Monkey see, monkey do.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

I am reading the great book Mindful Parenting, by Dr. Kristen Race.  In it, she talks about something researchers call mirror neurons, which are defined as such:

mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.

As you can imagine, chameleons must be chock full of this things!  But what is really interesting is that these are also in humans.

In a previous post, I talked about how the human brain is not an absolute detector but rather a relative one (a contrast engine, or comparison engine, as it is called in the research).  This means we don’t actually have any way to define bright in the absolute sense, but rather only brighter or dimmer.  Mirror neurons are another element of this comparison engine behavior.  Dr. Race gives the example of mirror neurons being why a baby smiles back at us when we smile at him/her.  We have likely all seen this behavior but never really thought about what it means is happening inside us.  It means we are comparing the behavior of others with our own, and modifying our behavior accordingly and in real-time, and doing this whole process instinctively.  This means this is a “nature” thing, at least in part, which implies you can be aware of it, and even try to make use of it, but you can’t get rid of it.

I find this fascinating as a tool for personal development.  I know I reference Tony Robbins a lot, but he also talks extensively about modeling someone’s behavior to achieve their same results.  Mirror neurons are the biological root of that tactic.  For example, if you want to be more outgoing, watch outgoing people and do what they do.  I know this sounds painful, and perhaps even impossible to some of you, but remember you were WIRED FROM BIRTH to do this!  In fact, you can’t NOT do it!  Even if you don’t understand how it works, remember that the next time you want to try it but it feels daunting.  Also remember that you may not understand how electricity works, but you always have the confidence to flip the light switch on when the room is too dark…

So, how to start?  Like always, have fun & make it a game!  See how many people you can make smile by simply smiling at them throughout the day.  That will build your confidence not only in the technique itself, but also in your ability to get a little outside your comfort zone and not die a horribly gruesome death.  Then up the ante and say “hi” to people, rather than just smiling at them, and count how many people you can get to say something back to you.  Be sure to revel in your new-found power of control over others each night.  Soon, you’ll feel certain enough to turn the tables and be the mirror yourself, and then the sky’s the limit!  Let me know in the comments how things go for you.


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