Neurodiversity is the recognition that every human being is 100% unique resulting in myriad combinations of strengths, talents, interests and how they interpret and interact with the world. The vast and infinite array of the ways each person is different is a challenge to understand and manage on an individual level. The complexity of human interactions increases exponentially when you consider the unique attributes of people who live, interact and work with one another.
A practical neuroscience exercise guides you through a fun and easy discovery process to better understand your own face of neurodiversity. For each category below, think about and record your responses to the questions .Your brain wiring and programming to learn, think, interpret, express is your GPS for navigating life, and it’s constantly changing.
- Sensory strengths Which of these sensory pathways is your strongest and most preferred way to take in new information: Visual (seeing, observing), Kinesthetic (doing, moving) or Auditory (listening, asking questions)? What is your least preferred way to learn? Can you think of situations where you experienced frustration learning something new and challenging? Perhaps the teaching style or learning resource was misaligned with your strengths. Are your sensory strengths aligned with your career?
- Cognitive strengths Which of these three cognitive pathways do you most prefer, when thinking about things, solving problems and processing information: Sequential (logical, orderly, details), Global (“big picture”, possibilities, options) or Integrated (near equal balance of Sequential and Global strengths). Does your job leverage your cognitive strength? Think about people with whom you have difficulty communicating. Are their cognitive strengths similar to or different than yours? Do you transmit information on their preferred wavelength, or yours?
- Values Values drive behaviors. Behaviors establish outcomes that impact on your personal performance and relationships. What are your two most cherished values? Next, name at least three behaviors associated with each value. As an example, for the value of “Teamwork” the behaviors might include respect for others, non-judgment, compliments and “going the extra mile.” What are the outcomes when you practice your values daily; what benefits do you and others receive? Are your values serving you well?
- Beliefs What are your strongest and most powerful beliefs? Subject areas may include: Your life purpose. Human potential. Relationships. Family. Spirituality. World Peace. Work. Fun. Money. Personal health. Do your beliefs and opinions serve you well? Do they harm others? How often do you question and challenge your beliefs? Are your core beliefs built from your own personal experiences and research or are they the product of childhood and social programming and what authority figures told you to believe? Do you listen and try to understand other people’s beliefs that may be different than yours?
- Emotional “hot buttons” Everyone has “hot buttons” that activate positive and negative emotions Examples of positive hot buttons may be phrases like Thank you, I have a problem and need your help, Please forgive me, or Great job! You may also respond positively to certain music selections, affirmations, art or nature. Make a list of your positive emotional hot buttons. What things initiate and activate your negative responses? These might include criticism, judgment, yelling, certain facial expressions, tone-of-voice, whining, bullying and interrupting. Are you receiving what you need from others to stay on a positive and even keel?
- Interests & passions Think about subjects and activities that put “fire in your belly,” outside of your work. They may include anything in your life like cooking, golf, a special person or place, learning something new, music, gardening, or health. What interests and passions give you the most fun, joy and fulfillment? Are you integrating these things in your life for balance and variety? What new things are you attracted to that you want to explore?
- Knowledge & education What do you know the most about? How well has your knowledge and education served you? Have you been continuously learning and improving? What core competencies are you most proud of? Competencies might include interpersonal communications, mathematics, leadership, mechanics, marketing and sales, writing, graphic arts, hands-on activities, or teaching. Are your skills, knowledge and competencies being used effectively to give you more of what you want in life? Are there places, situations and careers where your strengths are transferrable?
- Life experiences Think about your life pathway from childhood to the present time. What are the most memorable experiences, milestones and turning-points? These are the forces, events, people, places and learning that programmed and shaped you into whom and what you are today. What major life lessons did you learn? In what ways can you maximize these learning’s to leapfrog your life forward? All life experiences are of value, even the ones that inflicted wounds on you and others. Let them go by focusing on the positive experiences. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s natural ability to learn, think, make decisions, build memory, create new patterns of behavior and give you the opportunity to grow and change.
In conclusion, your new understanding and appreciation of neurodiversity can be embraced and leveraged for a better life. Activate your new knowledge by selecting one person with whom you want to improve your relationship. Ask them to do the exercise you completed and compare notes. You will be amazed and delighted on the outcomes derived from sharing each other’s different faces of neurodiversity. Remember that you can always create new brain pathways for a new and better life through the power of neuroplasticity. Change your thinking, change your life.