Productivity is not simply activity. Without a clear vision, a heart-felt why and a clear strategy, you will waste your resources – time, energy and money. You will also increase the likelihood that you will create dis-ease in your body from overworking and stress.
On the surface, these different aspects would appear to be disconnected issues. Really, underneath there is a cause for the effects. The cause is a lack of, “brain awareness” – we don’t understand how to control our own brain and mind consciously. We have lost a sense of PEACE in our lives because we live in “pieces.” Just running down a ‘to-do’ list, or creating a goal without a clear context and clarity for long-term results will cause burnout – emotionally, physically and organizationally. You won’t have a sense of purpose. The interesting fact is we must slow down in order to accelerate our results. Life is full of paradox. When we can optimally operate our brain, we can perform at our best.
Our left-brain logic alone doesn’t see the “big-picture.” It is great at steps and strategies, but if you don’t create a clear blueprint, a clear map, you will probably end up who knows where. Our right brain is wonderful at the big picture. Yet, we will have to slow down to see it. Reflection comes when accessing not only our “right-brain” but also the area of our brain that can envision and problem solve. You need a calm mind to access this level of thinking. This is the area that pulls together SEEMINGLY dissimilar parts. It weaves new creative solutions together. Then your left-brain can take action on these new ideas. The catch here is that you will have to be willing to slow down in order to:0
Understanding optimism is important to elevating your performance. Finally, the power of feelings and emotions are beginning to be openly discussed within the context of science, business and leadership. Historically, the term, “touchy feely” has been used to dismiss important aspects of ourselves that we were not comfortable dealing with. We perform at our best when we approach performance from a holistic perspective.
We human beings are an “eco-system.” We are not just a mind in a body. We have spiritual and emotional aspects to ourselves also. Optimism points to the important role that feelings play alongside our intellect in making decisions that influence our future performance – in all areas of our life. Optimism is an attitude that chooses to look for the good in situations, with positive feeling. So how do I define optimism as it relates to performance?
Optimism is not about denial of current reality; it’s about the resiliency to rise to life’s challenges with faith, hope and courage.
Often when I hear the discussion of “optimism” there is a connotation of ignoring the facts. There is an implication that one is looking through, “rose colored glasses.” There is a type of cynicism or stigma that if one is optimistic, they must have their head in the sand. No, I disagree. I’m an optimist and I know that this attitude has elevated my performance over the years and it is not because I pretend that there are not roadblocks or challenges.
Quite the contrary; optimism allows me to look right at the scary issues, stand my ground with composure and stay open to insightful solutions to overcome them. We need to stop “facing reality” as the pessimists do. I assess the situation that I am currently in and I address what needs to be immediately addressed but I divert my intention and attention to solving the problem, not continuing to “face it” and talk about it. That is where negative attitudes and pessimists fall down in performance; they need to stop facing reality so much and focus on finding new solutions. Besides, as Einstein said,
We love storytelling; this love affair began in childhood and we never outgrow it. Our brain is a, “storytelling” organ, made perfectly for creating storyline. Life is not as objective as it appears on the surface. Via our perceptions of ‘how’ we interpret the facts and experiences of our lives, we see the world through our own unique lens.
We set the stage of our lives based on these perceptions. When we become more self-aware by learning how our brain operates optimally, we can start to direct our life story on purpose, with purpose. You see we can change our, ‘story’.
“What story”, you may ask. Many, if not most people do not realize that they have created a story about:
1. Who they are
2. What they can be, do or have
3. Whether or not they are a victim or can change their circumstances (a victor)
Do you realize that all three are changeable?
Change is the theme of our times. We can either embrace it and proactive create the change that we want to see or allow it to random come upon us. Either way, change will continue to be a part of our lives. Neuroscience can help us as leaders to learn how to “optimally operate” our truly amazing brain.
The Art and Science of NeuroReInvention® allows us the space of integrating our whole brain and mind. Change is an art as much as it is a science. Both hemispheres are involved in the creative process. We have been repressing and leaving out our ‘art’ side – the right brain.
Trying to only be ‘logical’ and predictable is a stumbling block to innovation. It is a sure sign of mental rigidity. We have tried to ignore the right-brain’s contribution to innovation and our intelligence. Thanks to neuroscience the right-brain – which is the metaphor of the heart – is beginning to receive its long overdue recognition.
We need to be able to integrate the various parts of our brain in order to integrate the various parts of our life into a whole with self-awareness. As I’ve become more self-aware, I’ve even been able to take my professional training in neuroscience, via my need to be able to diagnosis brain tumors and other neurologic diseases into what I’m now doing as a speaker, facilitator and executive coach. I use my creativity to translate my knowledge of the brain into my knowledge of human behavior and spiritual, emotional, mental and physical well-being.
Leadership, as do people, evolves. Seeing through the eye of the leader has taken on a whole new level of meaning in light of recent advances in cognitive neuroscience. When a leader realizes that how she or he perceives their self, their team members and the organization powerfully matters to outcomes, there is potentially even more motivation to bring clarity to their vision. I was reading an article written by professor Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University that appeared in the NY Times weekend edition for April 13, 2013, What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art. A noteworthy comment was made regarding creativity:
“…This insight implied that the brain is a crativity machine, which obtains incomplete information from the outside world and completes it.” (Assigns the meaning)
At the end of the article, Dr. Kandel makes an interesting comment:
“All of which goes to show that the real “eye” of the beholder is the brain itself”
Truly. How we see reality is subjective and then we take the actions to prove ourselves, “right”. When a leader sees him or herself with blind spots, they can under perform unnecessarily or even worse, project their low expectations onto those around them and also contribute to a reduction of the effectiveness of their team.
When a leader’s expectations of success are limited, it impacts the performance of the whole team. You underestimate the power of the mind to produce “self-fulfilling prophecy” to your own peril. How do we begin to consciously become the Creative Directors of the performance of our teams and organizations?
Self-awareness helps us to wake up to aspects that are already present within us – we just don’t see it. The blind spots of our society’s conditioning over time can cause us to focus on what is allegedly, ‘wrong with us’. Sure, we all have shortcomings that challenge us to grow.
These behaviors are not ‘who we are’. They are ‘how we act’. We simply get it confused with our ‘Being’. We ‘do’ things that don’t serve our highest good nor others, yet we can change our behavior. And, we can do it without creating so much self-recrimination and guilt. In fact, it is easier to change our behavior when we cut the story line that ‘something is wrong with us’. This perception creates resistance to behavioral change as we run away from the conversation to change instead of facing it courageously and compassionately head on.
I saw the movie, The Great and Powerful Oz the other day. Oz had big dreams and lots of self-sabotaging behaviors – like lack of integrity, selfishness without regard for others and reactive, non-reflective thinking. Yet, ‘Goodness’ lived within him and given the right inspiration, he did tap into a part of himself that desired to help others and not simply be run by his own greed and fear. Granted, he still needed to develop more honesty by the end of the movie.
This journey of tapping our true potential and living up to our lofty ideas happens in stages. Our habits evolve easier with self-awareness and the desire to tap the courage of our heart. To do this easier, we need to understand how to, ‘optimally operate’ our amazing brain to that we can change with greater ease.
Currently we wire our brain more often than not, to:0
Managing change effectively involves managing mindset. Where your mind is set determines if change is scary and ‘hard’ or exciting and ‘easier’. I don’t want to imply that change will be without discomfort but it doesn’t have to be down right painful.
How you see it – perception – matters. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is a pervasive perception that drive us into our ‘survival brain’. I don’t think there is anything primitive about our amazing brain, yet there are evolutionary levels of engagement that impact our behaviors in everyday life.
I look at the brain in terms of its three evolutionary levels (See image). Level 1 and 2 is in a nutshell all about our survival instinct and our mammalian need for security, love and self-esteem. Neuroscience has shown that ‘perception is reality’ and truly reality is not, ‘objective’.
‘Reality is an illusion; albeit a very persistent one’ ~Albert Einstein
It’s persistent because generally speaking, most people are stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind. It’s this mindset of how we see, ‘survival of the fittest’ that keeps us stuck in Level 1 and 2 mind of our brain. The way to thrive is to connect with your ‘thrival’ brain, which is what I like to call it. This Level 3 area, called the neo-cortex is our ‘executive functioning’ level of brain of self-awareness, higher decision-making, confidence, imagination/innovation, empathy and spiritual purpose and connection.
Level 3 brain can transcend the survival brain fears – FEAR which is ‘Fictitious Evidence Affecting Reality’ – which keeps our storytelling brain stuck on fight/flight/freeze response. It can actually break the loop of deer-in-the-headlight reactions from the Level 1 and 2 brain/mind. This belief in competition at all costs, in order to survive becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Personal growth is a challenge for many people because we over identify our sense of self with our behavior. While behavior may illustrate ‘how you think’ or ‘how you see’ life at this moment, really our attitudes and beliefs can and do change over time. Yet, it’s because of this narrow way of ‘seeing our self’ that we resist personal growth and development.
The inference of society is generally that personal growth means you need ‘fixing’. Paradoxically, this resistance keeps us stuck where we are. Really we are all always only growing and reaching our true potential – we don’t need, ‘fixing’.
We think that if we fight our habits, will power our self through them or focus on ‘the problem’ hard enough that we will somehow, ‘overcome’ it. Actually, this is a big distraction. You are focusing on ‘what is’, and feeling bad about it instead of focusing on where you’d rather be, with a sense of hope and gratitude.
Your brain is working by focus of attention – you are sending a signal of, ‘I want that’ when you focus on something. So, do you want more of the same, or do you want to expand the vision for your life? Can you see what you want to experience, what you want to be, do or have in your mind’s eye – now?
See the change that you want to be in the world – Now.
Does this sound slightly familiar? Perhaps you are thinking about what Gandhi once said:
‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’
Leadership and developing emotional intelligence is really ‘personal growth and development’. It’s important to distinguish this as if leaders want to become more empathetic, engaging and inspiring, we need to recognize that we need to change our self first. One reason why this feels so threatening and challenging is that society applies the connotation that personal growth means, ‘fixing your self’. This perception stops most people in their tracks when it comes to embracing personal growth and development. For example, if you were in a group setting and I asked one of the following questions:
1. How many people need to fix themselves so they can become better leaders?
2. How many people need to learn and grow in order to reach more of their true potential?
Now, notice how you feel about raising your hand to number one. How do you feel raising your hand to number two? From an outcome perspective both roads lead to ‘behavioral change’. Which one do you think would be easier to get people to buy into?
Why is this? Why do we resist admitting we need behavioral change?
Productivity and performance matter and underneath this is how we think. We load up on ‘what to do?’; the deeper question is ‘how do we think about it?’. If we think that work and life are ‘hard’ and that to be successful we have to feel ‘pressure or stress’, we are likely to dampen our level of productivity and performance. It takes more energy to push against ‘hard’ than to enjoy ‘easy’. This is about our perception – a subjective matter. You see it is not so much as what we do, as much as it is the mindset we hold about what we do and how we focus our brain as we do it.
We are using our brain of course. Yet, we talk more about optimizing our website, our keywords or our bank accounts than we do about optimally using our amazing Inner Brain Technology. Of course, this is typically due to lack of knowledge. Talk about ‘innovation’, this is a new frontier. It is an answer to issues such as bad bosses, team disengagement and stagnant culture – and no I’m not only a ‘dreamer’.
While having a clear intention and an expansion of vision – a dream – is the path to real innovation, I also realize that people need to ‘want’ to change. When we understand how to more easily recognize and change our derailing behavior, we can play the game of life at a whole different – and easier – level.
I would suggest that the challenges of a four-generation workforce, rapid change, need to innovate quickly and 70% employee disengagement rates are reasons to incentivize change. Still, this is a tall order. How are we going to do all of this while under unprecedented stress and uncertainty? Obviously, we need to be be open to new answers, as what we are currently doing – isn’t working.
Fortunately, even being able to change our thinking about what is possible is included in this idea of optimally operating our brain’s processing system. We can expand our vision for possibility as we learn how to stop constricting our potential. We currently use our brain to limit our performance instead of using it to help us be more effective. I use the metaphor of technology as we have modeled technology after our brain without even realizing it consciously.
What are some of the things we currently do to sabotage our brain’s efficiency?