Discovering New Things With New People Is Rewarding
“She took my hand in hers…
She said, “You’re gonna be alright, boy
Whoa, just as long…
Gotta keep on growing
Keep on growing” ~ Eric Clapton and Bobby Whitlock
Have you ever seen dogs and children when they’re discovering something new? They jump, bark, and squeal. Their delight makes you smile. You actually feel something similar when you discover something new. And you grow from that event. Something new could include objects, experiences, and/or facts, and you can have them alone or with other people. I’m inviting you to experience something special and new, and now that we are safe to do it, with other people. We’ve been missing that the most during our distancing.
First, remember what a new discovery feels like. Recall your first step in learning a new yoga pose or exercise. Your gut tells you may look like a fool or get something wrong and yet you want to do it anyway. And, you do it. To that your brain responds with a resounding: “yay! You did it!” These are experiences of learning and growth – fun, new, and some nerves at the same time. Our brain is enticed by them. Why? Our brains are wired to seek out novelty. And novel things cause learning and growth.
Why the Yay
We have a novelty center of the midbrain called the substantia nigra/ventral segmental area or SN/VTA. The SN/VTA gets activated when shown completely new things. “A brain reacts to novelty by releasing dopamine which makes us want to go exploring in search of a reward.” And, the potential for our learning is increased by novelty. This means right after taking in new stimuli, “if you meet someone new for coffee…your brain will be more open to making new connections during and right after this time…” (source: Lifehacker, “Novelty and the Brain: Why New Things Make Us Feel So Good.” By Belle Beth Cooper). So, a new experience increases your capacity to learn.
During the last two years, we may have missed out on learning, particularly when other people are concerned. During times of uncertainty, we tend to cling to comfort and safety, familiar things and people. (While you may have learned some new things during this time, chances are they were things you did alone.) Now that we’re moving toward a new normal where there are some things we can control, that brain of yours is looking to stretch a limb, activate the SN/VTA and have novel experiences with other people. Understanding the familiar offers no opportunity for novelty, growth or learning, that’s where the invitation part fits.
Recently, I made an effort to get to know each younger member of a committee that I chair. I was surprised to learn how much I had in common with each one; at the same time, I discovered assumptions I had made on how they were interacting when we didn’t have a formal meeting were wrong. I learned they weren’t having conversations apart or together unless I was involved. We talked about how that could change for them. At the same time, that spark of learning encouraged me to follow up on new introductions that a colleague had made for me. Discovery spurring growth.
When was the last time you had a conversation with someone who has a different perspective or lens on life? Perhaps because of a different age, upbringing, accent, sexual identification, religion, or place of origin. Imagine taking a step toward a conversation.
Rather than focusing on how different they are from you, what if you were to focus on what you have in common. Working for the same company, enjoying the same coffee, sharing pet/parent/children stories, sports comments, or clothing comments. You could choose to stay on subjects that you share together. Or, move slowly into their view on a subject where you differ, asking how they see things and why. Discover how they moved toward their perspective. The exchange could start simple. And, the objective is not to persuade them to be more like you (because to be like you is familiar), but to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. To discover novel things from a new experience. And in that process, you both learn and grow.
What do you get out of this conversation? For starters, you may learn assumptions you had were untrue. Or, your view of this person could change even if you never have another conversation again. Still, you could enjoy the conversation so much that you continue to stay in contact and perhaps spend more time together. There’s no downside: even if you discover you don’t have much to talk about together, your brain still gives you the “fist bump” for trying something novel. And that “fist bump” dopamine release tells your brain “I’m on a roll. Let’s see what else I can do now.”
Now that you’ve imagined it and you see where it could take you – let’s invite you to take the step; make an overture to someone who is both new to you and different from you. Get a brain reward.
Keep on Growing
Discovering new things not only make us feel good, it allows us to grow and stretch from where we are today. So, the possibilities are endless where novel things could lead us. Let today be the day that you grow an inch, like the little boy in the photo. Now that we are able to once again meet in person, take the chance to start that conversation with someone who is not in your circle of friends or colleagues already. Having that exchange, whatever the outcome, you both win. Denying yourself the opportunity to learn and grow from interactions with people different from ourselves, keeps you from experiencing a “yay” and what could follow it.
Circumstances have taken you away from the comfortable same old course – whether you’ve been in the same organizational position, have started a new job, or are with a new company. We can work together so that you and your team can become more adaptable and discover the novel conversations and gifts through your current situation.
My work as a leadership and communication expert has me go into organizations, as an outside unbiased view to look at the gaps. I identify what an organization is missing that’s holding it back from thriving and continuing to stay relevant. Have practices become entrenched or no longer fit your plans for today’s workplace and goals? Contact me: Susan@SusanGoldbergLeadership.com Let’s talk.