We are created to be relational beings, joyfully living integrated lives within community. However, it’s my observation that few of us actually do it, and the results are painful—rampant immaturity, dysfunction, and addictions.
Dr. Jim Wilder, founder of Life Model Works, has made it one of his life missions to help men and women grow up, into emotional maturity. He estimates that 75 percent of men function at an infant maturity level—able to receive but not give. He’s often called the “Neuroscience Theologian,” and his way forward is unique, unusual, simple, and profound. It all starts with the brain and joy.
You’re likely aware that there are two sides to the brain. The left side operates cognitively and responds to duty, beliefs, and discipline. The right side is relational and fueled by joy. Dr. Wilder observes that the answer to developing maturity lies in the relational right side of the brain through the emotion of joy.
Extensive scientific studies show that the brain is developed relationally and is driven by joy. According to Dr. Wilder, joy means that I am glad to be with you. UCLA neuroscientist and pioneer in this field, Dr. Allan Shore, concluded, “To develop a human identity we must be the ‘sparkle in someone’s eyes.’ ” It is this special sparkle, being genuinely glad to be with someone, that opens the relational side of our brains. It’s much more important that we’re together than how it’s going to turn out. The problem ought never trump the relationship.
I’m very encouraged to see that a joy-filled, relational movement is gaining momentum in families, neighborhoods, and workplaces. Many are turning on and tuning the right side of their brains. I am among them. As I coach others in living fearlessly, I amazed by the immediate results.
Last spring, I saw this happen in a large non-profit organization. During laborious meetings of budget building and planning, I introduced simple brain exercise before the “grind” part of the meeting. Incredibly, their time stayed relational, with tasks being accomplished faster and better, more efficiently, energetically, and joyfully. The team has continued to transform through these simple relational exercises, and are still learning, growing, and developing their brains through joy. We are seeing lives change!
It all starts with joy. Life Model Works has developed 19 brain skills that build joyful communities. The first skill is “Share Joy.” Facial expressions and voice tones say, “We’re glad to be together!” So, here’s a quick application: Look for opportunities to be glad to be with people. I smile and focus on good things as much as I can. So practice your smile!
And, by the way, keep in mind that ‘We are glad to be with you!’ Now pass on the joy!