This radio series was about the aftermath of Katrina and how the city is rewiring itself to move forward with even greater resiliency. Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village was discussing his organization’s mission to help identify and support local entrepreneurs to build a varied and thriving business climate in New Orleans. Tim was asked, “New Orleans has its ways – is it open to new ideas?” His response was a textbook description and metaphor of how brains work and the process of building resiliency on micro/individual and macro/community levels. His response and I’m paraphrasing, was that indeed, New Orleans was a city of closed networks and it was difficult for anyone or anything new to break-in or through. What Katrina (adversity) did was fracture these networks, providing the opportunity for new ideas and ways to take hold. This process was assisted by thousands of volunteers, celebrities, and outsiders (novelty) coming in with compassion and new ideas and ways of doing things. At a time of need the people and community of New Orleans was more open than at any other time.
We could all benefit from being more resilient than we are, particularly in these stressful times. One obstacle that prevents us from developing and strengthening our resiliency is that our brains:
· Are lazy and like routine
· Avoid discomfort
· And thrives on familiarity and predictability
Our brain’s preferences can be traps to building and strengthening one’s resiliency. Most of what prevents us from being resilient is a set of hardwired brain patterns and habits that have developed over years. Berns says, “That novelty equals learning and learning means physical rewiring of the brain.” The same is true for adversity. When we experience adversity it is an OPPORTUNITY for learning. The question is, “Are you open to learning?” Are you curious enough to push your brain to explore or will you follow your brains preference for being a couch potato? The evidence is conclusive; our brains are capable of rewiring. There are amazing examples of stroke victims not accepting a victim’s role and rewiring their brains, with effort and perseverance, so that physical capacities initially lost were re-learned and rewired to other regions of the brain.
In another profile segment of, No Place Like Home, Paul Baricos of the Hollygrove Market and Farm shares an uplifting story of how one acre of urban land in the heart of New Orleans has become a thriving center of community where folks learn and share urban farming techniques. The center brings people together to learn, gain strength and courage in a community of common values.
In his description of how this came about he says, “The storm created an opportunity – it forced people to do it themselves. We had to go through a self-assessment. What kind of life do we want?” Once again you can see the process of confronting an adverse situation, learning from it and transforming it into an opportunity to be more self-sufficient and resilient.
These same principles, concepts and actions that the people of New Orleans are employing to rebuild a thriving and resilient city are the identical steps you can take personally, professionally, organizationally and in your communities to strengthen your resiliency in these turbulent times.
Key Principles of rewiring your brain to be Resilient:
Purpose: What is my purpose and meaning for being? What do I want out of life and what do I want to leave as my legacy? From an organizational perspective, the key is does our purpose speak to the needs of employees as well as to executive and customer needs?
Self-Assessment: What is preventing me from pursuing my purpose and experiencing the best of others and myself? Organizations must assess what are preventing employees from being engaged and believing that they make a difference.
Commitment to Change: Can I commit to be open and to challenge my own point view? It is important to commit to be a learner and to let go of the “I’m the knower role?”This is essential for leaders and managers also. To motivate people to use their creativity, to be innovative and to engage in their work,a leader needs to listen and to be open to new ideas.
Practice: Altering and changing a habit isn’t easy. To rewire, one has to practice, practice and practice being the person/leader you want to be. Not the old way, the new resilient way! Organizational execution isn’t magic; it’s a function of training, practice and continuous supportive feedback.
Continuous Reflection: Am I focusing on what is most important? Am I moving towards my purpose? What have I learned and what is working and what is not and why?
Be Curious: The world is fascinating place. Don’t let your lazy, couch potato brain keep you from exploring it. Take yourself for a walk outside your comfort zone; even tiny steps can be insightful and energizing. There are two sides to a coin and at least that many to every issue. Make a point to see the other side of the coin.
In my previous article/ blog I presented Salvatore Maddi’s, Hardiness Belief’s of Commitment, Challenge and Control. They clearly show up in the words and actions of the people interviewed for the program, No Place Like Home:
Commitment: “What kind of life do we want?”
Challenge: “The storm created an opportunity.”
Control: “It forced people to do it themselves.”
The 3 Cs are the cornerstones of resiliency. Everyday the world presents us with enormous challenges and opportunities. Change is a constant and the speed and force of change will only intensify. Are you prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to experience it through resilient eyes or will you let your Lazy Brain accept the role of couch potato and victim? “What kind of life do you want?” It’s your choice.