Archive | February, 2012

Be A Detective Of Your Mind!

29 Feb

Our brains are extraordinarily capable and efficient!  Most of us don’t realize how much our brain is doing for us every second of the day.  For example… did you know that approximately 2 billion bits of data hit your brain every second.  Aren’t you amazed that it doesn’t just explode?  Not only does our brain not blow up, it very efficiently deletes, distorts and generalizes all that information in a way that makes sense to our individual life.  Cool, hu?

Our brain loves to find patterns because repetition is very energy efficient.  While problem solving, analyzing and coming up with creative ideas are a serious advantage of being human, it does take a lot of brainpower.

Yes, I am going somewhere with all of this.

We can choose to run our brain – to do so is an active, conscious choice. In the absence of conscious choice to be in charge of our thoughts, our very efficient brain is completely prepared to run on automatic pilot – based mostly on patterns we’ve created.

Let me give you a few examples, you notice that people cover their butts and point fingers whenever your boss is around. Unattended, your brain will quickly assume a pattern that butt covering and blaming are what you do with the boss. Weeks or months pass, you are feeling anxious and confused about an upcoming meting with the boss. Even though you are very confident in your abilities, you find yourself unsure about what you should say.  The butt covering pattern is running! Another example, someone has told a few jokes at your expense.  You are now tense and on guard around that person even when it has nothing to do with you.  You begin to assume they are trying to think of ways to make you look bad. Your brain finds patterns very quickly – if you don’t question the thought, it’ll run on automatic pilot.

So, what choice am I asking you to consider? THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE THINKING!! Seriously, stop yourself every 10 or 15 minutes and notice what you are thinking.  Do your thoughts make rational sense?  Are they helping you to be more productive, objective, happy, effective and sane?  Or, do you have some thoughts that are negative garbage that are putting you in a bad mood, causing you to feel fear and insecure or spinning in a circle of confusion, frustration or self-pity? Become A Detective Of You Mind!

The smart, problem-solving part of your brain can look at your thoughts and decide if they are valid, helpful and a good use of your time.  However, if you don’t engage that “Detective” part of your brain the automatic, pattern part of your brain will keep you in a repetitious cycle.  Think about what you’re thinking about –  it’s a choice!

 

Reframing for Resilience, Training for the Worrier and the Negative!

21 Feb

Do you know someone who always sees the worst case?  Are YOU someone who tends to see hassles, destruction or headaches around every corner?  Do you over think things to death (according to family members and friends)?  Are most projects and plans a breeding ground for potential disaster?  “You’ve just won the lottery!!!”  “Oh great, people will be hounding us, our lives won’t be our own, the kids will become greedy and undisciplined…”  And don’t even get started on the new changes at work! That new system, boss, employee, office, project…Do you know what I’m talking about?

Now, in all fairness, there are a few personality types that tend towards feelings of anxiety and worrying a bit more than others.  And, research indicates about 50% of the population is naturally optimistic and resilient while the other 50% tend towards pessimism and find it hard to rebound – so we might need to cut them a little slack.  However, learning to manage excessive worry and negativism is very possible – it is a choice!

Here is a relatively simple exercise that anyone can do when they are feeling pessimistic, anxious, or are becoming a buzz-kill.  Take a piece of paper and make three columns.  On top of the first column write “Worst Case Scenario” (may as well get the negative over with!)  Above the third column write “Best Case Scenario” (now we’re talking – positive is a choice!)  Go a little crazy with column three!  You might want to be somewhere in the universe of realistic, but let yourself explore those positive thoughts!  Above the middle column write “Most Likely to Happen.”  It isn’t hard to see where this is going.

Few things in life truly fall into either column one or three; it’s usually a blend of the two.  However, you get what you look for.  If you’re looking for the positive you are much more likely to find it.  If you’re looking for the negative, you will also find that.  Please, I’m begging you – for your own well-being as well as the people around you – play in the “Best Case” column once in a while!  At the very least reel-in the crazy dark side!

 

“TAKE 5” – A Training Tip

14 Feb

Have you ever been running late for a meeting and felt stressed?  You started rehearsing excuses for your tardiness, blaming it on traffic, stoplights, a slow elevator, a blabby client, cats, dogs, kids or garbage trucks?  By the time you get to the meeting you’re not only late, you’re a blathering idiot?  Or maybe you received a stupid, abrupt, inaccurate email and before you stopped to consider the consequences you fired back an equally stupid, abrupt inaccurate response and cc’d a half dozen people.  Generally speaking, these are not great ways to demonstrate your superior intelligence and capabilities.

I could go into all the brain science as to why we become blathering idiots or irrational email participants, but I won’t in this blog.  My focus today is on a relatively simple activity to help you avert such childish, career-limiting behavior.

TAKE 5 is an exercise designed specifically to help you redirect your attention in the moment or “think on your feet”.   Its entire purpose is to pull you out of an emotional tailspin so you can engage your thinking brain in a situation where your emotional center is about to win the battle of “who’s in charge.”

This process is very simple and very effective.  Whether you are alone or with others, this technique will create an effective and helpful pattern interrupt. (A pattern interrupt is anything that interrupts your unhealthy pattern of thought and allows you to look for an alternative path.)

Here’s how it works:  you’re about to do something you won’t be proud of later…

STOP! Ask yourself…

Will this (situation) matter in:

  • 5 years?         If yes, seriously? Why?  Be specific.
  • 5 months?     If yes, really? Why?  Be specific.
  • 5 weeks?        If yes, how?  Be specific.
  • 5 days?           If yes, how?  Be specific.
  • 5 hours?         If yes, can you change it?  Be specific.
  • 5 minutes?     If yes, you now have perspective about how much energy you should put into it!

 Seriously, you have to ask and answer all the question to fully engage your brain…this is not rhetorical.  The idea is to provide perspective. The emotional part of your brain might be trying to convince you that this situation requires extreme, immediate action.  If the thinking part of your brain is allowed to participate – it will probably provide appropriate perspective, thus avoiding behaviors you might later regret.  Realistic, receiving a stupid, abrupt, inaccurate email might deserve 5 – 10 minutes of your precious time.  If you react badly it could turn into a 5-day or 5-year problem!  So, TAKE 5, before you respond!

 

 

Who Switched Off My Brain? A Book Report

13 Feb

Isn’t that a great book title?

Have you ever been in a situation where you read an email, left a meeting or conversation and felt put down, misunderstood, slighted or even slammed? Let me ask you this.  What do you tend to do after that encounter?

If you’re like most of us, at the very least, you replay it in your head a few times.  Maybe you obsess about it – you replay the scenario to others word for word (well as accurately as your self-protective brain can remember it.  *Hint you are probably adding color commentary with a slant for making the other person look bad and you victimized. Just saying!) You might replay the story numerous times, creating elaborate follow-up conversations or “what I should have said” versions.

All of this is normal; it just isn’t healthy or helpful! Did you know that 80% – 90% of our health care cost and overall health problems in this country are directly attributed to stress?  And stress is directly linked to how we choose to think?

As you might know, our brains are super amazing and come equipped with all kinds of features to keep us safe, minimize energy usage, figure out complex problems, etc.  However, if you don’t choose to direct your brain activity your brain will stick to its number one priority – protecting you from predators.   Survival is so important that your brain has a dedicated part in charge of keeping you safe – the amygdala (ə mígdələ).

Your amygdala is very serious about keeping you safe.  At the first sign of danger it will give the go-ahead to have chemicals pumped into your body that will allow you to run really fast or fights like a warrior, this is your fight or flight system.  All the chemicals are brilliant if a crazed-animal is chasing you or an avalanche of rocks is falling on your head.  You need all of those chemicals to help you survive; they make you fast and strong.

What does this have to do with being ‘slighted’ by your co-worker or family member?  Plenty! Your amygdala doesn’t know the difference between real and perceived danger– an insult can be views the same as an avalanche of rocks.  “Squirt chemicals first, ask questions later.”  Your body doesn’t need all of these chemicals to combat an insult, they are suppose to help you physically run like a jaguar or fight for your life – literally!  If you don’t physically burning those chemicals up, they are running around in your body wondering what to do – so they attack your immune system and stress your heart.  In our daily language, we call this feeling stressed.

Here is where it get’s really crazy.  Every time you retell or replay the situation your amygdala thinks it’s being attacked AGAIN – “squirt more chemicals, incoming danger!”  You are now literally attacking yourself!  By retelling and embellishing the story you are choosing to dump more immune attacking chemicals into your system, causing more stress and damage.

You have choice.  First of all, you can influence what your amygdala reacts to.  If you don’t embellish the ‘slight” as a personal attack, your amygdala won’t need to give you a chemical infusion. Your amygdala will only override your thinking if your physical life is in danger. Second, stop repeating the story!  You’re killing yourself! Resolve it and move on.

This book report of Who Switched Off Your Brain provides great information, ideas and concepts for taking charge of your brain and your health.

Read the Book Report CLICK HERE    The book of course provides much more detail and can be ordered on Amazon or check out the website http://www.drleaf.com

Positive – A General Rule of Thumb

12 Feb

I’ll be honest, I’ve had this blog set up for months and have been stalled because I can’t figure out what the ‘first’ blog should be – there are so many aspects of You Have Choice to choose from!  I’ve decided to start with the Power of Positive.

I have changed my life significantly over the past 8 years with the expressed desire to enjoy more freedom  – the freedom to be the person I am truly designed to be.  One of the most significant changes I have made is choosing positive. I’ve come to learn that seeing “positive” is a choice.  It’s a choice I have to make hundreds of times a day because our culture thrives on negative – you have to pay attention!

Yes, you’ve probably heard that appreciation and gratitude are good – just check out the Bible, Buddha, or Socrates, they’ve talked about this stuff.  If you don’t believe them there is now a plethora of scientific data available about being positive – how it affects teams, your brain, creativity and problem solving.  Did you know your brain releases different chemicals based on whether you’re feeling fear or gratitude? Under the influence of fear your ability to think complex thoughts and create options narrows dramatically, you become less creative and less innovative.  Being in a state of gratitude releases chemicals that cause you to have a sense of well-being that can expand your creativity and options – making you more adaptable and flexible.

Most problem solving processes tell us to identify the problem and then fix it.  Research indicates this negative approach almost never leads to truly innovative ideas. The study of Appreciative Inquiry has seen extraordinary results when people in a company band together around positive strengths and look for what’s possible.

Try this, take any situation in your life – most likely there are positive things about that situation as well as negative and neutral.  Which do you tend to focus on?  Which do you see first? How would you feel about the situation if you were to explore every potential positive aspect of it?  I know from experience that I change when I go into a situation looking for and anticipating positive things.  I am more creative and energetic; I live in more freedom.

“I LOVE MY LIFE MOMENTS!”  This is the habit of noticing when something good happens and intentionally enjoying the moment.  It doesn’t have to be big – it could be 3 green lights in a row, an awesome sunrise, or a great cup of coffee with a perfect banana.  Tell someone about your “I Love My Life Moment” instead of the latest story about the butt-head at work or in the car in front of you!

Next time you’re having dinner with the family or friends, ask them about the best part of their day, the best thing that ever happened to them, their favorite … whatever.  If something about their day, or your day, went badly talk about what a healthy positive outcome would look like.  I know, it sounds kind of soft and squishy – but I’m telling you, your brain will love it and when your brain loves it your body loves it too!

Check out the blog Who Switched Off My Brain for more information about how your thoughts affect your health!