We all have the most amazing piece of kit at our disposal, it’s with us all the time, capable of running complex software, handling masses of information and operating 24/7 – it’s the ultimate super computer – I’m talking about your brain!
I meet people all the time who are frantically chasing success – many of whom have not actually stopped long enough to define what success means to them. Even though many of these people know how to do the things they perceive will make them successful, few actually get round to doing them.
The brutal reality is that only the minority of people find the success they are looking for – the majority settle for what they know they can do. I believe this is down to the relationship you have with your brain.
Fundamentally, your brain hates change, it likes to create patterns – neuro pathways, kind of like high speed railways – no stops and A – B in the least time possible.
To enable this to happen, your brain takes any given stimuli and attempts to fit it into something already known – in effect it does a search & find on all the files in its memory and throws up the closest results, and most of the time this is perfectly good & an uber efficient way of dealing with the massive amount of data inputted every second.
Where it goes wrong is when the info has been slightly misfiled in the first place. You attach an emotional response or even a whole story to a specific stimuli and then create a behavioural response to that stimuli which may not serve you – it may not even be true.
I often talk about this as the squatter in your brain – your self-talk feeding the memory bank often with misfiled information. The trouble is, it can be very easy to focus on your self-talk, its active, quite literally, in your head and for many people consistent.
The challenge is that energy is directed to whatever we are focused on and that’s great if we are focused on what we want or are aiming to achieve.
Because your brain’s primary job is to keep us safe / alive, then most often your default focus is on what you don’t want, your fears and your limitations. Guess what, your energy goes on what you don’t want.
Your self-talk – the squatter – feeds on this energy, consuming it and leaving us less able to do the stuff that matters to us.
So ask yourself two questions:
- What regularly occupies space in your mind?
- In this where you want to focus your energy?
Kicking out the squatter takes a bit of up front conscious effort and focus, but is well worth it. Your brain is quite capable of changing its neural fast tracks, or building a new network. Essentially, anything your brain is repeatedly confronted with, it will rapidly learn, adapt to and make sense of the unexpected circumstances to create new patterns. This is called neuroplasticity.
When you’re a child or adolescent, when you are new in a place or role, feeling out of your depth is almost a daily occurrence – it becomes a familiar state and your brain knows how to adapt.
As you get older and more settled, you often have more choice about what you do and operate to easy comfortable familiar things. Those you believe you are good at. They take the least amount of cognitive effort.
The down side though is when you do the same stuff and stay in your comfort zone, your brain doesn’t have to work as hard – tasks are unchallenging and repetitive. It shrinks, loses versatility. it is always running the same patterns. This of course leaves more room for the squatter!
For most of human existence in history that was just fine, but the world has changed since the industrial revolution, the pace of change is increasing due to changes noticed from generation to generation, in health, in what we could do.
By the 20th century, technology made a significant difference to speed of change.
And in the 21st century the digital revolution has changed the world – 4 exabytes of new info in 2012 (that’s 4 billion billion new pieces of info created in a single year – more per year than in the 5000 preceding years of humanity).
Fast innovation has also changed how we socialise. We live in a much more info cluttered and noisy environment and as such have to adapt, but also protect ourselves from the complacency of old patterns and habits.
New things – new skills, don’t always come easy.
They need practice, a bit of dedicated time committed to them, until they become familiar – in other words we have created new neural pathways for them.
It is through consistently challenging your brain with new things, new environments, new tasks that you can recreate the learning environment your brain was used to when you were a child. This is how we continue to expand our thinking, develop new knowledge and hone our skills.
It’s more than just new knowledge though. The stories we tell ourselves play a big part. Even as a child we are influenced by those who matter to us: parents, teachers, siblings. We start to shape what we believe we are good at and what we are not. Most of us then gravitate to areas we do well and do more of that widening the perceived good/bad gap because we are focused on developing the good.
You’d be surprised how many business owners I work with who proudly tell me they don’t ‘do’ maths – they’ve never been any good at it! Many are shocked when I say get good at it then – you can’t run a successful business without understanding the numbers! I do of course help people to understand where their story came from – if it’s really true, or just an excuse – and I help them to understand the maths they need for their business, put into context what it means.
So how do you kick out the squatter?
- Pay attention to how you feel & react
- Do one thing at a time
- Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want
- Keep track of what works
And finally just know that an active, challenged brain is much healthier, more responsive and more likely to keep you sharp in your later years than one which has developed its set patterns and routines and stayed with them.
If you want to stay active and challenged in business, join us in the Brave Scene community.