Look up!

We are designed to continue to grow into new experiences

A part of brain plasticity is our capacity to continue to grow new neurons (neurogenesis) and new synapses (synaptogenesis) throughout life. As we have mentioned before, this occurs most strongly when we are practicing our strengths, developing them further.

However, neurogenesis also occurs when we walk.  With a little reflection this makes sense, our heritage is as nomadic hunter-gatherers and, when we started walking, there was a good chance we were heading into a new environment - we would need fresh neurons to capture new memories and experiences.

There is a metaphor here about how we should move through life, head up and ready to capture and integrate the new and the different.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Country Footpath in the Summer - 1874

Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Country Footpath in the Summer - 1874

The other half of this metaphor is the nomad looking down at their feet - seeing the familiar - rather than lifting their eyes up and taking in the new.

Clearly, our ancestors would not have done that, they would have been vigilant, alert and paying full attention to anything new.

We have all been encouraged through our schooling to focus on the familiar – to use focused attention – when engaging with the world and the people in it.  This is limiting and not at all how we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years.

We learn and we grow by incorporating the new and the different, there are times to focus on the familiar, but this must be balanced with being open to the new.

It is being open to the new that we cannot make sense of in the current way we make meaning in the world that allows us to grow vertically, to increase our ability to handle greater complexity and multiple perspectives.

This has never been more needed.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.  Earlier blogs can be found here.

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John Corrigan