Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of hearing my synagogue’s new rabbi deliver his sermons during Yom Kippur. I was struck by one phrase he used which I think bears elaboration. As he described some important questions we should be asking ourselves, he mentioned doing so “in the back of our minds, and hopefully in the front, too.” What a great image! We should apply the front and the back of our minds to our tasks, and, for that matter, all the areas in between, too! What would it actually entail, from the standpoint of the brain we all have in our head, to apply all of our brain parts to achieving our goals in life, our projects, our passions, and our dreams?Our brain consists of an ancient, primitive core (the brainstem) wrapped in a more modern, civilized layer (the cortex). The cortex is divided into right and left hemispheres, and each hemisphere has four lobes (occipital, parietal, frontal, and temporal). The brainstem directs the maintenance of our most foundational bodily systems like breathing, heart rate, appetite, sexual arousal, fight or flight reactions, and sleep and other levels of consciousness.
In the cortex, the back of the brain houses the occipital lobe, which is primarily responsible for vision. It receives input directly from the eyes via the optic nerves, and is the central processing station for all things visual. Under our ears are the temporal lobes, where hearing, smell, attention, memory, and language are all created and managed. North of these are the parietal lobes, which integrate the functions of the previous three, and have a niche specialty in awareness of three dimensional space. Finally, under our foreheads are the young yet vital frontal lobes, which enable us to exercise judgment, planning, abstract thought, empathy, problem solving, and verbal regulation of emotion and behavior, making us fully human.
So, how amazing could we all be if we applied each of these brain abilities to fulfilling our potential? With our occipital lobes, do we work to “envision” our goal? Can we “see” the outcome we desire? With our temporal lobes, do we wisely spend our attention on our most important tasks, and find the most accurate and persuasive words for crystallizing our thoughts and conveying them to others? With our parietal lobes, do we critically evaluate where we and our dreams fit into the world around us? And finally, with our precious, “crown of creation” frontal lobes, do we think outside the box, plan ahead as far as possible, negotiate our path compassionately through the complex landscape of our fellow human beings, and wisely weigh competing considerations at every step?
While we might want our customers to keep us “top of mind,” I urge you to individually strive to use your entire mind and brain as you choose and pursue your goals. Go for it!
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.