How to Take Better Charge of Your Life

June 8, 2010
The way our brains work may be a good model for how we fit in society.

The way our brains work may be a good model for how we fit in society. Current brain research indicates that memories, or thoughts, can be likened to patterns in the network of neurons in our brains. These neurons interconnect, so our every thought makes each neuron “reach out” with several “arms” to other neurons.

A strong memory has more so-called “juice” (without getting into current debates whether the juice is electrical, chemical, both, or more) than a weak memory. The juice spreads in a pattern we usually call associativity. For example, you remember an actor, so you recall the movie he played in, the theater where you saw the movie, and the person you were with.

Like many people, I use a special technique to help me recall elusive memories. I say, “I’ll think of it in a moment,” and go about my business. Perhaps, as widely taught, my subconscious takes that as an order to scan my brain neurons for the needed information and delivers it later. Whether or not that is an accurate model, it has worked well for me for many years.

As children, we network or build relationships with family members, schoolmates, and so on, largely unconsciously. People are around us, so we interact with them. Once we become adults though, we usually become more conscious of our social connections. We make choices.

By the time we are reading articles in Machine Design, we probably have a fairly dense web of connections including spouse, ex(es), children, parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors, and members of our spiritual community. Picture these connections as like the web of a busy spider. Like it, our web is dynamic; there’s motion and change all the time.

Return for a minute to the brain imagery. Juice — in the form of our outward attention — flows in different directions at different times. We’re engaged in a project and are also on a committee. We promised to spend time on our kid’s school project this evening. We’re eagerly anticipating “date night” with our spouse. We’re worried about Mom living alone in her now too-big house.

The juice in our brains flows to the stuff on which we are focusing. That’s what happens in our external life too. And, much of the time, we’re reacting, rather than proactively planning.

To take better charge of your life, here’s a suggestion: Picture your life web as your attention flowing to different nodes. Now ask yourself these questions:

• What do I notice right now?
• Where is most of my attention going today? This week? This month?
• Is anything, such as kids, parents, health, or work projects getting too little attention? Too much?
• What decisions and commitments would I like to make today to shift the energy flow in my life web?

There are no right answers to these questions, only answers that are right for you. I’ve always thought Socrates made a profoundly useful observation in saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

Take 20 minutes today to examine your life web in light of these questions. Do this every week; mark your calendar as a reminder. Whatever gets your attention is most likely to grow.

— Joel Orr

Joel Orr is Chief Visionary Emeritus of Cyon Research Corp. The views he expresses here are his own, not those of Cyon. Reach him at [email protected].

Edited by Leslie Gordon

Copyright 2010, Penton Media Inc. All rights reserved.

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