Snow and the Plastic Mind


Say you are the first to leave an office building after a heavy snow. Your destination is a large parking lot about 100 yards away. You are, in effect, the trailblazer for the day. Let’s also assume that your car is on the far right side of the parking lot. Then a second person leaves the building and needs to get to the same area of the parking lot. He or she will likely take the same path you took. It’s easier than creating a new path.

And what do you think subsequent people will likely do? You guessed it, as more people travel along the path you originally created, the path gets more and more defined and inviting to subsequent travelers. It becomes inviting, even to people whose cars happen to be on the far left side of the parking lot.

Now let’s assume a brave soul blazes a new path to the left side of the parking lot. Since the old path is still there, new travelers now have a choice. What do you think most of them will do? Which path will they choose now?

Of course, I don’t know the answer to these questions. However, my guess is that if someone’s car is on the far left side of the lot, he or she might consider taking the newer path. The old path is more inviting because it is currently better defined. But the newer path is inviting for other reasons – it takes some travelers closer to their desired destination. I do know this for sure. If more and more people choose the newer path, it will become more inviting and the old path will diminish by comparison and become less inviting.

This, in a nutshell, is how your brain works. Neural pathways are created and diminished in accordance with the “use it or lose it” principle. Here’s the connection:

  • Thoughts are to brain pathways as steps are to snow pathways.
  • Thinking and doing something over and over causes physical changes in the pathways through your brain.
  • Brain pathways determine behavioral outcomes.

Changing mental pathways, called neuroplasticity, gets extremely useful when you begin to understand it better and link it to practical strategies to promote desired behavior.

What does all this have to do with you and your business? Well, running a good business is about demonstrating good leadership. Good leaders find ways to literally change people’s minds. They find ways to show them a new path that is more inviting than the existing path.

What are you doing to blaze a new trail in your business? How are you making the new path inviting to your employees?

Chris Crouch, author of “Getting More Done” and other books on improving productivity, can be contacted at