Brain Talk

Taylor on the Brain

Taylor on the Brain

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Your brain is your greatest resource—use it by design to help you achieve health, happiness, and success!

—Arlene R. Taylor PhD

©Arlene R. Taylor PhD

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. —Brian Tracy

ArleneWe were moving again! Barrels and boxes had been hauled up from the basement and trunks carried down from the attic. My brother and I were expected to pitch in and sort and pack. Some of it was fun, some pure drudgery. I was amazed that so many people expressed sympathy toward us for having to move. We took it absolutely for granted, a periodic occurrence in the lives of preacher’s kid. In the main we viewed it as another adventure and, although we didn’t realize it at the time, it provided plenty of opportunity to practice the art of graceful change.

As I grew older, I realized that many people did not perceive change as an adventure or as an opportunity. They were more comfortable with the known and seemed to forget that, almost without exception, the known was once the unknown.

Recently I was asked to address this topic with a community group of young adults. One individual suggested that change was undesirable and that we should strive, even stubbornly, to maintain the status quo. Another believed that while change was necessary at times, it should be orchestrated carefully by “someone in charge.” Still another thought that change was the spice of life and one couldn’t have enough of it. A fourth added that change wasn’t really the issue; but rather whether or not everyone was comfortable with the change. All these views were expressed with great intensity, and discussion was lively.

I pointed out that because every brain on the planet is as unique as the owner’s thumbprint, every individual would tend to approach change somewhat differently, although a general blueprint of four distinctly different approaches can be helpful.

Understanding your own individual approach to change does not limit you to that perspective. It can enable you to avoid procrastination on one hand and capricious whim on the other. You may be responding from your brain's innate energy advantage or you may be reacting based on learned skills related to change. The good news is that you may select any number of brain functions to help you respond to or initiate change successfully. (You may refer to some of the information we discussed in the Addendum that follows.)

You have the ability to select the way in which you will ultimately respond in any given situation. Furthermore, to a large degree you also choose how much or how little distress you will experience in the process. Developing an increased awareness of how your brain approaches change can give you a huge advantage. It can enable you to select a more appropriate response to change based on the situation and on the outcome you would like to achieve. It can help you to implement the 20:80 Rule in a timely manner, especially when your brain did not initiate the change.

The 20:80 Rule is based on comments attributed to Epictetus, a 2nd-century philosopher. He reportedly believed that an individual was ultimately impacted less by a given event and more by what the individual thought about the event. To paraphrase in 21st-century terminology, only 20% of the effect to one’s brain and body is due to the event. About 80% reflects what the person thinks about the event, the importance he/she places upon it, and the actions taken in relation to it.

Mark Twain’s philosophy was that it is good for people to think differently. Indeed, it is difference of opinion that has created the stimulus for many great and useful inventions. Human beings differ widely in disposition, habits, education, and style of perceiving information. Each person’s brain lead significantly contributes to this diversity. Much of the controversy in homes, schools, churches, and work environments results from not realizing that it is helpful for persons of varied temperament to associate together, and that the outcome of collective wisdom is usually greater than that of one brain only. When you understand—and internalize—that no two brains on this planet are identical in structure, function, and perception, you can often prevent or sidestep foolish controversies and meaningless arguments! Harmonious blending at a workable level is not only desirable—but also possible.

At the break, perhaps on purpose, perhaps subconsciously, someone started humming a tune from the movie Mary Poppins. Remember the line "Chim chiminey chim chiminey chim chim cher-ee?" ”Those words are fanciful and signify something that primarily exists only in one’s imagination. However, Webster’s Dictionary includes “visionary” as one of the definitions of the word chimerical. I like that. In fact, it suggested the title for this article. Each one of us can be visionary about the way in which we approach change.

As Heraclites supposedly commented in 500 B.C., “Nothing endures but change.” Change is life! The only constant in life is change. Therefore, the question is not, “Will you change,” but rather, “How will you approach the change?” Will you turn a deaf ear or smile politely and say, “Maybe someday?” Will you move toward change only half-heartedly and temporarily? Will you grudgingly accept change only when it is forced upon you? Or will you take charge, and orchestrate the change—especially when it is inevitable or to your benefit?

Recently I saw a sign posted in a hospital elevator that said: People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, or receive enough that they are able to. Many people think of change primarily in terms of what happens to them. I like to think of change in terms of what I can make happen positively for myself and for others! As Tracy put it, master change, rather than allowing it to master you.

altADDENDUM

A natural fissure into the left and right hemispheres divides the cerebrum, the largest portion of the human brain. In turn, each hemisphere is divided by another natural fissure, resulting in four divisions composed of eight lobes.

Although there may be some overlap, each cerebral section is believed to possess its own style of processing information and be responsible for leading specific functions (see figure of the four cerebral divisions). How you think—and whether you relish change or resist it—has its roots in your own personal biochemistry, impacted and compounded by your own personal history and environment (e.g., the old nature/nurture equation).

For example, functions in each cerebral division are designed to assist you with the following tasks related to change:

altLeft Frontal Lobe

  • Set goals
  • Select the preferred option
  • Prioritize steps to follow
  • Manage willpower

altRight Frontal Lobe

  • Envision change
  • Brainstorm options
  • Visualize desired outcome
  • Pursue dreams (goals)
  • Embrace the risk of change

altBasal Left Lobes

  • Organize routines
  • Follow a schedule
  • Do things accurately and timely
  • Practice, practice, practice...

altBasal Right Lobes

  • Create a support system
  • Harmonize lifestyle components
  • Embrace personal growth
  • Provide meaning to the change

Initiating or participating in change is likely to be more successful when you understand that your initial approach to change reflects your own brain’s innate advantage—a biochemical preference for processing information in one of the four cerebral divisions over the other three. Review the following mini-descriptions of the way in which each cerebral division tends to approach change. You will likely identify more strongly with one or two of them.

altLeft Frontal Lobe

Tends to:

  • Avoid change whenever possible
  • Consider change if the changes will expedite winning and the change seems logical
  • Want to direct the change and maintain control of the process, or delegate to others
  • Be somewhat insensitive and dictatorial during the change process and alienate others

alt Right Frontal Lobe

Tends to:

  • Love change
  • Gravitate toward and initiate change to solve problems, add variety to life, and avoid boredom
  • Think and act intuitively and spontaneously, and inspire others to participate
  • Become impatient and bored with details and routines, and may withdraw if the change causes conflict that cannot be easily resolved

altLeft Posterior Lobes

Tends to:

  • Resist change
  • Consider change if it’s a life-and-death issue, or if the change is practical and proven
  • Want to deliberate about the change and, if at all possible, maintain the status quo
  • Accurately incorporate change into an already existing routine if necessary —but may sabotage the whole process based on fear of change

altRight Posterior Lobes

Tends to:

  • Acquiesce to change
  • Accept change if it is beneficial to all and promotes harmony
  • Want to discuss change in advance, include everyone in the discussion, and minimize conflict related to the proposed change
  • Help to smooth the process but, with such high levels of concern about harmony, can cause delay in implementing the change

 

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