Charles Caleb Colton wrote that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Little did Mr. Colton know, when he articulated these famous words, that imitation is a fundamental aspect of your neurology . Italian neuroscientists discovered this phenomenon as recently as the 1980s that your brain mimics perfectly. Here is the scientific explanation of what are called mirror neurons. It is a bit technical but important to understand:
“A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron ‘mirrors’ the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate species.”
Mirror Neurons Mimic Behavior
Mirror neurons in one individual mimic the behavior of another as though the one who is observing the behavior is doing it themselves! This is as amazing as it is obvious, especially if you have been around infants and small children. They are imitation impresarios and your brain mimics perfectly as well. Soon after you were born, you began mirroring and modeling the people in your environment. For over 30 years, Tony Robbins has been accurately promoting the advantages of modeling as a way to accelerate your success. As a child, this is an unconscious process. As an adult, you can deliberately surround yourself with individuals who have achieved the type of success you aspire to. This one insight, that your brain mimics perfectly, will transform your life.
A Cautionary Tale
There is, however, a cautionary tale when it comes to your automatic ability to match and mirror (mimic) the people in your surroundings. We have a tendency to follow the path of least resistance. There is an immense propensity to associate with people who affirm our beliefs and current reality. This is a major factor in keeping you stuck in a phenomenon I call mental and emotional gravity. It is easy to become trapped in our personal story and tend to surround ourselves with people who do the same.
All of us have developed a complex story with a constellation of beliefs and concepts that explain our circumstances. Surrounding ourselves with people who reinforce that our understanding of reality is accurate is common. The longer we live our story, the more difficult it is to face the possibility that this story is made up. “What’s wrong” questions and negativity bias prevail in our lives. Do not judge the people who are stuck in their story and make sure to avoid them.
The Key Insight
The key insight is that you will automatically and unconsciously assimilate the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions of the people you spend the most time with, mirroring is a powerful tool. If circumstances force you into unwanted company, you must be aware and proactive. Watch your thoughts in these situations and never identify internally with anything that will limit you.
One of the great advantages of this rapidly accelerating world is the easy access to information. Available in the palm of your hand is 5,000 years of human wisdom. With advancing technology you can download and watch anyone or anything that is of special interest to you and easily mirror their success. Specialized knowledge is available at the touch of a screen. Make sure the content you consume, and the people you are modeling, are moving your life forward.
This is Part Three of a seven-part series:
Part One: The Human Brain Synergizes Information
Part Two: Your Brain is Driven to Succeed
Part Four: Your Brain Craves Completeness
Part Five: The Brain Seeks Information and Knowledge
Part Six: Your Brain is Truth-Seeking
Part Seven: Your Brain is Persistent