A Gift For My Brain

a path to unknown destination

I recently celebrated an important one-year anniversary.  

 In August 2022, for several perfectly rational and valid reasons, I completely turned my life upside down.  After living and working for nearly half a century in the prairie city of Winnipeg, I purged my apartment of half of my belongings and moved to a province 2000 miles away. I am, as my mother used to say “no spring chicken”, thus the move was neither physically, emotionally, nor logistically a simple one.  So, what was I thinking?  Why leave dear friends and colleagues, familiar streets, trusted doctors, dentists, massage therapists and hairdressers in whose care I had thrived for so many years?

 Mostly, I did it for my brain.

 As a certified executive coach, a career I began in recent years and for which I am immeasurably grateful, I have been self-studying the tie between neuroscience and coaching. Many of the books I’ve read and seminars I’ve attended point to the importance of developing new neural pathways in the brain by intentionally treating the brain to new experiences.  This is how we break old habits we don’t want to continue and build new ones that help to make us healthier and happier.  One of the books on my self-study list is Coaching the Brain (O’Connor/Lages), which led to the discovery of the mantra for my major move decision, “…the best way to predict the future is to create it.” If I decided that to stay where I was, doing the things I had always done, I felt it could only lead to a place where my life would narrow rather than bloom.  

 What better way to revive an aging brain and rejuvenate my remaining decades, than to create a future that included learning a new geography, forcing myself into situations of meeting new people and new challenges that require resilience and adaptability, and enhancing my coaching competencies. Those very things that I encourage in my client leaders, I have purposefully re-experienced in my own life.

 Now, a year later, I look back on what I have been able to accomplish and reflect on whether it has manifested in the expected outcomes. While I am no stranger to change or challenge, as I consider where I am on the map of my own intention, I believe this has been a greater achievement and a greater success than I could have imagined.

Yes, I miss my friends and colleagues, but I still am connected to those people who value my friendship and have established new and meaningful relationships with individuals I might never have met.  I have created a living space that has few encumbrances except those things that I brought with me that I value for the memories they contain, and the stories they tell of my life.  Each day I look out on a landscape that is different, that feels the seasons differently, that requires a different mode of traverse.  I’m learning new streets and shortcuts and seeing new sights.  The effect on my thinking, on how my brain is dealing with new learning, is exactly what I imagined it would be.  I believe I am working with greater clarity and focus, an improved memory, and increased positivity.

 This has been a most significant year of transformation and adjustment, resulting in the acquisition of new knowledge and in a greater sense of my own agency and control.  In the past,  I had  considered myself well educated  on the subject of positive change and transformation as it has been foundational to my work in leadership coaching.  Now, after this year of experiential learning, I feel I have taken an advanced degree in the subject! .

  I encourage every one I know to recognize their own potential for creating those new neural pathways, in whatever manner is given to them, in whatever situation they might find themselves.  Sometimes we change to remove ourselves from bad situations, and sometimes simply to find an optimal path.  I can say from my own experience with the latter, that it can lead to greater value and positivity in your life and is certainly worth the effort.

photo credit

noam cohen at Unsplash

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