Day 18: Failing at Enthusiam

I’ve never been an overly enthusiastic person. I can be positive, optimistic, thrilled, happy, inspired, cooperative, fun-loving and even excited on a regular basis.

But enthusiastic?

Not me. I tend to keep the more animated and exuberant parts of my personality at bay.

My lack of effervescence has never been an issue until now. The more I study the power of neuroplasticity, the more I read how enthusiasm is the key to creating new neural pathways. For example one of the nine essentials that form the core of Anat Baniel’s Neural Movement technique is, enthusiasm, as it allows small gains to become something great.

Enthusiastic people have a strong, zest for life and tend to be fully present. When trying to awake an old brain and teach it new tricks, excitement for any changes no matter how minute is what gets the brain firing, which helps with its wiring. For me specifically, I’m trying to wake up my brain such that it can learn how to fire new neurons that control my gait.

What usually happens during any failed attempt to flex my foot is that the adult, indifferent version of my mind sees my foot drop as insurmountable. Yet the zealous, child-like part of my brain sees a millimeter increase in big toe flexion as not only fabulous but the start of something phenomenal (for about a second until my adult brain takes over again).

I’m trying to learn how to be more moved by the millimeter. When I only focus on my limitations, I’m digging the problematic neural pathways in deeper. Where as becoming fascinated and excited about small developments allows positive neural changes to be integrated in my brain almost immediately.

This completely makes sense to me from an intellectual perspective. But my cynical personality is getting in my way. Which brings me to the $64,000 question: How do you become more enthusiastic if it’s not in your general nature?

I googled, how to become more enthusiastic and honestly, all the resulting articles sucked. They want you to find your passions, figure out your goals and determine what you want out life. Like I have time for that?

Remember, we’re not discussing basic happiness or trying to answer life’s big questions. We’re talking exuberance, zest and zeal. You know, whatever the opposite of Larry David is.

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Eventually I found an actual set of suggestions that not only made sense but were doable.

Justine Willis Toms author of Small Pleasures, suggests the following:

  • Remember a time when you were feeling enthusiastic, a time when you were truly excited about something: traveling to a special place, anticipating participation in a favorite activity, waiting for Santa Claus on the night before Christmas.
  • Recall this experience and hold it in your memory for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Do this at least three times a day in order to strengthen your “enthusiasm muscle.”

I had no idea I even had an enthusiasm muscle or that it could be strengthened, but I’m definitely going to give it a try. Feel free to join me if you find that your inner cynic knocks your fanaticism down a few pegs on a regular basis. If you do – let me know how it’s going and I’ll do this same.

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