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Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

London, U.K. 10:00 PM

I was in London speaking at a corporate event when the monkey handed the reigns to the rooster. Yes, I’m talking about one of the most important and celebrated days of the year for 1.5 billion people — the Chinese New Year.

It seems that the only time I feel like running is when I travel. Not a good recipe for staying in shape, but a simple and easy way to explore the city, take in the sights and clear my mind. The logical destination on the eve of this new year was to head down to Chinatown in the City of Westminster and take in some of the festivities.

I had plenty of time to think along the run, as the destination was 10 km away. As this was my first run in over a month, it was slow.

I began to think about the Chinese New Year after a couple of kilometers. I thought about its rich history, dating back to the 14th century, why and how it started and some of the myths and folklore that have carried on through the ages. Then, I asked myself, “I wonder how many people truly adhere to the beliefs that stem from the origin of this day.” And, more importantly, how do those beliefs impact the way people live their lives today?

One after another, a tsunami of questions and thoughts kept crashing through my brain.

With all the consulting work and speaking I do around the world, I see one constant that cripples people in every culture – fear. Fear of job loss, fear of making a simple decision, and even fear of communicating with someone in person. Fear stems from lack of belief – especially in oneself. It promotes poor performance, diminishes company culture and stifles our ability to creatively solve problems.

For many of us, we have more than ever before. Yet we are more uncertain, fearful and miserable than ever before – both personally and professionally.

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After a brief stop for some oxygen relief, I began reflecting on how important our beliefs are in shaping our outcomes, desires and successes in business and in life.

But first, some very interesting history…

Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is based on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, which means New Year’s Day can vary between January 21st and February 19th. Also known as the “Spring Festival,” this year the party starts on Saturday, January 28th and continues until the Lantern Festival, 15 days later.

Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of the 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac.

The Rat. Ox. Tiger. Rabbit. Dragon. Snake. Horse. Goat. Monkey. Rooster. Dog. Pig.

There are many myths as to why and how each animal was chosen. There may also be variations in the animal representing the year depending on which version of the Chinese zodiac someone follows. Still, each animal has symbolic characteristics given to it by the ancient Chinese.These animal attributes come in six contrasting pairs that are harmonized, like yin and yang, and are the primary factor governing the order of the zodiac. It is believed that your animal has a huge influence on various aspects of your life — personality, future, career, love and general luck.

If you’re familiar with western astrology, the major difference between the two is that each house (animal) in the Chinese zodiac is one year in duration instead of one month. This means that according to Chinese beliefs, people who were born in the same year have similar traits, as opposed to the Western belief that those born during the same month-long time frame have similar traits.

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Are You a Rooster?

This year is said to be the year of the rooster. The rooster is the tenth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029…

The Rooster is the embodiment of dependability and punctuality. For ancestors who had no alarm clocks, the rooster’s crowing was significant, as it could awaken people to get up and start to work. It is said that people born in a rooster year are independent, honest, and competent but can be emotionally volatile. (Aren’t we all? Emotionally volatile that is :))

But…

As luck would not have it, the year of your sign is believed to be one of the unluckiest years of your life, according to Chinese astrology. Sorry, roosters.

If you’re not a rooster you can check out which animal you are below based on the year you were born.

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Once you’ve found your animal sign, feel free to indulge on one of the thousands of astrology sites to see if your animal is representative of who you are and what the year ahead may have in store for you according to Chinese astrology.

Will You Be Successful In The Year Ahead?

Back to beliefs.

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Do you believe in luck? Routines? Superstitions? Spirituality?

Black cats, breaking mirrors, lucky Jupiter, pregame songs or lucky socks?

Belief is a state of mind. It’s hard to describe or articulate, especially when there’s little or no empirical evidence toward justifying its existence or consistency of truth. It’s purely subjective and can trigger many emotions.

Four words come to mind when I see or hear the word belief —confidence, opinion, acceptance and trust (COAT). These are the building blocks of who we are, how we think, what we say and why we do the things we do.

I do believe that there are external forces that are constantly working for and against us which are beyond our control. Like when and where we were born.

We didn’t have a choice.

I also believe that our internal force, or belief system, is more powerful than any external forces out there.

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And, we do have a choice in defining who we are based on the circumstances that are presented to us.

No matter what your beliefs are, whether you believe in Chinese astrology or not, the Chinese New Year gives us all an opportunity to reflect and become more self-aware. The world, for many of us, is one that is out of control — one that is  living constantly in a hyper-reactive unconscious state. One that sacrifices freedom for traditionalism.

There is nothing wrong with following traditional beliefs— if this serves you well. If it doesn’t, then question it. Tune your beliefs to something that does. Uncover which ones are moving you forward in a positive way and which ones are holding you back from the true essence of who you are. Now is the time to change the latter.

It starts with a central belief. A belief that you control the life you were given — not someone, some app or something else.

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè (Happy New Year) (新年快乐)

“Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái” (Wishing you a prosperous New Year ) (恭喜发财)

Featured photo credit: Craig Gauthier. via media.lifehack.org

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Craig Gauthier

Author, Speaker, Strategic Adviser, Consultant

Chinese New Year Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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