The neuro-plasticity of our minds is amazing! We literally change the physiological make-up of our brains every time we make a decision about anything.
Some science: “Within our brains are billions upon billions of neurons, interconnected in every which way to form a complex set of neural pathways. Electrical currents travel down these pathways, from neuron to neuron, delivering the messages that make up our every thought and action. The more we perform a particular action, the more connections form between the corresponding neurons. The stronger this link, the faster the message can travel down the pathway.” (The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor)
When I explain this concept to my children or to a class, I use the following analogy:
Each student receives a ball of clay and a toothpick. Each lightly draws one line across the ball of clay—then they roll the clay between their hands and see if they can still see their lightly drawn line. Most cannot. Next we draw one line across the ball of clay in the same location, repeatedly. Obviously, this leaves a much deeper groove in the clay. After rolling the clay between their hands again, they now can still clearly see the line drawn repeatedly in the same location.
Our brains are like the ball of clay. Each decision we make is lightly drawing a connection between different areas within our brains. Throughout the day, we make millions of decisions. Over time, some of these decisions have become so much a part of our brain that we no longer even need to think about them. An example? When was the last time you put any thought into how to chew your food? You’ve done it so often and so many times that it now no longer requires conscious thought!
So, the more we choose to do something, the more it becomes the natural course of action for us to do. We literally re-wire our patterns of thinking based on the small decisions we make in the course of a day!
This last year, I challenged myself to live as the Good Samaritan. Making that decision, and all of the following decisions that choice has led to, has changed my perspective on life, hopefully permanently.
Do you feel like your life could use a spiritual overhaul, or re-boost? May I recommend trying to live as the Good Samaritan for a day and see what changes? Now, try it for a week. As you look around you with eyes willing to see opportunities to help your fellow travelers in life, you will find that there is so much for willing hands to do!
Do you feel isolated and alone? May I recommend trying to be the Good Samaritan to anyone within your sphere of influence? Even someone stuck at home because of physical issues can serve. Send a cheerful text. Make a phone call to someone who struggles or even just to a friend. All of us need uplifting!
I wish that I could share the happiness, peace, and confidence that have come into my life as I have committed to living as the Good Samaritan. If more people understood, more people would give such a challenge a try themselves.
A few small examples, that don’t seem like so very much. However, if you consider that these examples are just from the last couple of days and you multiple these experiences out over a week, then a month—you can see how this experiment can be life-altering.
While out running errands, I see a beautiful bouquet of flowers and take a moment to think about who could use a pick-me-up. After dropping them by with a note for a friend who has been pulling late nights at work, I received a cheerful pick-me-up of my own when her texted ‘Thank you so much!’ popped up on my screen. Give joy, receive joy.
Sitting waiting for my children’s hour-long swim practice to finish, I take a moment to think about who I can serve during this time. I send out a few texts to siblings and friends. Instead of mindlessly surfing social media, I purposefully search FB for a few individuals I know have been struggling. I leave a positive message with each. Actively using my free moments to serve rejuvenates me, compared to the tiredness I feel when I mindlessly surf social media. (Or the sense of inadequacy that also sometimes results from looking too long at so many posts about everyone’s ‘perfect’ lives!)
I received a request for love from someone who is an emotional black hole. Before, this would have made me angry. Who does this person think they are that they can go through life taking and taking and taking? Why do they feel so entitled and give so little? Now, I quiet those judgmental thoughts and instead look for a way that I can give. Sometimes, all this person needs is a phone call to know that someone cares. Sometimes, I am not up to a phone call. Today was a texting kind of day, so I texted. After a few texts back and forth, this person expressed gratitude that there were people in their life that loved them. It didn’t take a lot of my time, but it meant a lot to them. The Good Samaritan didn’t look at the wounded man and tsk to himself that the wounded man brought this tragedy upon himself. The Good Samaritan saw a need and he served. Period.
Every day I choose to look for these opportunities. Every day I am learning and re-wiring my brain from its old, comfortable, selfish way of looking at the world to a more Christ-centered perspective. Now it requires conscious effort, but maybe someday, it will have become part of my brain’s hard-wiring!
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.