Stepping back, evaluating, and reflecting become our only chance of rewiring new neural pathways and reforming patterns. A pause can happen when we reflect on feedback we’ve received, observe someone we admire, or even when we rest and reflect. At WAW, we design experiences that include the gift of the pause, so women can learn how to create it for their lives.
It doesn’t just happen automatically. It starts with becoming more self-aware. Only then can we be intentional about where and how we expand our thinking—mastering the balancing act between what appear to be polar opposites, but actually complete us. The good news is we can change our minds—literally. Here are some thoughts:
Rewiring our reality. When we get good at something, our brains literally become hard-wired. In fact, if someone were to use brain imaging, they’d see the neural pathways that reflect the well-worn habits of how we think and act. Rather than get stuck in a rut, we need to expand our thinking. In fact, the more open our minds become, the more we can develop and tap the capabilities that allow us to make a positive impact. But it takes more than just will and skill. To get to the other side of paralyzing paradoxes we need to shift our mindsets so we can expand and reframe our reality. Then our possibilities become probabilities.
Compare, contrast—always connect. When we compare and contrast between two opposites—spreadsheet vs. stories, profit vs. people—we’re using a skill set known as critical thinking. From elementary school onward, it became engrained in us—or so our teachers hoped. While critical thinking is important, there’s another way of processing ideas that can open more possibilities: integrative thinking. It’s the opposing muscle that allows us to build integration and congruencies. In other words, it’s not enough to only see the dots, we also have to connect them. It’s a little like playing 3D chess—and, to be honest, it doesn’t come naturally to most people.
Our tale of two brains. We live largely in a left-brain world—overly focused on our technical skills and caught up in the details. Instead, we need to tap Google Earth and zoom out—and that takes our right brain. Looking at things from 30,000 feet helps us contextualize information. And the bigger the picture we see, the more we can connect and collaborate with others, instead of getting stuck in our own silos. Make no mistake—it’s not that our left brains don’t matter. We need both brains—left and right. By connecting them, we can see farther, wider, and deeper. That’s how we can look up, look out, and leap forward, becoming the best “us”—and bringing others with us.
With all due respect to what we learned in high school, the dreaded compare-and-contrast no longer serves us in these times. The new world is not one or the other—or one versus another—neither for people nor ideas. There’s room for both—and more. Indeed, that’s the real brain game-changer.
Based on a text by Gary Burnison