Choose Loving Kindness

April 29, 2011

Maybe one of the greatest discoveries by humans or about humans, is that our choices shape us. They shape indirectly, because how we interact with people and our environments, in turn, have effects back on us. People who are more generous, for example, will build better relationships and experience greater generosity in return.

What is less appreciated is that our choices also shape us directly. By no means is this idea new or revolutionary. Epictetus said “As you think, so you become.” Mary Anne Evans (under the pen name George Eliot) wrote that “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice,” and Thomas Jefferson wrote that “dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise.” We’ve heard this message a thousand times, from all different cultures and times. For years now neuroscience has been showing us that these changes in the mind parallel changes in brain plasticity, the connections between neurons. The more a neural pathway is exercised, the stronger it becomes and the easier it is to activate it in the future.

While this is fairly well understood, to what degree do we recognize the implications of this and use it to its fullest potential?

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Thanks to Marcello and Jeremy for allowing to post this excerpt. Marcello Spinella, Ph.D. is a guest blogger on The Psychology of Wellbeing blog. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, who shares his insightful postings on the “Friends of Positive Psychology” listserv.

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