Have you ever heard of neuroplasticity? This word that sounds a lot like a Harry Potter spell actually describes our brain’s ability to change over the course of our life. To adapt. And because of this attribute God gave our brains, we can literally reconfigure our wiring to change our thoughts, habits and actions. You might be thinking, this sounds like a life coach’s latest attempt to get me to buy something, but it’s not self-help, it’s science. Think about it for a moment. Your brain can physiologically reorganize itself in order to tend to your changing needs … it’s like a built-in software updating system. Crazy, right?
This phenomenon of neuroplasticity means we can create the habits and thoughts we want to become “second-nature;” the habits we know will help us live fully and abundantly. Not the least of which is finding your people, because life to the full happens best with people by our side. So, here are some tips that might help you rewire your brain:
Play the Waiting Game
Part of being human is waiting your turn for stuff: waiting at doctor’s offices, repair shops, bus stops, restaurants, and in grocery store and airport lines. I don’t know about you, but my attitude toward waiting is like my attitude toward cardio: I try to avoid it. And because we’re so hashtag-blessed to live in 2019, what do we do every time we’re in any waiting situation? We drop our heads and begin scrolling on our personal thumb-treadmill.
We have conditioned our brains to check our phones between 60 to 80 times per day (or if you’re a teenager, 1.2 trillion times per day), and as much as I love my trusty iPhone, I think those statistics really suck. Most of us agree that this is a problem: nearly two-thirds of us wish we used our phones less. Is it possible that this antidote to boredom might just be the poison to connection?
Rather than trading in my phone and going off-the-grid, I’ve decided to try something different. Any time I find myself waiting, I’ve enforced a strict no screen-time rule for myself. The result? I won’t lie, a lot of awkward eye contact and half-smiles, but more than that, a lot of thoughtful conversations with people I never would’ve noticed otherwise.
Change Your Pace
One of the biggest barriers to finding our people is the incessant speed of our days. Benjamin Franklin said there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. But for me, a third certainty is that I will be running late. To all things. I’ll probably be late to my own funeral. The other day, I saw an older woman struggling to shovel her driveway, and I wanted to hop out of my car and help her out, but I couldn’t because I was already late for something. (By the way, this was two days ago and I don’t remember what “important thing” I was late for. Ugh.) This really got me thinking about my pace.
There are certain things, beautiful things, that can’t happen if I’m always bolting from points A to B, like chatting with a cashier, petting a dog or noticing when someone needs help.
So, I recently committed to pulling over and offering a ride any time it’s snowy and I see a woman walking in my neighborhood. Just today, I met a new friend from Austria who is here for an internship. I’m not saying you should invite strangers into your car, but I am saying to evaluate who you could meet if you slowed your pace.
Lose Your “Cool”
For a long time, it seemed like our culture really valued the extrovert. The outgoing, sociable, class-clown type of person. As a kid, I remember wishing so badly that I wasn’t shy. I remember having a hard time making new friends (I still do sometimes TBH).
But I’ve noticed a cultural shift, and now society seems to be celebrating the introvert. This glorification of me, myself and I. In fact, the pendulum has swung so far in this direction that Instagram accounts like @emotionalclub can attract nearly a million followers just by making jokes at isolation. (Seriously, go look it up.)
I think all of this is proof of our collective aversion to vulnerability. We’re taught to keep it cool, which is the complete opposite of vulnerability. A hard lesson I am learning is that I’ll never truly find my people by trying to be cool. I’m working on quieting my inner-voice that says things like: You’re being too much, you barely know these people, or Whoa, let’s bring the laughter down a notch, Sister, or my personal favorite, How am I coming across right now? Don’t wait until your golden years to change this internal dialogue. Introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between, choose vulnerability.
Finding your people is not a destination; it’s a habit. As leaders in your community, you get to take the lead in this endeavor. Try out your own versions of rewiring your brain and see who you meet. Here’s to a year of changing our habits. It’s going to be epic!
Emma Turnbull, the director of innovation at MOPS International, believes in the redemptive power of words, design and story. She is passionate about the influence of women and the value of motherhood in all corners of the globe. In her spare time, you can find Emma being too competitive in any sport, starting a prank war, or testing her caffeine limits at a local coffee shop.