Productivity and performance is more likely to be higher when you are energized. Feeling stressed and sluggish reduces focus and makes work hard. Have you considered that the reason why success takes ‘hard work’ is because you are plowing through so much resistance? Resistance is created when:
1. You don’t like your work
2. You are feeling stressed and pressured
3. You are worried about your job
4. You are afraid of change or new challenges
5. You are just plain…tired and drained
Did you know that sitting at the computer for hours at a time is a health hazard? It contributes to a stiff neck, knots in your back and shoulders and it is highly likely that your breathing is very shallow under these conditions. Shallow breathing is stimulating your stress response and it not allowing healthy oxygenation of your blood – this is certainly not going to help you to think clearly. A brain that is poorly oxygenated and stressed will not only reduce your performance – it will reduce your memory. None of this will contribute to your happiness, to say the least.
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,
Creating time at first sounds ridiculous – until you understand how we co-create our “reality”. Of course when speaking of linear time, there are only 24 hours to a day and everyone receives equal amounts. Yet if you keep talking about how fast, “time flies” and do not realize that you are the pilot that has great influence over how you experience time, you will unconsciously keep your foot on the accelerator without awareness of how to slow it down. Our perception, “how we see time” impacts our experience of time.
Hint: A part of the problem is that you keep focusing on and talking about how fast “time flies” – it becomes your “reality”.
Then there’s the added challenge that many people talk about having “too much to do and not enough time.” So is it that you have too much to do or is it that you literally need more than 24 hours to your day…will you ever get more than 24 hours to your day? Can you see how talking about “not enough time” is deadly to ever being able to feel the sensation and joy of completion? Where are you going to get more “time?” I could go on and on with a variety of scenarios of how we unwittingly are stressing ourselves out and sabotaging our true potential, productivity and peace of mind due to our conversations with our self and others…but I won’t.
Let’s address how to create more time with the brain in mind within the context of these two examples. (more…)
Does success require stress and hard work as a means to reach your goal? I say, “no” and there is even objective neuroscience to support my belief and experience. “Hard work and stress” is a type of paradigm or mindset.
I have had conversations with several people over time regarding whether obtaining peace of mind was a hazard to ambition. I have read articles that argue that if we become peaceful we will become complacent. It is this type of belief that drives, “hard work” as a social construct.
From a brain standpoint, the left-brain will tend to initially thrive under this perception. I say perception as perception really does, “create reality”. Perception is ‘how’ we see life. It is the filter through which we create and respond to the world and it is subjective – not objective. The left-brain loves external world action-taking.
I say that it initially thrives on this action-taking because if we focus too much on activity without slowing down to reflect and rest, we will burn out, work will indeed feel ‘hard’ and we will be stressed.
Now here’s the apparently little known double-edged sword…excessive stress and hard work without rest and restoration damages our brain. Chronic stress is even associated with memory loss and disease. Now, how do you think this will impact your productivity in the long-run?
Can you see that loss of well-being and memory can lead to increased overhead costs…as in increased health bills and higher absenteeism? How about employee turnover due to frustration? The truth is, people perform better when they are happier. We need to include space for reflection and creativity in our workplace.
Sleep is apparently a little known secret to good leadership that is critical to high performance and well-being. It is not just for beauty rest; there are plenty of leadership and health reasons for getting a good night’s sleep.
It has unfortunately become acceptable and even encouraged in our society to ‘stay busy’. Nature cycles and human beings are a part of this nature. When we disrupt our natural sleep cycles in favor or ‘getting more done’ we actually become less effective. Typically, because we don’t take time to reflect on what is purposeful and important to us, we often find ourselves doing things that are not really relevant to our own goals and dreams.
Did you think, ‘what goals and dreams?’ Some of us have lost sight of what is truly important to us.
We become addicted to ‘to-do’ lists without holding a clear endpoint goal in mind. This is energetically inefficient and draining. There’s typically no passion in this and thus it becomes hard work instead of enjoyable. It can also take much longer to do when we are not focused. Also, because our society tends to devalue self-nurturance, play and creative relaxing pursuits, many people feel guilty or invalidated by those around them when they attempt to live with more balance and restoration.
Well, it takes courage and vision to create space in your life so that you can stay healthy – spirit, mind and body. It takes courage to listen to your heart above the noise of the many distractions vying for your attention and your money. And it will take courage and focused attention to slow down in the evening early enough to get your mind and body prepared to go to sleep at a decent hour. Here are 3 benefits to encourage you to consider how sleep can help you to become a better leader:
Emotional Intelligence is the mind of the heart, the right-brain in metaphoric terms. Realize that language has its limitations and speaking in terms of the English language, subtleties can be lost – such as having only one word for, ‘love’. When culture moved away from communicating with images, we also moved away from an appreciation of what the right-brain has to offer us as a human civilization. This is unfortunate as our feelings are powerful influencers over the quality of our lives.
We lost the language of the heart to a great degree. Symbolism and imagery, specialties of the right brain, allowed us to use our individual imaginations more consciously and to connect easier with our feelings. When we only live in our left-brain logic, the attempt to circumscribe words into ‘black or white’ meaning, we really lose much of the richness and depth to human relationship and life. We tend to try to live only in our heads. Just think – where would the head be without the body and its heart? They need each other.
Logic and our left-brain are only a part of the equation; we need both hemispheres to attain sustainable joy and happiness. The tendency as a culture – as a human race in general – to deny and repress our emotion and feeling is one reason why we are so emotionally UN-intelligent. It is the primarily reason why so many people still live, as Henry David Thoreau said,
…. lives of quiet desperation.
We can change this. We do not have to live life like this. There are many benefits from embracing your right-brain ‘heart’ including creating a vision for your life that is purposeful and being better able to relate to others. We have the power to ‘NeuroReInvent’ our self. Now this is innovation! It’s innovation on our outdated attitude of belittling personal growth and development as if you must have ‘something wrong with you’ if you raise your hand that you need more emotional intelligence or self-awareness. Truth is, we all do.
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:
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’