Psychology Today

By Judith E. Glaser
Published in: Psychology Today

In June the racehorse Justify had his moment in the Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown (having already won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness). The Washington Post reported: “In a withering display of power and durability, the late-blooming colt who didn’t race as a two-year-old proved he couldn’t be worn out as a three-year-old, thundering to victory.”

I lap up horse racing, and this year I watched all three incredible Triple Crown races – each time focusing my attention on Justify – who because of his unusual history, did not follow the path of many other successful racehorses. In fact, some critics identified him as a “no chance” colt. But after winning the Derby and Preakness, Justify proved that he had the toughness to conquer the 1½ -mile distance, most grueling leg of the Triple Crown, at the Belmont Stakes. Justify led wire-to-wire with Hall of Fame jockey, 52-year-old Mike Smith, aboard. Smith noted that all he had done was “let a good horse be a good horse” and run his race.

Justify’s 65-year-old trainer Bob Baffert said how fitting it felt to help Justify place his name alongside those of such champions as Secretariat, who had claimed his Triple Crown 45 years to the day earlier. “The great ones, they just find another gear. He is a magnificent animal.”

When skeptics questioned his audacious ambitions for the late-developing colt, Baffert said Justify was talented enough to win the Derby with minimal experience. And when they questioned Justify’s grueling workload – five races in a three-month span, with the Belmont his sixth in less than four months – Baffert said his horse was tough enough to handle it.

Your Moment

We each have our critics and skeptics, and hopefully, we each have our moment in time – a moment is when it all comes together for us: our aspirations and our reality become one and form our identity. The timing of our moments is often unpredictable because so many other counter-dependent forces impact them. As human beings, we change throughout our lifetime, and the path and program our bodies take are unique to each of us. Although scientists can build relativity charts for when and how we evolve, change, and grow, we are each unique and we create our own trajectory based on the interaction dynamics in our lives. If we happen to meet someone who mentors us, and I did for my Fellowship at Drexel University with Dr. Doreen Steg, our whole life may change. Suddenly doors open, and key learnings influence our Moment.

Timing and Priming

While there are now universal charts that show when human beings are expected to walk, talk, find their identity, and start using their Prefrontal Cortex (Executive Brain), these benchmarks are generalities; in some cases, human beings (and even horses) find their true identity at times never expected. Nobody knows for sure when reality will provide us with the space to try something we aspire to achieve – and then our neurochemical support team opens the doors of our brain and body to access what we need for success.

Autism Example

For example, I was profoundly impacted by Jacob Barnett, a young boy who, at 18 months, was diagnosed with incurable autism. The medical advice was to isolate him and institutionalize him from interacting with other children his age because his behavior was so erratic and challenging to caregivers. Fortunately, his mother did not allow his diagnosis to stop her from seeking other resources to both diagnose Jacob’s situation and offer medical and behavioral therapies that would enable him to reverse his autism, to redefine it and allow his true potential to emerge – and emerge it did!

I met Jacob when he was 11 years old, who was slated to be the first speaker at an event called TEDx Teen – sponsored by WE Are Family Foundation, an organization that I helped launch and served on the board for 17 years. 

When Jacob’s mother received the medical advice, she decided that she could not abide by his “life sentence of isolation”. She found a therapist who could live with their family, and work with Jacob to exercise the energy fields that had locked him into an inner world that struggled to communicate with the outer world. She saw Jacob’s behavioral and emotional fits as his attempt to connect with others about things in his body and mind that propelled him to want to share, and yet he didn’t have the words to communicate what he was experiencing inside.

At TEDx Teen, 11-year-old Jacob shared the story of his journey and also what insights he was bringing into the world. I urge you to view this 2007 video of Jacob sharing his story with 700 people in the audience and 10,000 on the net.   Thank goodness his mother found someone who would be experimental with Jacob and release his Identity and amazing talents. Jacob turned out to be a genius, and he was selected by Stephen Hawkins as his first protégé, quite the opposite of his early diagnosis.

How to Activate Our Moment: Brain Drain or Gain?

We all deserve the chance to discover our identity and thrive! Who were we created to be in the world? What are our aspirations and intentions? We all have intentions and identity to become someone unique, and we need others to help us create the space for growth, as Mike Smith did for Justify.

Some neuroscientists are now able to identify how our brain saves the “working history” of our experiences that are preparing us for our future Moment, as well as our future success; however, we don’t have access to that history because it’s stored in our unconscious “filing cabinets”. The brain even stores this historical information for us into “hubs,” and when the Moment is about to happen, the hub appears and gives us access to the key learnings and neurochemical priming’s that enable the Moment to be realized!

What are we doing to create the space for each person to Justify their true identity to emerge in their unique Moment?

Connecting with Others: Mirror Neurons 

Conversations are becoming the ‘answer’ to this amazing mystery. We are always communicating with others and with ourselves. We talk with ourselves about ourselves, and we talk with ourselves about others. Mirror neurons activate when we communicate with others and ourselves about others. These brain cells respond equally when we perform an action or witness someone else perform the same action. Our prefrontal cortex, the most advanced part of our brain, has Mirror Neurons that read the energy fields and messages we send and receive with others as we communicate with them and about them. 

Mirror Neurons were first discovered in the early 1990s when two Italian researchers – neuroscientists Giacomo Rizzolatti, MD and Luciano Fadiga, MD, Ph.D. found individual neurons in the brains of macaque monkeys that fired both when the monkeys grabbed an object and when the monkeys watched another primate grab the same object.[1] Mirror Neurons were described in a 1995 paper in the Journal of Neurophysiology (Vol. 73, No. 6). Since then more advanced research about the mirror neurons has taken place to uncover that Mirror Neurons also help us read the intention of others when we are communicating with them.

Activating Our Moments: Three Priceless Principles 

Here are three principles and practices from the field of Conversational Intelligence® that can help us find and align ourselves with our Moments and support others in finding theirs.  

Practice 1: Observe rather than judge. Our thoughts are energy and we are designed to send and receive energy to each other which turn on and off genes. When we connect and communicate, or even think about others, we sense these thoughts in many parts of our body and mind. When we judge ourselves or others, we send invisible messages that we are not good enough. If we are watching others and judging them without realizing it, we also send messages that they are not good enough, and they feel this and start producing neurochemicals of fear such as cortisol. So, start noticing the difference between observing and judging ‘interaction dynamics’. When you are judging, create an intentional shift to open the space to neutral – just observe or observe with compassion and caring – and you will create the space for you and others to grow.[2] Observing rather than judging opens us up to learn and grow into our best selves where we can create our best Moments.

Practice 2: Notice, explore and discover our fascinations at the right time. Give ourselves and others space to explore and discover our fascinations as they emerge. Justify, the racehorse, was given time to grow into his talents. He was not pushed into running too early, which helped him “grow his love for the race” at the right time. Jacob Barnett was processing big ideas before he had the words to explain these concepts. His mother and the coach helped him bridge these ideas by exercising the right muscles and creating a space for his internal growth to elevate his external communication with others.  Since each person’s developmental path is unique, notice the emerging patterns, support their journey when the time is right, and allow for unique growth patterns to emerge.

Practice 3: Practice being intentional. Some researchers are exploring whether mirror neurons respond not only to people’s actions or emotions but also to the intent behind those actions.[3] Notice when you are intentionally and openly acknowledging and valuing unique talents – and when you are not. If you sense you are judging and are not honoring others’ voices, or your own voice, intentionally shift and consciously communicate your intent to be supportive. When your intention is to develop others’ talents, they can feel your support and will thrive as a result. When your intention is to make yourself look good, smart and more powerful, they also sense that intention.  Noticing our intentions and their impact helps us discover our Unique Identity and experience life’s greatest Moments!

Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The CreatingWE Institute; an Organizational Anthropologist, consultant to Fortune 500 Companies, and author of four best-selling business books, including Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.; Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 212-307-4386.

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[2] In research published in Neuron in 2003 (Vol. 40, No. 3, pages 655-664); The researchers found that both feeling disgusted and watching someone else look disgusted activated a particular segment of an olfactory area of the participants' brains called the anterior insula.

[3] In a recent study published in PLOS Biology (Vol. 3, No. 3, pages 529-535), he and his colleagues found some evidence that they can feel the intention of others.

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