the flow. This pivotal moment etched in my mind when I raised my arms above my head and heard this thought: guess who just learned how to ski?
As I gained confidence I moved to different trails, and this is where understanding the machine inside our skull comes into play.
Whenever my intrinsic threshold for speed was met, my limbic system would take over (um, that would be panic), and the default way in which I learned to ski at age 9 took over: My toes would point together.
And then cuss words immediately followed.
And then frustration with myself followed.
And then disappointment in my progress followed.
What is different for me now and the me 30 years ago is that I understand that falling into default mode is part of the process of increased awareness, and I’m a whole lot gentler with myself.
So in my desire to enjoy every moment of living, understanding that falling back into default mode is part of the process of life and of rewiring my brain to its natural state of ease and calm.
So what does this have to do with you?
Maybe your default is anger. You. Are. Pissed. Maybe it’s self-pity. This shit always happens to me. Maybe it’s people-pleasing or control-freak-perfectionism. Yes, I’ll do whatever you want in order to get your approval or love, and I’ll stress myself to the max expecting myself to be flawless.
Whatever it is, you can recognize it by the way you feel: mentally exhausted, stressed out, depressed, drained or physically pained.
As you’ve navigated the trails in life, your default way of navigating came about through necessity. Your younger self was brilliant as it came up with a way to meet a need. But what your more conscious self now knows is that the old methods can go.
As you increase awareness of your thinking and brain functions, lessen harsh speaking to yourself for DOING IT YET AGAIN, and continue new ways of being, your life will feel good, smooth, natural, calm, and easy.
It’s not the mountain we learn to navigate – it’s ourselves.
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