I recently delivered the opening keynote at a community college. The audience were Academic Advisors. It was their annual Professional Development Day. The request was to speak about Appreciative Inquiry and strength-based approaches and how they could support the Academic Advisors in the work they do. I felt honored to be invited. I was delighted to give such a keynote. I had no hesitation. Of course, I would do that. That’s what I do.
Yet, as I mulled over the content of my talk in the next couple of days, I became a little apprehensive. I thought of their context – an educational institution. Would I be able to satisfy them with my stories, and background? Would they be looking for specific data relevant to education when most of my work has been in the corporate world?
In my heart, and from experience I know that the approaches I integrate into my stories – Appreciative Inquiry, strength-based approaches and positivity have universal application, are context agnostic. Added to that, I hold the view that my audience is smart and they can make the translation. But still, the relevance and the impact of my message is my number one priority. I want my talks to make sense and be applicable and relevant to my specific audiences – always.
In my conversations with the client, it struck me that one of my stories, the one that I love to tell, and had started me on my professional journey, and informs my work today, is a story about teaching and is set in educations institutions, in fact five of them.
I almost always tell this “education” story, as it is my vocational story. This story was there within me all the time, and it was so obvious that I simply could not access it in my few days of anticipatory anxiety.
How true is it, that so often the simple truth is right under your very own nose, within your grasp and in times of fear or anxiety, stress, self-doubt, our thinking narrows and you can lose sight of what is truly available to you.
Strengthen Neural Connections
When you experience doubt, anxiety or fear, your negativity bias kicks in and screams at you. You are shut off from seeing the things that work for you and other possibilities. Fear and anxiety are negative emotions, so you go into this mode that defends you against anxiety, and self-protection sets in. The walls go up, your bigger view is closed off and you shrink your world.
Once an emotion takes over, it begins to recreate itself and anticipate the next moment. You begin to amplify that which reinforces your world view in that moment and the associated emotions. When they are negative, you become self-absorbed and you close yourself off from your best self.
How to Strengthen Positive Neural Connections
When the BFO struck me (BFO = Blinding Flash of the Obvious), I laughed out loud with relief and amusement. And, I was acutely aware how my negative emotions shifted to positive emotions and I created a whole new different experience.
In reconnecting to a positive emotional state, I was able to set in motion a whole different response in my brain and body. In feeling relief, my body relaxed, my gaze widened, my face softened. A whole new set of neural connections were ignited and I could see the solution right there. I was open to my own insights and inner knowing.
Positivity can swing open the door to new experiences, that shift your perceptions. When you see something as a possibility, it sets you up for the next moment to see more possibilities. It’s that lovely upward spiral of being open to more possibilities.
To strengthen those positive connections in the brain, you can:
- start paying attention to more positive things,
- engage in more positive interactions,
- listen for, and use language that is life affirming, and
- hang out with more positive people.
All these experiences will build up your positivity muscle and over time strengthen and broaden your capacity to access positivity next time you go into a funk.
Try listening to Positivity Strategist Podcast and hear positive stories and learn some strategies and tips to strengthen your positive neural connections.