When you understand how your brain works, you are better able to help it help you get the best results in your career, in relationships (business and personal), and in life. Knowing how your brain instinctually functions allows you to take charge and be in control rather than it controlling you. Becoming aware of these five natural tendencies of your brain will aid you in being a more successful business person.
You will be more creative and make better decisions if you turn off your “thinking brain.”
You might think that gathering more information, diagraming scenarios, and making careful, deliberate decisions are always better — especially in business.
Research shows that the frontal lobe brain networks, responsible for reasoning, planning, decision-making, and judgment, work in creative ways when your brain is quiet, not while actively thinking or problem-solving. If a solution lies outside of your brain’s familiar experience, your conscious mind will likely never find it. An analytical search for solutions can only cover the content of your mind’s “known.” Innovative answers reside outside of your mind’s known box.
When you disengage from your analytical brain and allow it to integrate new information with existing knowledge on a subconscious level, it can establish new connections and see patterns not obvious to your conscious mind. Creative solutions and ideas are more likely to come from a brain that applies unconscious thought to a problem, rather than going at it in a deliberate approach with the analytical mind. When your thinking brain is engaged and inundated with information, it doesn’t have the opportunity to connect concepts or make creative leaps.
Science shows that your brain’s resting-state circuitry is the default mode network (DMN). The DMN is activated when you stop thinking about something specific and just let your mind wander. And it is the best place to park a problem. In the DMN, your brain does some of its best, wisest, and most creative work.
You will learn and perform better in spaced sessions with built-in breaks.
You probably know from experience and science confirms that your brain performs better if you take in information in chunks with regular breaks rather than trying to cram everything into one long session. The human brain wasn’t designed to pay attention and be alert for hours at a time. Your brain needs downtime to consolidate the incoming information before you can use it effectively.
The brain is much more active — and more likely to tire — than any other muscle or organ in your body. Evidence shows that your brain cycles from highest attention to lowest attention every 90 minutes in what’s called an ultradian rhythm. You can only maintain focus for 90 to 120 minutes before it needs to rest. Honouring the natural rhythm of our brains and seeing brain breaks as part of, not counter to, working, can make you more productive, creative, and innovative.
When working on a big project under stress or trying to learn a new skill, consider building in fun discussions, going outside and taking a walk, or even taking the time to nap. You actually can be more productive in the end. Studies show that napping can improve memory and creative problem-solving.
Stress literally shuts down your thinking brain.
To experience absolutely no stress, you would have to be dead. Seriously. Stress is your body’s natural and necessary physical reaction to changes in its environment or circumstances where your brain perceives a response is required for your protection. It can even be a positive thing, called eustress. Intermittent stress at the right time, like before a presentation, can provide motivation, energy, and focus, and help you perform at your best.
The problem arises when stress becomes an ongoing, constant state. Stress activates your body’s fight-or-flight response and instigates a chain of physical events preparing your body to mobilize for an emergency. While the threat has to be pretty intense for your body to get involved, any degree of stress affects your basic brain systems of attention, energy, and memory. Basically, your brain eliminates all functioning except focusing on the danger.
Learning to reduce stress is essential to maximizing your brain’s performance in your career and in your life. While it’s best to build stress-reducing activities into your life regularly, such as exercising, getting more sleep, and spending time with friends and family. It can also be helpful to learn how to help your brain perform when it is under short-term stress, and you need to meet that big deadline. Slow breathing, encouraging self-talk, and preparation will help you soar through tense times.
Your brain has built-in biases.
Your brain has cognitive biases wired-in, of which you probably aren’t even aware, that originally kept it feeling safe and helped our species survive. While these instinctual inclinations were a cautionary advantage at one time, today they are faulty ways of thinking that colour your perceptions and beliefs and inhibit your ability to make optimal and objective decisions.
Wikipedia lists 182 cognitive biases — too many to list here, but some interesting ones which can impact you in business are:
- Present bias: Your brain prefers short-term rewards that will be realized sooner over rewards that are further in the future but clearly greater.
- Anchoring effect – Your brain relies heavily on the first piece of information offered, particularly if is presented in numeric form, when making decisions, estimates, or predictions.
- Optimism bias – Your brain consistently underestimates the costs and the duration of basically every project you undertake.
- Sunk-cost thinking – Your brain will want to stick with a bad investment of time effort, or money because of the cost you have already expended on it.
- Confirmation bias – Your brain has the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports what you already believe or value.
Through awareness, inquiry, open-mindedness, and deliberately challenging your thoughts, you can minimize the influence of these innate biases.
Sleep is your brain’s secret weapon.
Sufficient sleep is vital to keep your brain function sharp and at the top of your game. Lack of sleep slows down your thinking, impairs your memory, concentration, judgment, and decision-making, and impedes learning.
After just one night of skimping on sleep, the results can be seen in delayed reaction times, glucose levels, mood, headache, impaired memory, and hormone balances. A Swedish study saw changes in men’s brains after not sleeping for just one night indicative of brain shrinkage and damage similar to a brain injury. Sleep is absolutely essential for your brain to work properly (to be neuro agile) because during sleep your brain is busy processing information, consolidating memories, making connections, and clearing out toxins.
Sleep needs vary with age and circumstances, but generally, everyone needs seven to nine hours a night for their brain and body to perform best. And while the number of horizontal hours is important, the quality of your sleep is just as important.
You play a major role in the way your brain serves you and it all starts with having clear insights about the brain and implementing brain-friendly strategies in everything you do to achieve the things you want with ease.
This post was first mentioned in the Authoritti5.0 Magazine