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FOCUS: NOVELTY

DISCIPLINE: Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Systems Thinking

In order to keep the brain fit, we must learn something new,
rather than simply replaying already-mastered skills.
—Michael Merzenich

THOUGHTS

The notion of novelty is on my mind, because I’ve just returned from a wonderful vacation in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I had a great experience of novelty. San Miguel is high in the mountains of central Mexico, a gem of an old silver mining town, so charming that it has been named a National Monument. We left a chilly Pittsburgh, at 9 degrees Fahrenheit, and arrived to a clear 75 degrees in the Mexican mountains. Novelty is everywhere: cobblestone streets, brightly colored structures, flowered courtyards behind deceptively simple doorways, sounds of people speaking Spanish, children laughing, dogs barking, roosters crowing, Mariachi music. The food delighted my taste buds. We walked miles, up and down the ragged streets and sidewalks, exchanging smiles and “Buenos Días” with the lovely Mexican people, speaking Spanish poorly and being forgiven on the spot, because we tried.

HOW THE BRAIN STAYS YOUNG

Until about 1998, everyone believed the brain was the one organ in the body that could not regenerate. We believed that when brain cells died, it was just too bad. No new ones would be forthcoming. We now know, however, that not only does the brain make new cells all of our lives, it seems to use them intelligently to repair parts of the body that have been damaged.

But people don’t make brain cells at the same rate. Two things that seem to encourage the brain to make new cells (neurogenesis) are novelty and exercise.

It’s almost funny how similar our struggles are with novelty and exercise. We want to try something new, learn something new, go somewhere new – yet it takes effort and can be a little scary, so often we do what we’ve always done instead. We want to start exercising, plan to start exercising, know how good it is to exercise, and yet we don’t do it. The desire to be healthy and stay young can be strong, but so can the urge to sit on the couch or do what we’ve always done.

It motivates me to know that by stretching myself to learn new things and go new places, I help my brain stay young and healthy. I came home from my trip to Mexico committed to studying Spanish. Learning a foreign language provides great novelty for the brain’s benefit – both new words and new ways of thinking.

EXAMPLES OF WAYS TO EXPERIENCE NOVELTY

  1. Change the pictures on the walls of your house.

  2. Drive to work or the store by different routes.

  3. Take a class in drawing or painting.

  4. Sleep on the other side of the bed.

  5. Try a totally new restaurant.

  6. Become proficient in using an electronic gadget or some challenging software.

COACHING QUESTIONS

  • How can you put more novelty into your life?

  • What can motivate you to learn new things, do new things, go new places?

INVITATIONS:

Please join me for a 45-minute telegathering to explore novelty and brain health in more depth. Call Thursday, February 28, 2008, at noon Eastern (11:00 a.m. Central, 10:00 a.m. MT, 9:00 a.m. Pacific) 1-641-678-3404 x968 No need to register…just call at that time!

Read an excerpt from Liberating Greatness, the Whole Brain Guide to an Extraordinary Life, the book Hal and I wrote, at www.LiberatingGreatness.com.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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