Would you like to know a secret to being more productive, more effective, more fulfilled?
Here it is: Use your brain.
Seems simple but it’s not. In fact, your brain is often “sabotaging” you without you even knowing it.
Your brain likes to conserve energy. It doesn’t want to work hard. It wants to make everything habitual so it literally doesn’t have to think. For the most part, we couldn’t survive if the brain didn’t work this way. Can you imagine if every day you had to relearn how to walk, talk, drive, brush your teeth, etc.? While these routines serve us well, other habits we’ve created may not.
So how do you harness the power of the brain to get what you want?
You just need to understand how the brain works. (And, no, you don’t need to be a brain surgeon!)
Finding #1: The Brain Is a Connection Machine.
As mentioned above, the brain loves to make connections and “hardwire” everything. This is related to a variety of factors. First, the brain likes to stay in a state of homeostasis. Second, it takes energy (glucose) for the brain to process input in its working memory (this is the part of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex and makes up about 4% of the brain mass but a tiny percentage of its computing ability). Third, the brain likes to conserve energy. The way it conserves energy is by hardwiring as much as possible as often as possible. When you hardwire an activity, you create a habit and are able to operate on autopilot with respect to that activity. Think of any basic activity you learned—walking, brushing your teeth, tying your shoelaces, driving a car—all of them required lots of focus, attention, and energy on the front-end until you learned (hardwired) the skill. Now you can do those things without much thought or effort at all.
Anytime the brain faces new input, it wants to connect it with the existing maps or wiring. Anything that doesn’t fit requires energy for the brain to process. Think of how much effort it takes for you to complete a crossword puzzle or to solve a riddle, much less a complex task or challenge.
Why is this important to you?
Your current hardwiring influences your thinking, which influences your beliefs, which drives your behaviors, which leads to your results.
If you want different results, you literally need to start thinking differently.
Finding #2: No Two Brains Are Even Remotely Alike
Though we like to think we think alike, the fact is our brains are all uniquely wired based on our experiences, our environment, our beliefs, etc. This means none of us thinks exactly alike. What makes perfect sense to you might not make any sense at all to a family member, an employee, or a colleague.
Try this simple exercise: Ask several people to list 10 words they think of when they hear the word “milk.” I’m sure every list will be somewhat different. Now apply the implication of that simple example to explaining a new curfew to your 16-year old or launching the latest initiative at work.
Why is this important to you?
You can’t force your thinking on someone else. You need to give people the space and time to do their own thinking and make their own connections. For example, have you ever told someone how to do something and got less than stellar results? Chances are what was in your brain and what was in their brain were two different things. They may have spent as much or more energy trying to figure out your solution than they did trying to implement it. This also links back to Finding 1: anything that doesn’t fit is seen as threatening homeostasis and requires attention, which requires energy. The brain doesn’t like this. In fact, the brain perceives this as a threat and triggers a fight or flight response.
If you want better results from the people that support or impact your personal and professional life, stop forcing your way of thinking (your hardwiring) on them. Solicit their best thinking instead. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Make sure you read our next newsletter for Findings 3 and 4 about the brain.
If you want to learn more about how to apply these findings to your work or life goals, contact me at 516.216.4233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.