Discover more from Sunday Spark
Forging new cowpaths
If you've ever been on a farm, you'll be familiar with cowpaths. They are easy to take since they are well worn, narrow and always lead to the same destination. They are familiar.
If you've ever been on a farm, you'll be familiar with cowpaths. They are easy to take since they are well worn, narrow and always lead to the same destination. Walking the cowpath brings a sense of familiarity. We know what to expect at the other end; we don't have to overthink it.
We walk cowpaths every single day in how we make decisions. In some cases, we choose the path that leads to joy – like choosing to sit down with a good book. In other cases, we walk the path that leads to anger - like when we need to feel strong and superior in times of uncertainty.
There's an expression, don't pave the cowpath. If something is easy and how it's always been, it doesn't mean it's still the best way forward.
We can always choose to forge new cowpaths.
The emotions, the thoughts and the actions we take come from what we have learned and experienced.
As Rick Hanson mentions in his book Resilient, our brain is designed to change with our experiences, especially the negative ones; more importantly, the ones from our childhood.
The technical term for that is experience-dependent neural plasticity. As we live through different experiences, small and big ones, they impact our brain's neural function and structure.
There's a great quote from Epictetus.
You become what you give your attention to.
How we use our attention makes a huge difference. When we continuously pay more attention to negative experiences, we forge pathways in our brain which change its physical structure and make accessing negativity easier. When we choose to pay more attention to moments of relaxation and joy, we enable our ability to be become calmer and find balance.
That brings a new light to what positive thinking might really mean. It's not about being oblivious to the world around us, ignoring reality and thinking strictly positive thoughts. It's about being aware and conscious about which experiences we allow ourselves to dwell on. As Rick Hanson writes, the brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon.
We can't control all the experiences we have in our lifetime, but we can control which ones we choose to focus on.
Are there times when you focus more on negative experiences? What might be different if you consciously tried to shift your focus to positivity and gratitude just once or twice a day?
What memory, object, location, activity, friend, etc., can you go back to either physically or mentally that would bring a smile to your face and calm to your body every single day?
It's never too late to forge new cowpaths – where do you want yours to lead?
Sparknotion – Think Differently.