We can actually train our brain to help us build a better future. Really.
According to scientists, our brain’s memory circuits are not just for reflecting on the past but are also vital mechanisms for imagining, anticipating, and preparing for the future. In this new view, your brain is a proactive system that integrates past experience to help you navigate the future.
The proactive brain flexibly recombines details from past experiences that, by analogy with your current surroundings, help you make sense of where you are, anticipate what will come next, and successfully navigate the transition.
We are all born with a proactive brain, but we can communicate with it to enhance its performance. Here are four tips:
- Give your brain a rich bank of life experiences. Expose it to diverse environments and situations. Increasing the breadth of your experiences provides richer information for your brain to draw on as it helps you anticipate new situations.
- Let it borrow from the experiences of others by communicating, reading, or interacting with or about others.
- Think about what you want from the future. Take time to reflect on individual and team values and goals, both immediate and down the road. These will help guide your brain as it envisions future scenarios that may best help you achieve your objectives.
- Actively ponder future rewards or accomplishments. Emphasize rich, detailed thinking about long-term outcomes. This reduces the lure (and the danger) of instant gratification.
- Give yourself periods of relatively uninterrupted thought during which you let your mind wander. Doing this gives the brain’s memory system extra time to recombine your prior experiences in ways that can help you envision future possibilities.
These tips won’t help you find those pesky car keys, but they could help you shape your future to what you want it to be.
This article was adapted from the Harvard Business Journal: How Your Brain Connects the Future to the Past, by Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske (September 21, 2010)
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Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. And, it’s now available on Kindle! Check it out.
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