“Life tends to be an accumulation of a lot of mundane decisions, which often gets ignored.” — David Byrne
Every day we read about people achieving extraordinary results. Some climb Mount Everest, others make their first few million, or a top sports professional wins a championship match.
We admire these people, and rightfully so. They show all of us what the human spirit, our human potential, is capable of. Their stories inspire us to dream of our own potential too. We begin to wonder if only we could make our mark on the world, if only we could have this kind of success, how our lives would change.
While remaining focused on the pinnacle of other’s amazing success, many are unconscious to the fact that what really defines us are not those exceptional moments of glory and achievement. Rather, what is never spoken off, is that success happens in the mundane. Most people spend so much time dreaming of a future they want that they fail to realize that what truly shapes who they will become is living exceptionally in the day to day grind.
“As a matter of fact, I deliberately look for the mundane, because I feel these stories are ignored. The most influential things that happen to virtually all of us are the things that happen on a daily basis. Not the traumas.”
— Harvey Pekar
Most people don’t know that every interaction they have and how they react to it, each and every day, day in and day out, especially in the mundane — such as driving to work, dropping the kids off at school, or listening to the news — shapes who they will become more than anything else they do with their lives.
EXPERIENCE SHAPES YOUR BRAIN
Every experience we have, shapes our brain, whether we are conscious of it or not. Especially repeated experiences. In my view, how you react to being stuck in morning traffic, is a far greater predictor of your future success than telling me about your dreams. Being stuck in traffic is something you likely experience each and every day. Bottom line environment plays an essential role in shaping who you are. How you interact with that environment each and every day is going to decide who you will ultimately become in the future. If your default setting is road rage, day in and day out, that way of reacting to a mundane experience that all of us have to endure, will shape who you will ultimately become.
BODY ATTITUDE MATTERS
Secondly how you engage your body, shapes your brain. Studies have shown that a person’s self-esteem can be heightened by the simple act of making a fist. As a person’s body adopts a protective, confident stance, their mind feels better able to focus on the problems at hand. How you show up in the world matters. As I walk around the mall, I see most people at work, standing behind the counter displaying a body attitude of “I hate my job, and I don’t want to be here”. Going to work, each and every day is their mundane. But they simply fail to realize that keeping their body in a constant state of “I don’t want to be here” doesn’t just shape that moment or experience for them, but their future as well. In other words, show up like it matters. How you show up today, will define how you show up later on in life.
TALKING IS MORE THAN WORDS
Thirdly, language changes you brain too. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, authors Newberg and Waldman, write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” In other words, if you use positive language it motivates you to see the world as positive, and if you use negative language, the world seems like a really bad place. How you talk to others, and to yourself matters, and will shape who you become in the future.
How you react to the mundane world, each and every day, from how you think about being stuck in a line at the store, to managing your emotions while caught in another traffic jam, or how you hold and present your body attitude at that job you are not fond off — is really what will predict your future success. Behavior, how we act and who we are, is mediated by the brain and vice versa. In simple terms what changes the brain, changes who you are. This is sculpted not in one day, but in the mundane of a lifetime of experiences.
The good news is that the opposite is also true. Change your behavior and you can change your brain. Who you will become, is not going to be shaped by those moments of once in a while glory and success, or what I call the ‘Braveheart’ speech. Who you are going to become is how you react in traffic today and tomorrow, or how you react with your body, when you felt someone had cut the line in the store.
“I like to make the mundane fabulous whenever I can.” — Rufus Wainwright
We all need dreams. We all need to read inspirational stories to think big, to inspire us. But making it big doesn’t happen in the ‘big’ but rather in the small. How you react then, and interact with your everyday world, will lead to far greater success, than dreams alone.