How the average person can become above average by gaining a better understanding of his or her own brain. Arguing that there is science to becoming a top performer, Halford (author from where I have got inspired) explained the basics of neurochemistry. With those preliminaries out of the way, he then shows how anyone with an understanding of neurochemistry can take control of his or her life, build confidence, and achieve goals. By offering readers an inner look at the complex workings of the mind, Halford empowers people to make healthy choices and build rapport with colleagues.
By making small, easy choices, anyone can activate the brain’s potential.
These small choices can help people become more productive and feel more effective, but individuals must first attain a suitable level of self-awareness.
The average person in the business world is particularly susceptible to behaviors that can limit brain activation. The average work day for a businessperson will likely involve multiple distractions and stressful situations, which can lead to crises of well-being. Counteracting these workplace pitfalls is all about activation, the “do it again” circuitry in the brain. When the brain is activated, it works better. Activation is the first step on the long journey toward self-actualization and creating significance in one’s life.
In order to start the process of brain activation, individuals need to make the conscious decision to start taking control of their choices. Choice is an important part of being human. People feel more in control when they are in a position to make choices, and they feel threatened in cases where they cannot make decisions. The need to make choices must be fed, or people can suffer from behavioral problems.
When people have decided to take control of their minds, they should start by repeating the activation mantra, “Start small, start now.” Even completing small, simple tasks like cleaning off their desks, organizing their email inboxes, or balancing their checkbooks can help people feel more energized.
That energy can fuel bigger goals and help people feel like they are gaining control over their hectic lives.
As humans evolved, their brains evolved as well. The root of the human brain is the brain stem, which is known as the reptilian brain. This part of the brain controls automatic functions like breathing and perspiration. It is the oldest part of the brain. On top of this structure is the mammalian brain, which controls emotions and helps people process anything that is deemed relevant to their survival. The third brain, the human part of the brain, is called the neocortex. This area of the brain is the seat of reason, logical thought, and innovation–all things that make humans distinct from their closest animal relatives.
All three brains play a part in the mental well-being of a person. People who have exceptional minds for logic and innovation may find themselves derailed when they cannot strike a balance between all three parts of the brain. In times of strong emotion, the mammalian brain can overpower the human brain, and a person must be aware of this tendency during times of crisis.
Neurochemistry refers to the complex balance of chemicals in the brain.
Neurochemistry affects how different parts of the brain interact, and how the brain as a whole guides individuals’ responses. Neurochemistry is often impacted by perception. If a person perceives a situation as threatening, he or she will react very differently than if the situation was seen as being beneficial to survival.
Most positive and negative feelings can be placed in one of four emotional quadrants:
- Quadrant I contains feelings that are highly positive and correspond to states of high arousal and high adrenaline. Feelings in this quadrant include glee and joy.
- Quadrant II contains feelings that are slightly less positive and correspond with lower levels of arousal and adrenal. This quadrant contains feelings such as serenity or contentment.
- Quadrant III contains feelings that are slightly negative and correspond to low levels of arousal and adrenaline. These feelings include apprehension and irritation.
- Quadrant IV feelings include terror, rage, and despair. These emotions are very negative and exist in a state of high arousal and high adrenaline.
Much of the brain’s inner workings are devoted to detecting threats.
Adrenaline is a hormone that puts people into a high state of arousal, and it is associated with the “fight, flight, or freeze” mechanism in the brain. When adrenaline is released in combination with cortisol, the stress hormone, people experience negative emotions. Being aware of negative emotions is important, as it alerts people to potential problems. However, people must avoid letting their negative emotions control them.
On the other side of the equation are three hormones associated with positive emotions. Dopamine is a hormone that releases pleasant feelings, and its release in the brain primes the mind to repeat the behaviors that brought about the release of dopamine in the first place. There is also Norepinephrine, a hormone that creates a sense of alertness and engagement. It is often released during exercise or laughter. Oxytocin is a hormone that is linked to bonding and collaboration behaviors. Engaging in behaviors that release positive hormones can help re-balance a brain that is beset by negative emotions. Self-aware people are able to better identify what quadrant of emotions they are feeling in a given moment and take steps to change their moods by engaging in behaviors that restore balance to the brain.
In nearly every daily interaction, a person is either moving toward something or away from something. This is referred to as approach-avoidance behavior.
Even the simple act of going to work in the morning is imbued with meaning.
If people go to work because they love what they do, that is a positive interaction. However, if they go to work simply because they do not want to go broke, that is actually an avoidance behavior, tinged with negativity. The positive behavior capitalizes on the brain’s reward chemistry, while the negative approach to going to work does not. By putting in an effort to change one’s perspective on events, it is possible to turn a negative avoidance behavior into a positive approach behavior.
Sometimes, it can be hard to determine whether a person is engaging in approach or avoidance behaviors. Some factors to consider to help determine a person’s current state of mind are:
* Status: Higher status often translates to an approach state of mind.
* Certainty: Uncertainty brings negativity.
* Autonomy: Having the power to make decisions alone is empowering.
* Relatedness: When a person can relate to the people around him or her, it is more likely he or she will engage in approach behaviors.
* Fairness: The brain interprets fairness as a reward, so situations where a person feels that he or she is treated fairly result in approach behaviors.
Taking control of one’s life is an important step on the path to enhanced performance. Control is tied to one’s perspective, with people generally defaulting to either an internal or external locus of control. Some people gravitate toward an internal locus of control, believing that they have control of situations.
For example, an internally focused person who applies for a job and fails to secure the position might take the initiative to enhance his or her résumé to secure a similar position in the future. In contrast, an externally focused person might take the view that others generally have control of situations.
This type of person would not be proactive about improving his or her résumé because he or she would feel that the situation was beyond his or her control.
When people feel like they can take control of their lives, their confidence will increase.