GUEST POST from Dennis Stauffer
Your mindset has a huge impact on how well you’re able to adapt and innovate. But mindset is one of those concepts that’s been used and abused in a variety of ways. It gets talked about as your attitude, feelings or personality.
Mindset is not personality as it’s traditionally defined. Rather than innate personally traits that are largely stable and unchanging, mindset is the mental framework you’ve created, although mostly subconsciously. That makes mindset almost the opposite of personality. You can actively shape your mindset, and whether you realize it or not, you already are. That’s because of something called neuroplasticity.
Elearnor McGuire of the University College London led a couple of famous studies of London cab drivers, that demonstrate just how malleable your brain is.
London is such an old city it’s not laid out on a grid. That’s makes it an exceptionally challenging place to find your way around. Yet, that’s what London cabbies need to do, learning the layout of 25-thousand streets and thousands of places of interest. It takes years of study and memorization to learn the city well enough to get an operator’s license as a London cab driver.
Using brain scans, McGuire and her colleagues found that those cab drivers who had mastered “the knowledge” as it’s known, had an enlarged posterior hippocampus. That’s the part of the brain you use for spatial navigation and memory—for figuring out where you are and where you want to go.
The longer they worked as cab drivers, the bigger those areas became. Bus drivers were used as a control group because they have a similar job, but they follow predetermined routes that don’t require the same constant figuring out. They didn’t show the same changes.
What Mcguire’s research reveals is that the way you use your brain changes your brain, in a way that’s similar to growing your muscles by exercising them. That means you can get better at things like finding your way around, by spending time doing those things, just like an athlete or musician practices their skills. It means you can get better at innovating by developing the needed mental habits.
Pretty cool, huh?
But the news isn’t all good. This and other research suggests that this kind of mental strength training is also how you form habits—both good and bad—by creating and reinforcing specific neural pathways.
As Aristotle said, “You are what you repeatedly do.”
If you want to improve your mindset—and your ability to innovate—you need to practice the kinds of habits of thinking that you want to have. That includes being creative, taking risks, and being open to new ways of understanding. These are habits it makes sense to practice even when you’re not attempting to innovate. So, your brain is shaped in ways that will be helpful when you are.
Here is this post as a video, if you would prefer:
Image Credit: Pexels
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