I travel a lot for business, and when I travel, I always find time to explore my environment. It builds resilience.
What’s the point of going to a new place, if you don’t take it in and only end up seeing yet another conference room? More importantly for those of us who want to build resilience, we should never pass up the opportunity to explore new environments and search out their hidden treasures. The more interesting, exotic, the better.
Resilience has been touted as one of the most critical competencies of the 21st century. Let’s call it the ability to deal calmly and rationally with crisis and to return quickly to normal and move on without long-term negative consequences.
Forcing one’s brain to take in and deal with a totally new environment—new sights, new smells, new sounds, new flavors—builds neurological flexibility. It does so the same way yoga forces your body to stretch, increasing its flexibility, making it more prepared for action and stress. More resilient.
Likewise, travel stretches your senses, which makes your mind more prepared for mental challenges. When you’re ordering lunch in a French restaurant or telling your Chinese cab driver where you want to go, you’re kicking in your problem-solving skills. You force your brain to tap your intuition and imagination.
Do 4 things:
When you take in the aromas of an Moroccan marketplace, see London from the heights of the Eye, scan the colorful costumes of a South African dance troupe, visit the grand Panama canal, stand alongside the traditional clothing of a Nigerian man, view the world atop Table Mountain or just sit in a restaurant on the square in Krakow where most people are speaking Polish, you’re building resilience.
But let’s not forget the natural wonders of this amazing world. Have you been to the rainforest in Costa Rica? Seen the majestic Redwoods in California? What about Balanced Rock in Colorado Springs? The Nuuksio National Park in Finland? Or, just taking in the surroundings in your hometown? For me, Texas!
So much for the most exotic. Your business travels may not get you close enough, but your vacation treks can and should. Go ahead and use Google Earth to sample some of the world’s wonders. Whet your appetite. Then go!
But don’t forget to stretch your business travel experiences. Skip the hotel restaurant and find a dive where the real people gather. Skip the tour bus, rent a vehicle and get out into the rural areas of the city. Sit in a café and talk to the locals about what to see and do.
Whatever you do, don’t just sit in your room and browse social media. Resilience is about creating new neural pathways. Just because you have formed neural pathways does not mean that you are stuck with those habits forever. As you participate in new activities, new experiences, and new relationships, you are training your brain to create new ways to look at the world. The pathways get stronger with repetition until the behavior is the new normal.
Best of luck with your new normal!
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