Mirror neurons are a surprising, fairly recent neurological discovery: cells in the brain that fire both when an action is done and when we see someone else performing the action. In other words, part of what goes on in our brains when we throw a frisbee, for instance, also goes on when we see someone else throw a frisbee.
I’ve mentioned before how imagining doing a thing activates many of the same parts of a person’s brain as actually doing the thing, and that visualizing ourselves in an activity is a good way to move ourselves towards doing it. The existence of mirror neurons suggests that just seeing someone else do something can make us more disposed and able to do that thing ourselves.
If that’s true, then it would seem that one of the ways we can encourage ourselves to make progress on something we want to accomplish is to simply watch someone else doing it. If we want to exercise, presumably it may help to watch other people exercise. If we want to become good at approaching other people in social situations, there may be benefit in watching other people be outgoing.
There are other reasons in addition to mirror neurons that this kind of approach may be particularly useful. One is that watching someone do a thing increases the amount of attention we’re paying to that thing, and the more attention we pay to something, the more likely we are to do it. Another is that watching others do something helps prove that the thing can be done, as when we see a friend clean up an area quickly and efficiently that we might otherwise have guessed would be difficult and time-consuming to clean. Yet another reason to watch others do things we want to do is that we can learn practical information about the tasks involved. Talking with people who are losing weight, for instance, can provide helpful information about nutrition and available exercise options.
So if you’re having trouble getting together willpower for a particular goal, consider whether there might be a practical way for you to seek out and watch other people who are actually accomplishing that goal … then go find them and soak it in.
Photo by ljcybergal