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A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain

A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain

August 12th, 2019 by Maureen Metcalf

Leadership Resilience Includes Managing ThinkingThis is a guest blog provided by Ann Steele.  It is a companion blog for the Jon Wortmann interview on September 11, 2018, titled “How Does the Brain Impact Leadership Resilience?”  The article was previously published on PsyDPrograms.org.

Through the work of billions of cells housed within our brains, humans are the most advanced form of life in the known universe. Highly intelligent animals like dolphins, elephants, whales may have bigger brains than people, but the evolution of the human mind is far greater.

Only now is science beginning to understand the complexities of the gray matter resting just above our shoulders. A mix of protein and fat that combine to create one of the most advanced individual systems known to humankind – organic or machine, earthbound or cosmic.

The Brain Makes Us Who We Are

While at first glance, the brain itself may appear to be a singular mass, it consists of a number of highly unique parts and separate regions that control practically every aspect of human existence.

Four of the most vital components include:

·        The brain stem which aides with breathing and sleep.

·        The basal ganglia that monitors the sending and receiving of messages between different areas of the brain.

·        The cerebellum that keeps us upright – balanced and well-coordinated.

·        The cerebral cortex which helps us to think and move, achieve greater reasoning and imaginative skills and is what provides human consciousness.

In addition, the four regions include:

·        The frontal lobe that links to our motor skills and how we think, reason, and acquire knowledge.

·        At the crown of the brain, the middle parietal lobe controls sensation – our sense of touch, taste, and manipulation of the physical world around us – as well as spatial awareness.

·        Occupying the base of the brain, the temporal lobe is central to our ability to hear and helps us distinguish language and sound. Within the temporal lobe is the hippocampus – critical to our ability to learn, emote, and create memories.

·        At the rear of the brain, you’ll find the occipital lobe, critical to our visual capabilities and processing of colors, words, or any other objects that we see.

Even with all of our current knowledge, it is a testament to the brain’s advanced and complicated design that researchers and scientists have yet to fully solve the puzzle of the human mind.

One area though where there has been much discovery, and where we continue to expand our expertise, is what stimulates the brain. Factors that are both helpful and harmful and what is required to maintain a healthy mind.

Why Brain Health is So Important

While the brain itself may still hold many secrets, there is little mystery to the need for us to keep our minds healthy and functioning at their highest possible level.

As we’ve shown, the brain is central to our survival – controlling our breathing and cognitive skills, our consciousness and perception, and our ability to think, feel, and remember.

However, all of the brain’s functions do not operate independently of one another – it’s the reason we can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time. If you neglect one aspect of your brain’s health, other areas suffer.

But we’re not just talking about a run of the mill headache brought on by stress.

There are numerous neurological disorders that prove debilitating to both the brain and an individual’s overall well-being.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), approximately 50 million Americans – that’s one out of every five – suffer from some form of brain-related disorder. The list of conditions is exhaustive and includes:

·        Brain tumors

·        Cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke-related conditions or vascular dementia

·        Convulsive disorders like epilepsy

·        Degenerative diseases of adult life which include Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

·        Developmental disorders including cerebral palsy

·        Infectious disease complications like AIDS-related dementia

·        Metabolic syndromes including Gaucher’s disease

·        Neurogenetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease or muscular dystrophy

·        Trauma injuries that occur in the spinal cord or with a head injury (concussions)

These represent many of the major disorders. Far more common however are the conditions that fall under the broad (and sometimes misleading) category of mental illness.

For many years mental illness carried with it a stigma, resulting in people being mistreated or receiving none at all.

While the numbers for the latter still remain low, modern medicine has better shaped our understanding of more common psychological conditions, improving diagnosis and treatment.

This segment of neurological disorders include:

·        Anxiety

·        Attention-deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

·        Autism Spectrum Disorder

·        Depression

Given the brain’s importance and complexity, how then do you give yourself the best chance for lasting brain health? You might be surprised by the most effective methods.

Maintaining Your Brain’s Health

While not every brain-related condition is treatable or avoidable due to factors such as age, heredity, genetics, or other non-lifestyle factors, there are plenty of ways to keep your mind sharp.

To assist with improving your brain’s health and function, as well as producing the happy side effect of giving you a far more positive outlook on life, consider the following methods to boosting your brainpower:

Exercise

You already know what exercise means for your body. Proven time and again, regular exercise has lasting, positive effects on our well-being. The impact, though, is both physical and mental.

Exercise, through its stimulation of chemicals in the brain, promotes the growth and health of blood cells. Regular physical activity also helps to clear your mind, enabling you to think more clearly, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve memory and cognitive functions.

Sleep

A good night’s rest is as critical to an individual’s health as breathing.

Lack of sleep impedes the brain’s ability to perform daily tasks vital to keeping it healthy – clearing out toxins, maintaining healthy neurological connections among the brain’s many pathways, and recharging your body so it can maintain its focus, create new memories and be alert and ready to take on the next day when you wake up.

Quality sleep also builds up your immune system, which helps to keep diseases and illnesses at bay. You will also avoid the common condition of brain fog by following a strict sleep routine – commit to at least seven hours of sleep and steering clear of blue-light emitting devices at least two to three hours before bedtime.

Eat the Right Foods

As with everything else health-related, there are specific foods that will support the development and performance of your brain.

Green vegetables, certain types of berries and nuts, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are cornerstones of a brain-boosting diet. Just remember to work these into a diet that aides to promote greater health for you overall – physically and mentally.

The Power of Positive Thinking

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “the power of positive thinking” many times before. So much so, that’s it’s probably etched itself into your permanent memory.

That’s very much a good thing.

Studies show that a positive mindset is more than just a cliché – it can have a beneficial and lasting impact on your brains overall health and function.

While that research focused on children, a positive outlook works for adults too.

Maintaining an optimistic mindset promotes better physical skills, social interaction, and creativity, all of which broaden your mind’s horizons and help you build skills and more comprehensive life-servicing resources.

Meditation

More than a way to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, meditation proves transformative in building up an individual’s positive emotions. Research also suggests that it has a lasting effect on your health – improving your mind and your sense of purpose and reducing the chances for illness.

Engage Your Brain in Activities You Enjoy

Do you like to read novels or biographies? Diary or write about experiences you’ve enjoyed? Or do you dream about just getting out, having fun, and spending time with individuals you care about?

Pick one, or all three, because making time to enjoy the people and endeavors that make you happy can stimulate your brain towards better health. There are even health benefits to finding work or a career that you genuinely enjoy versus something that you slog through day after day.

Smile

Yep, turn that frown upside down. Seriously.

Though it may be hard to believe, science actually shows that a simple smile, even if it’s initially a forced effort (or a side effect of a cosmetic procedure), can reduce stress, improve your mood, strengthen your immune system, and help add a few years to your life.

According to Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Torrance Memorial in Los Angeles, CA:  “What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity. When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

Which basically means the brain doesn’t care why you’re smiling – as evidenced by the botox research – it processes the benefits of the smile regardless of its purpose.

Practice Good Health to Get the Most from Your Mind

One of the most astonishing aspects of the brain is that in all of its complexity, preserving its health requires a basic, common-sense approach.

When it comes to getting the most from your mind, keep it simple – and positive. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of constructive, optimistic thoughts and activities will nourish your brain and ensure it functions at its highest possible level – and provide you one less worry to think about.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.

Democracy and Leadership Require Accurate Information: What You Need To Know To Keep Up In Today’s World

This guest blog is a companion to the Voice America interview: Democracy on the Run: How Strong and Capable Leaders Can Impact Listen Now. The interview was recorded as part of the International Leadership Association conference series. The blog is reproduced and shared with permission by mastersincommunication.org.

 

Leaders and citizens need accurate and unbiased information to act responsibly. As citizens, we must develop an understanding of events unfolding in our environment and determine how we will engage. Voting is obviously one major action that requires comprehensive and unbiased information.

 

By the same note, leaders, those responsible for setting their organizational course, revising direction and engaging with employees to drive toward results must have accurate, complete and unbiased information.

 

In an era where leaders have access to more information, it has become harder to know where to look to find accurate, complete and unbiased information. For this, we must turn to the field of journalism and we must take responsibility for being well informed. The people we lead, and all of our stakeholders rely on us to make well informed decisions.

 

The information we need comes from journalists!

 

Today’s journalism is a far cry from what it used to be. In the past, you received the majority of your news and information from your local newspaper published every morning.

If you didn’t get it there, you watched the evening news after dinner. Add in a few national newspapers, and that was it.

Today, relying on only one source to receive all of your news and information seems unheard of. Newspapers are still around today, but we have so much more to go along with them. We don’t have to wait an entire day for our news anymore – we wait mere seconds.

Now we see the news as it’s happening instead of getting recaps of it the next day. With the rise of the internet and the 24/7 news station, we have an abundance of news sources directly at our fingertips.

Journalism as a whole has changed in response. Instead of having time to fact check, journalists are urged to be the first to break the story. This rush to first often leads to misinformation being published, causing confusing and sometimes outrage.

What used to be a cardinal sin is now less of an issue because being the first to hit publish is such a priority.

Let’s take a look at what journalism is today, and some of the people changing it.

What Really Is Journalism?

 

Journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities.

Journalism is the product of every newspaper you read, every news station you watch, and every news article you read online.

Journalism is meant to place the public good above all else and uses specific methods to gather and assess information. In other words, journalism is meant to benefit the people, and journalists should routinely check what they’re reporting on to be sure the information is verified and accurate.

 

Why Data Journalism Matters More Than Ever

 

Another side effect of the internet and the amount of data at our fingertips is the rise of data journalism. Data journalism is the use of data and number crunching to uncover, better explain, or provide context to a news story.

 

Data can be the tool used to tell a story, the source upon which a story is based, or both at the same time. It often involves the use of statistics, charts, and infographics.

 

Data journalism has become important because, in today’s world, anyone with a smartphone and social media account can be a journalist. Multiple sources add information over social media, blogs, and videos as the news story is happening. It’s an information overload, and opinion often clouds facts.

 

The goal of data journalism is to be the one who provides context to an event and aims to explain what it really means.

 

An excellent example of data journalism is a story ProPublica published about animal extinction across the globe. Using data from recent biology studies, they found that today’s extinction rates rival those during the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

 

Journalism In The Age of the Open Web

 

At the risk of beating a dead horse, the open web has changed everything. The way we consume data will never be the same.

Data used to come in a fixed, complete form. Books, newspapers, and documentaries. When you received it, it was finished and in its final form.

With digital news in the open web, your news source is almost a living, breathing thing. It is always changing, always evolving, and continuously being developed. That blog post you just read could be edited and revised several times over.

There is information everywhere that people consume anytime they want. They don’t need to go to the store to buy a book or a newspaper anymore. All they have to do is reach into their pocket and enter a quick Google search, and they’ll discover a wealth of knowledge on the subject.

Today’s journalists face a new set of challenges. They’re no longer the runaway experts in the fields they write in. Today, their readers may be smarter, and better informed than they are.

Now if you don’t listen to them, work with them, work for them, give them what they want and need, they’ll go somewhere else. And there are plenty of other places they can go.

 

What Journalism Is Missing Today

 

Even with the rise of the internet, 24/7 news stations, social media, and smartphones, something is missing from today’s journalism.

We’re more connected to the news that we’ve ever been. News companies have journalists working around the clock that can push us a story as it happens, no matter when it happens.

We’re more informed than we’ve ever been, and we have limitless choices of where we want to consume our news. So, what are we missing? The answer is simple.

Time.

The one thing journalists don’t have on their side anymore is time. They have to be first. They have to be fast. They don’t have time anymore to become deeply engrossed in their stories. They don’t have time to learn and ponder on their stories. They rely on quotes from other experts to shape their stories.

True investigative journalism is an art that is slowly fading. One of the main reasons is the money isn’t there for it anymore. Doing a real investigative piece takes a lot of time, which in turn takes a lot of money.

The ad revenue they’d earn for the story would likely be a small fraction of what it cost to produce it. Because of this, investigative journalism is being replaced by 5-10 blog posts a day that will never have as much substance as an actual investigative piece.

 

Battling Fake News

 

Something else that has come with the age of the internet is the rise of “fake news.” Anyone with a computer and internet access has the ability to make their own website and write news stories. However, not everyone is an educated journalist.

 

Your neighbor down the street that starts his own blog isn’t going to follow the same standards that the mainstream journalists follow. I mentioned earlier that journalism is meant to put the public good over everything else. That’s not always the case with the hundreds of blogs that pop up daily.

 

Most people that start those blogs are worried about pushing their own agenda and voicing their opinion. They only use facts that support their cause and ignore the rest.

 

Then they call everything that doesn’t support their opinion or push their cause fake news. When in reality, fake news is everything that isn’t based on fact and data.

 

Anyone can post their opinion, but not everyone can be a journalist. So when the news is so saturated by blogs and websites only worried about what fits in their narrative, how do we know who to trust? How do we separate fact from fiction?

 

We must keep an eye on the source. We need to be sure that the website or blog, or even Twitter account, that we’re getting our news from is only reporting facts without the bias of their opinion.

 

Here is a list of a few large journalism brands that report real facts, not alternative facts.

 

  • The New York Times – Some consider the New York Times the most influential publication around. The NYT upholds ethical standards of reporting and includes the classic elements of journalism in America.

 

  • The Wall Street Journal – The Wall Street Journal is the largest circulated newspaper in the US. The WSJ is still the top brand among daily business publications in the entire world. It has won several Pulitzer Prizes for editorials and columns that are backed up by thorough fact-based reporting and bold arguments.

 

  • The Washington Post – The Washington Post is the paper that brought down Nixon during the Watergate Scandal, and it upholds it’s intellectual traditions today. Under the ownership of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the Post is perhaps the most forward-thinking publication of the day while winning Pulitzer Prizes, hiring the best and brightest reporters and producing big scoops.

The Need to Support Journalism

Even with all the fake news and alternative facts that run rampant today, journalism is still critical for ours, and any democracy in the world. We can’t let the bad apples tarnish our opinions of the journalists with integrity that report facts and information.

 

The most important function of journalism is to convey information. This is a critical part of the democratic decision-making system because it brings transparency and makes sure that the decisions being made reflect what the people really want.

 

When people claim that the media is the enemy, they are doing a disservice not only to the real journalists but to the people in their society. Without a free press, the line between fact and fiction will be blurred, opening up a Pandora’s box of problems.

 

While there are problems that need to be fixed, journalism at its core is desperately needed.

We Live In A New World

 

We’re no longer dependent on a single news source anymore. We have more information available to us than ever before. The freedom we have to access and share news is a fantastic thing, but it also comes with great responsibility.

Our access to data and news sources from around the globe is absolutely incredible. The amount of good we can create due to the open web can change the world.

But it can also cause hate and divide entire nations. Anyone can post their opinion and call it fact. They can disregard fact and call it fake news. The potential for hostility is just as high as the potential for good.

Journalism isn’t the issue. Journalism at its core is the process of spreading news and information. We have to protect journalism and instead go after the entities perverting it.

 

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

This post is a guest post by Victor Prince.  The best way to become a better leader is to better yourself. Sometimes taking on a big adventure on your vacation is a great way to do that. Pilgrims from all over the world have walked the Camino de Santiago trails across Europe for centuries, making their way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North-West of Spain. Today, more than a pilgrimage, the Camino is an unforgettable experience and unique journey. The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased from the time of the discovery of St. James’s remains in 812 AD, though there have been years of fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars. This post is the companion to Voice America interview between Maureen Metcalf and Victor – The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain.

Last month, I hiked 200 miles (320 kilometers) over two weeks on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. It was my third Camino in five years. I go back because I have found the Camino to be more than just a fantastic trail. The Camino provides a unique social learning opportunity as I meet and share an intense experience with fellow hikers from around the world. It also provides me alone-time to reflect on my own life and career. After my first Camino, that combination inspired me to post a blog here on LinkedIn about the lessons I learned. That blog snowballed into a book deal with HarperCollins. This third Camino taught me three different, but equally powerful lessons.

1 – Find a Train to Jump On – During a stop on my book tour in June, I met a couple of readers who were interested in walking the Camino but had not yet made it happen. When they asked me if I was going again, I told them about my August trip, which was timed to celebrate the release of the Spanish-language version of my book. They were nice folks, and in the spirit of the Camino, I told them they would be welcome to join me. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but three weeks later I got an email. They had decided to do it and had gotten the time off work. About six weeks later, we all met for the second time on a morning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and climbed over the Pyrenees Mountains together into Spain (see picture). Many miles later, we parted at the end of the trail in Santiago de Compostela as fellow Camino pilgrims – and new friends.

Leadership Lesson – If you have a big, difficult goal and you find someone else with that same goal who has a plan to achieve it, jump on that train with them!

2 – Test Your Boundaries – Before Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, many Europeans believed that Cape Finesterre in Spain (pictured) was the western-most point in Europe, and thus represented the end of the world. After reaching the end of the Camino trail, many of these medieval pilgrims continued on for a few more days of walking to see for themselves. These pilgrims must have felt a surge of confidence after walking across Spain – something that may have seemed impossible to them before they did it. They wanted to see for themselves if other supposed limits were really true as well.

Leadership Lesson – When you have some belief that is limiting your potential, test it. Sometimes you will realize a big wall in front of you is just a bubble waiting to be burst if you just poke it.

3 – Seize Safe Moments to Try Crazy Things – After I walked to Finesterre, I was tired and not looking forward to retracing my steps on the 40 minute walk back to my hostel. I didn’t see many other options. Then I decided to try something I had never done before – hitch-hiking. While I never recommend getting into a car with complete strangers on the roadside, I knew this would be the safest place I would ever try it. Because the road went to the “end of the world,” everyone driving back were tourists like me headed back to town. It was a busy road in broad daylight and I had my phone on me, so I stuck out my thumb. Just before the five minutes I had given myself to try it ended, a nice couple of French women pulled over. We chatted a bit in English before I took up their offer to jump in their back seat. Five minutes later I was back in town with a couple of new friends – and a new story.

Leadership Lesson – Take advantage of very low risk situations to try out constructive new things. For example, on one solo business trip early in my career, I popped into a karaoke bar I walked by to sing a song. I hadn’t had many chances to do public speaking before, and that helped me fight stage fright in a low risk environment since I knew nobody in that town.

Sometimes a vacation can be a great way to do something that helps you in life after the vacation is over. If you are looking for an adventure that can help you long after the vacation is over, it is hard to beat the Camino – a trail people have been walking for over 1,000 years.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author: Victor Prince is a Corporate Trainer and Certified Executive Coach who teaches strategy, communication and leadership skills to clients around the world. His latest book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain (HarperCollins Leadership, 2017)has been a Top 100 Amazon bestseller in 8 categories and was listed as a top business book of 2017 by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Earlier in his career, Victor was a consultant at Bain & Company, a marketing executive at Capital One, and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has an MBA in Finance from Wharton. Learn more at www.victorprince.com.

Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadership

This blog is a guest post from Gary Weber, Author of Happiness Beyond Thought: Brain’s Software. It is the companion to the interview between Maureen Metcalf and Gary Weber on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations, Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadership that aired July 10, 2018.

Recent blogposts “Can we survive w/our outdated OS and buggy programs?…” and “Aleppo, Trump, Berlin, Orlandos, Nice…what can you do?“, discussed the evolving global dystopian situation, largely due to our 75,000 yr old ego/I Operating System (OS) and its programs that developed in very different times. 

New information will help us “right size” the weighting assigned to the “I”, and understand confirmation bias from an experiential and scientific standpoint.


What is our “conscious” I’s OS’s operating capability vis-a-vis the brain’s “off-line” processor?

The focus of this work is on deconstructing or at least de-energizing the “ego/I-based OS”.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could take a global ego/I dimmer switch, and dial them down about 30%?


In looking at different ways to illustrate the problems with the ego/I-based OS, a useful metaphor is that of an elephant and a rider. 

The “rider” is the ego/I, and our “conscious” processor that generates the problematic, self-referential internal narrative (SRIN) “blah, blah” about everything and nothing.

The “elephant” is the massively-interconnected, “off line” brain of 800 billion neurons which does all of the “heavy lifting” and most of everything else.

Some powerful comparisons have emerged from neuroscience to define the capabilities of the “rider” and the “elephant”. 

The “rider” can handle 7 +/- 2 pieces of data at a time and solve one problem at a time.  Its processor runs at 40 to 60 bits/second.

The “elephant” has something like 100 trillionsynaptic interconnections (latest research) for handling and storing information and operates at about 25,000,000 bits/second, depending on applications and assumptions.

The total computing power of the brain is determined by how many discrete areas are operating at the same time.   

Obviously, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching can go on with talking, texting (not so much), walking, driving, digesting food, breathing and pumping of blood, hauling away waste and sending energy-bearing glucose and oxygen to working areas, problem solving,etc. 

Comparing the speed of silicon switching in computers (lightning fast) to our brain’s synaptic switching speed (not so fast), and how much information is stored in the computer’s silicon (none) compared to the information stored in existing synaptic networks (a lot) is complex. Estimates for this parallel processing put the entire brain’s capacity as high as 320 Gigabits (billion bits)/second for the entire brain, > 99.9999+ % of which we are, thankfully, unable to perceive.

There is also a great difference in how parallel processing “assignments” are done in computers vs how the brain likely does it. 

However, the bottom line, for our purposes, is that the “rider” is Uber-microscopic, (get it, “Uber” and “rider”?) both in size and capability, compared to the “elephant” is roughly 500,000 to 1. 

Why do we listen to it?  It’s just a confused press-secretary, disconnected CEO, apologist, critic, etc. contributing little beyond endless “blah, blah”, like many “talking heads” debating a tweet.

As Wei Wu Wei says:

             “Why are you so unhappy?

              Because ninety-nine percent of what you think,

              And everything you do,

              Is for your self,

             And there isn’t one.”


Confirmation bias – What it feels like  

Confirmation bias is simply the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs.  Rather than theorize about it, it is important to get a sense of just how strong our bias is.  It is how “fake news” works, as no matter how bizarre or false the story is, we will select the parts that confirm how we already feel.

Reading this, how does this make you feel?   Take a minute or two and just get in touch with how/what you feel about the first President of the United States having wooden teeth…good, bad or indifferent.
This exercise is about George Washington, the first President of the United States, who had wooden teeth, as he lost most of his teeth in his twenties.

Write down a few descriptive words about it.

OK, what do you feel if i tell you that it isn’t true

Write/type a few descriptive words. 


A 2016 fMRI study published in Nature, a top-tier journal, “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counter evidence”, showed politically-active participants some contradictory and irrational statements by their candidate. Scientists 
@ the National Museum of Dentistry found that George Washington’s wooden teeth were replaced with gold, lead, hippopotamus or elephant ivory, horse and donkey teeth.  Another source included cow teeth, and silver and copper alloys.

Take a minute or two. 

Now how do you feel about George Washington?

Write/type a few descriptive words.


Finally, it was revealed from third and fourth sources that George Washington also had many teeth in his dentures from the slaves on his plantation.

Take a minute. 

Now how do you feel about George Washington? 

Write down some descriptive words.

These stories are all true, but did you see how different your feelings were toward George Washington as the different scenarios were considered?

This confirmation bias exercise is from a “the Oatmeal” cartoon which also uses Napoleon, Thomas Crapper, house flies, Jesus, and Roe v Wade, etc. and is strongly recommended.  The link came from Saima Yousuf.

Confirmation bias – research


The scanner showed that to create separation from the information, the Default Mode Network was activated  to create isolation from the external world and increase internal focus. To actively reduce the emotional conflict, the emotional center, the amygdala, was deactivated.

Other studies have found similar problems with shifting any beliefs that are “directly challenged, especially when these beliefs are central to their identity.  In some cases, exposure to counter-evidence may even increase a person’s confidence that his or her cherished beliefs are true.”  (many references).  

A new Harvard study pointed out just how strong the major media bias in the US and Europe is against the world’s most famous tweeter, reflecting their own confirmation bias. 

Confirmation bias is a real world problem, particularly in an era of  “fake news” and social media with little/no source credentialing, validation or “fact checking”.  IME, this is acute in spiritual/religious arenas.

As the authors point out “the inability to change another person’s mind through evidence and argument, or to have one’s own mind changed in turn, stands out as a problem of great societal importance”.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Author bio:

Gary is a Subject/collaborator in neuroscience studies at Yale, Institute Of Noetic Sciences, Baumann Institute, Center for Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, Johns Hopkins, Penn State.

From 2000 – 2004 he was Associate VP of research for Penn State responsible for all technology transfer operations of University including angel investing, venture capital, licensing, patenting and start-up support. Responsible for external industrial R&D contracts and interfaces with the University.

In the late 90’s Gary was SVP Science and Technology for PPG responsible for all corporate R&D w/four research laboratories, approx. 1000 engineers, scientists and technical folk, and $260MM budget. Member of Executive Committee.  Since then he has been researching and writing about happiness beyond thought. He is applying his extensive research skills to helping leaders.

Stress And Sleep – How To Master Stress And Recharge

This guest blog is a guest post provided by Nestmaven, a blog focused on helping people sleep. We selected this specific blog because it ties rest to stress and effectiveness. If you are not sleeping well, your resilience will be lower and it will, over time, impact your ability to lead. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with MaryAnna Klatt, PhD, Mindfulness: Manage Stress to Improve Performance on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that approximately 40 million Americans have some kind of sleep disorder. This encompasses a wide range of illnesses and conditions that include insomniasleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome.

Sleep-related disorders are on the rise and many illnesses that people are suffering from during the day, may be connected to poor sleep, at night.

Depression, weight gain and high blood pressure are just a few of the health issues that can be related to insufficient sleep and the connection between poor sleep and stress can be a cyclical one.

Too much stress can cause you to have a bad sleep, leading to mental and physical health issues which can, in turn, cause stress in daily life, leading to poor sleep at night.

Understanding how stress and sleep are connected is the path to getting a handle on the problem and learning how to manage stress during the day can only help improve your overall health and wellness and, hopefully, lead to better sleep, too.

Your Body On Stress – What Exactly Is Stress And How Does Your Body Handle It?

Stress is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

In short, it is the way by which your body experiences and manages external pressures, whether they are mental or physical.

A normal level of stress can actually be good for the body and can motivate you to work harder, focus and even improve performance.

But, this is only the case when the cause of the stress is short term. Too much stress can have the opposite effect and lead to chronic health problems. To understand why, it is important to know how exactly your body responds to stress on a physiological level.

Normally, when faced with a situation of stress, your nervous system causes your body to release stress hormones, particularly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

This is part of what is known as the “fight or flight” response in the body and it’s the system that gets you ready to fight or flee your challenge or dangerous situation. These hormones subside once the external threat is removed and the body begins to relax again.

But, when you are under stress continuously, this aggravation to the nervous system doesn’t subside and it can have a devastating effect on your overall health.

Incessant stress causes your blood pressure to be continuously raised, putting a strain on your heart and circulatory system. Breathing is affected, heartbeat becomes rapid and you might be in a near constant state of holding your breath or hyperventilation.

With long term stress, muscles are continuously tense, which might cause headaches and neck strain and continued, heightened levels of cortisol can cause weight gain and inflammation in the body, leading to a suppressed immune system.

Digestion is also affected, as raised cortisol levels cause you to crave and eat more fatty foods, as it helps your body prepare for a dangerous and threatening situation and you might start to suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, as your stomach produces more acid during times of stress.

Your endocrine system, regulated by the brain, is also affected. This can have an effect on everything from mood and tissue health to blood sugar metabolism and reproduction.

It’s no wonder you can’t sleep when your stress levels are raised, as your body is in an ever-ready fight mode on a physiological level, ready to tackle whatever danger is coming your way.

5 Ways In Which Stress Affects Your Body

  • Endocrine system – Stress causes the adrenal gland to release epinephrine, or adrenaline and norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, into the body, which helps your body respond to danger by increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and converting fat to energy. Your body also releases cortisol during stress, which has many damaging effects on the body when unregulated. The increase in hormones causes the liver to produce more glucose and strains the body’s ability to reabsorb the sugar, causing diabetes. Even more frightening, an Australian study showed that chronic stress increases the rate and volume at which lymphatic vessels drain cancerous tumours, helping them to spread throughout the body.
  • Respiratory system – Stress can cause increased and shallow breathing or holding of your breath, meaning that cells don’t get enough oxygen. This can lead to dizziness, lack of concentration and you could even temporarily lose consciousness.
  • Circulatory system – When you are under stress, your heart beats faster, working to pump blood quickly around your body to get it ready for action. Blood pressure is raised and when under stress and it can be raised for too long, causing long-term problems for the body.
  • Digestive system – Heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers and esophageal spasms are all health issues that can be tied to stress in the body, as your body produces more acid and controls what nutrients you absorb during times of high stress. This can also cause constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Musculoskeletal system – During times of high stress, muscles are constantly tightened, leading to pain, injury and chronic issues like migraines and tension headaches.

5 Top Causes Of Stress

The American Psychological Association conducts an annual “Stress in America” survey, in which they determine how stressed Americans feel and what exactly keeps them up at night.

Released in November 2017, the most recent poll shows the most common sources of stress are as seen in this infographic.

While this report showed that American’s stress levels in 2017 were at levels consistent to those in 2016, nearly half (46 percent) of Americans polled reported that lying awake at night in the past night was one outcome of their stress levels.

This is a marked increase from 2016, when 40 percent of Americans reported sleeplessness due to their stress levels.

Further to this, 34 percent of people polled reported that they felt fatigue due to their stress.

How Stress Keeps You Awake At Night – The Vicious Cycle Of Bad Sleep And Stress

There are many ways in which the above mentioned physiological changes can make for a poor sleep. Heightened adrenaline levels and increased heart rate can cause tossing and turning and a feeling of restlessness.

When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks it’s in a state of perpetual danger and that it shouldn’t be sleeping! You might be able to fall asleep but not stay asleep and you might wake up frequently in the night.

You might find it hard to calm your thoughts and lay awake at night, worrying about your finances, relationship, work or whatever else is bothering you.

Overwork or being too busy during the day can also lead to stress and leave yourself with not enough time to get a good sleep. If you find yourself with not enough hours to sleep, you might not fall asleep easily when you finally do go, because you are overstimulated and overworked.

With no time to wind down at the end of your day, your body forgets which is rest time and which is time for action.

Not enough time and too much stress in your day might also mean that you don’t have enough time to exercise, make time for friends and family or do otherwise relaxing and healthy activities that relieve stress, leading to a poor sleep at night.

After a bad sleep, you might need more caffeine to stay awake, causing a vicious cycle in which you can’t get to sleep at night, because you’ve had too much caffeine. These are just a few of the ways in which stress can keep you up or ruin the quality of your sleep.

How To Lower Stress Levels To Improve Sleep

While there are a few chronic sleep conditions that may require medical intervention, like sleep apnoea and insomnia, if your sleep loss is due to stress, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Check out some of these tips and tricks to relieving stress and incorporate a few of them into your daily life, to see if you notice any difference in sleep quality.

Increase Your Exposure To Daylight

If you work inside a dark office during the day or live in the northern hemisphere, you might not be getting enough daylight and your sleep might be affected.

Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights during the morning hours helps people sleep better at night.Adequate daylight is also shown to decrease depression and stress.

Help calibrate your circadian rhythm by making sure you get lots of daylight and if you can’t, consider investing in a light therapy device to keep near you, during the day.

Exercise

Make sure you are giving yourself time to exercise during the day. Exercise is considered by health professionals as one of the best ways to maintain mental health and reduce stress.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that “when stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact, as well.

So, it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind.” Exercise releases endorphins into the body that not only make you happy but help reduces stress and improve sleep.

Try Some Natural Relaxation And Wellness Techniques

Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques have all proved effective for stress and sleep disorders. There are plenty of guided meditations and yoga routines geared specifically to those with problems sleeping.

Take some time out of your busy day to wind down at the end of it.Even if you have only 10 minutes for a short meditation before you go to bed, you may see a positive result.

You don’t need any special skills or to follow any religious dogma, so give it a try. No time? Fall asleep to music or nature sounds geared especially for deep sleep. Here are a few of our favourites:

Try Aromatherapy

You might find that incorporating some aromatherapy into your life can help you sleep. One 2017 study showed that patients in intensive care that could not sleep well had an increased quality of sleep and reduced level of anxiety by using lavender oil.

There are many different ways to use essential oils to help you relax and sleep, including air diffusers and pillow sprays. Lavender and camomile are two popular essential oils with relaxing properties.

Have a bath before bed with a few drops of lavender or sleep with an air diffuser on near the bed, to both moisturize the air and infuse it with a relaxing aroma.

Make Your Room A Den Of Zen

Give yourself a chance to relax and calm down before bed. Never bring your work to bed and invest in a good bed with linens in calming colours, like white and grey. Keep your room clear of clutter and other stressors and keep your tablets and other devices out of the bedroom. Establish a relaxing night time routine that starts at least an hour before you try to hit the pillow.

Try Journaling

You might be able to relieve some stress by journaling before bed. The University of Rochester Medical Center says that journaling can help you manage overwhelming emotion and anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.

It does this by helping you prioritize your problems, fears and concerns as you work out the issues that are causing you stress and can also be used as a tool to track your day to day stressors and triggers, so you can learn better ways to control them.

Sort Out Your Finances

65 percent of Americans lie awake due to money issues. Sometimes easier said than done, sorting out your finances can be a good way to reducing your stress and helping you to get a good night’s sleep.

While it might not always be easy to reduce financial stress, you might be having trouble sleeping because you havebeen avoiding your financial problems and, because they don’t just “disappear”, they will haunt you, at night.

By looking at your finances honestly, consolidating debt and coming up with an actionable plan, you can slowly work to make positive changes and reduce your financial stress. (5 strategies to Deal with Financial Stress) .

Look To Supplements

Before turning to sleeping pills, consider supplements and herbal remedies to help you sleep. While all supplements should be taken under the guidance of a physician, melatonin, tryptophan, B12 and magnesium are some of the useful ones that might help you, as well as herbal teas that contain valerian, passionflower and camomile.

Adjust Your Diet

Apart from making sure you get enough exercise, a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of the stress/sleep equation. Lower your caffeine consumption by the afternoon, so that you aren’t keeping yourself awake.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime and make sure your diet isn’t too heavy in sugar and carbohydrates, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and energy levels. Give your body a chance to fast in the evening and cut out late night snacking.

Seek Professional Help

If nothing seems to work and you’ve tried all of the above, you might do well with the help of a sleep specialist. If you have eliminated the possibility of a medical condition, such as apnoea, a sleep specialist can try to determine why you aren’t sleeping and what to do about it.

Sleep clinics can monitor your breathing and heart rate when you are sleeping, to make sure that you don’t have a medical problem and to determine if it is stress related, or something else.

Take charge of your wellness and look into how stress might be affecting your sleep and how lack of sleep is affecting your stress levels! A serious matter, high levels of stress can have lasting consequences on your health and wellness and lead to life threatening diseases and bigger problems than just being tired.

By learning about what is happening inside your body during times of stress, you can better understand how to change or modify your environment and routines and gain some control of your body, inside and out. And, by employing just one or two of the above techniques to manage stress, you might notice a big change in your mental and physical health and sleep quality.

Please check out the interview with Belinda Gore and Mark Palmer giving more in-depth information about building resilience.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Stress Reduction: Relax Like a Boss

This guest blog is a guest post provided by John Parrott who runs Relax Like A Boss, a blog that teaches people how to reduce stress and relax in a busy world. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Belinda Gore and Mark Palmer, Building Resilience, A Key Foundation for Change on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations. 

Why Use Relaxation Techniques?

We all feel stressed from time to time…

But did you know that this can be incredibly harmful?

The Journal of the American Medical Associationdiscovered that stress can increase the risks of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and even obesity.

But that’s how relaxation techniques can help. According to the American Psychological Association, relaxation techniques can dramatically improve your health long-term, as we’ll discuss below…

The Benefits Of Relaxation Techniques.

Here’s a few of the benefits of relaxation techniques…

– Reducing Depression And Anxiety.

Relaxation techniques can be effective in regulating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses.

When stressed, the volume of ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin are reduced.

These are partly responsible for the feelings of sorrow and helplessness commonly associated with depression.

It has even been claimed that ‘meditation works just as well as antidepressants’, which seek to alter serotonin receptors and boost levels in the brain.

Simply practicing relaxation techniques for just half an hour a day can produce effects similar to those of antidepressants, without any side effects.

– Lowers Blood Pressure.

Although researchers aren’t certain of the exact mechanisms involved, chronic stress has been shown to raise blood pressure and worsen heart function.

High blood pressure can create a number of health problems, from insomnia to strokes and cardiac address.

Regulating stress levels with relaxation techniques can significantly reduce this risk.

In one study, patients that underwent just 10 minutes of slow breathing exercises saw a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.

It is thought that the daily practicing of similar techniques can help to keep stress-related hypertension under control, improving overall health and wellbeing.

– Boosts Immune System.

Prolonged stress has been proven time and again to hamper the function of the immune system.

This is, in part, because the body is less able to fight inflammation when under high-anxiety conditions due to chemical changes in the body.

Simply by reducing overall stress levels, inflammation can be regulated and many diseases, from the common cold to rheumatoid arthritis, avoided.

Physical Relaxation Techniques.

1. Breathing Exercises.

Breathing exercises have been recognised for centuries as a powerful tool for relaxation.

From the towering mountains of Tibet to the humble office of a psychological therapist, breathing is an incredibly versatile, easily-accessible way to reach a state of calmness and serenity.

Breathing exercises, also known as diaphragmatic breathing exercises, involve taking long, deep breaths into the stomach rather than the chest.

  1. Find a comfortable position, seated or lying down.
  2. Breathe slowly into your stomach through the nose, keeping your chest still. It may help to place one hand over your abdomen and the other over your chest, ensuring that only your moves as you inhale.
  3. Exhale through pursed lips, your mouth relaxed. Release tension from all parts of your body as you breathe out.
  4. Continue for 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times daily.

This exercise isn’t limited to the yoga mat, the quietness of your bedroom or a social situation. It can be practiced anywhere, at any time.

Whenever you begin to feel stressed, simply turn your focus to your breathing and continue until calmness is restored.

2. Progress Muscle Relaxation.

Based upon the premise that muscle tension is the body’s response to poor mental health, progressive muscle relaxation has been known to significantly improve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

This technique involves identifying tension in individual muscles by contracting them. This tension is then released slowly and under control.

Practicing muscle relaxation can provide a wealth of psychological benefits, from improving mental health to boosting physical performance.

It is also suggested to lead to increased blood flow, boosting local metabolism and, in turn, reducing pain and muscle spasms.

Progressive muscle relaxation should be practiced whilst lying down. Choose somewhere free from distractions and where you can lie and stretch out comfortably.

  1. Breathe in slowly, tensing the first muscle group you choose – but not to the point of pain. Hold this contraction for 5-10 seconds.
  2. Exhale, relaxing your muscles fully and quickly.
  3. Relax for a further 10-15 seconds before moving onto other muscles. Notice any changes in your state of mind and body as your practice deepns.
  4. Continue to work through the rest of your body, paying attention to every sensation.
  5. Finish by counting to 10, in complete stillness, and bring your awareness back to the present moment.

3. Humming.

The concept of humming for relaxation brings to mind pictures of monks perched atop tall hills, monotonous notes being held for several seconds at a time in a state of total serenity.

In reality, the practice of humming isn’t quite as mystical or spiritual as it is stigmatized to be. It’s an incredibly simple and effective relaxation technique.

Humming can:

  • Dissolve worries by calming the mind.
  • Give time for reflection.
  • Stimulate creativity.
  • Help bring about feelings of peace.
  • Relieve stress and anxiety.

Simply find a quiet place to sit, relax the body, inhale and let out a long ‘hmm’ sound as you exhale.

When you run out of breath, breathe in and repeat. Continue this exercise for 10-15 minutes.

4. Yoga.

Yoga is not only a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety, but also an excellent form of exercise for the body.

It’s a practice that’s been used for millennia, its roots set in schools of thought like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

Yoga is an incredibly relaxing practice. As is written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ‘Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.’

Many studies have even recognised yoga as an effective intervention for illnesses such as asthma, schizophrenia and heart disease.

Here’s an outline of a basic yoga practice. Be sure to explore the varying branches of yoga, constructing a plan the best suits your physical capabilities and preferences.

  • Begin with a short meditation or humming exercise to calm the mind.
  • Move from warming up with sun salutations to a mixture of standing poses, backbends and forward bends. Be sure to focus on all muscles of the body, from the neck to the feet.
  • End your practice with shavasana, lying still on the floor.
  • Take these final minutes of your practice to relax fully, letting the business of your mind settle with body.

5. T’ai Chi.

The Chinese martial art of t’ai chi is known not only for its value in defense training, but also its numerous health benefits.

T’ai chi has been reported as being beneficial in treating a number of ailments, including Parkinson’s and diabetes. Furthermore, the art of of t’ai chi has been proven to have beneficial effects against a range of mental disorders.

T’ai chi has also been measured to reduce levels of cortisol in the blood, increase endorphins and reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

The practice of t’ai chi is centered around improving the flow of ‘chi’, the Chinese concept of intangible energy. It is an incredibly effective way to calm the mind, practice mindfulness, and reconnect with the here and now.

6. Exercise.

Physical exercise is known to stimulate the release of endorphins – hormones that interact with the brain and trigger positive bodily feelings, similar to those associated with morphine.

For this reason, exercise is known for its ability to alleviate the symptoms of depression, chronic stress, and other mental illnesses.

‘There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people’, says James Blumenthal, PhD of Duke University.

Based on a number of studies, Blumenthal concludes that physical exercise is comparable to antidepressants for patients with major stress and depressive disorders.

Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling and painful. Even light, steady walks can have significant effects in reducing stress and anxiety.

Relaxation Techniques for the Mind.

7. Meditation.

Meditation has been proven time and again to have significant value in boosting not only mental health, but also the function of the immune system.

This is, in part, due to telomere lengthening.

Short caps at the end of DNA called telomeres work to shield our genes from damage. Without telomeres, DNA is exposed to harm from our external environment, wreaking havoc on our bodies and, in many cases, causing cancer and other diseases.

It has been proven in several controlled studiesthat meditation can actually lengthen telomeres in the cells of our immune system.

The result? A body that is not only mentally well, but incredibly resilient to disease, too.

Not only this, but meditation is also incredibly effective in reducing stress and promoting feelings of relaxation.

In one study conducted by Harvard, just an average of 27 minutes of daily meditation over 8 weeks produced profound changes in the brain.

The amygdala, an area of the brain linked with anxiety and stress, was shown to reduce in size. Participants also reported significant improvements in their overall wellbeing.

Here is a brief overview of the practice:

  1. Take a comfortable seat somewhere quiet and free from distraction.
  2. Begin to breathe deeply into the base of the stomach.
  3. Allow your mind to quieten, holding your focus on the breath.
  4. When you find yourself lost in thought, gently return to your breathing.
  5. Continue for 10+ minutes daily.

8. Listen To Nature Sounds.

‘Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind,’ – Amit Ray.

No method of relaxation is quite as overlooked as the simple practice of listening to nature; the sounds of birds singing, rain pattering on the tops of trees, wind whistling, waterfalls…

When you find your mind overrun with anxiety or by stress, simply reconnect with nature.

Step outside, take a deep breath, and embrace the modest beauty of the world around you.

9. Get Into A Routine.

Stress, anxiety, and many forms of emotional turmoil can arise from a lack of order in our day-to-day lives.

Whether it’s being frequently late for meetings or having an untidy bedroom, seemingly harmless areas of our lives can mount up and cause us a great deal of discomfort if left unchecked.

Simply establishing a daily or weekly routine, built to maximise productivity and wellbeing, can have tremendous effects on overall wellbeing.

Take some time out of your day to assess your daily habits.

Ask questions. Do you do enough of the things you love? Does your everyday life lack productivity? Are you acting in accordance with your goals?

When you have considered the areas of your daily routine that could benefit from a little TLC, put together a plan of action to eradicate unnecessary stressors from your life.

10. Listen To Music.

Music has long been recognised for its powerful impact on mood and wellbeing.

However, for the purposes of entertainment, music has become incredibly commonplace in society. It’s everywhere, from the car radio to television to the supermarket.

Rarely do we give music our complete, undivided attention.

Simply sitting and listening to a piece of music in full, free from all other distractions, can be an incredibly relaxing and therapeutic technique.

Choose a peaceful, soothing track or album to enjoy. Perhaps light some candles and enjoy the melody with a hot mug of tea in hand.

Then spend as many seconds, minutes or hours as you please tuning into the sounds you hear, and nothing else.

11. Practice Mindfulness.

Many forms of emotional turmoil result from a lack of mindfulness.

Mindfulness, at its core, is the simple act of focusing our awareness on the present moment, allowing the busy mind to relax into the here and now.

Many causes of day-to-day stress are chained to events of the past or future. Worrying about deadlines, the safety of loved ones, and any event that lies outside of this very moment can be the cause for a great detail of unrest.

By returning our focus to this moment, we free ourselves of unnecessary unhappiness and learn to appreciate every second of being alive.

When you find yourself becoming stressed or anxious, begin to expand your awareness to the this moment and all it contains.

Tune into the sensations inside your body, the sounds, sights and smells around you and the current situation you find yourself in.

12. Self-Hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, can be a highly successful way to reduce stress and clear the mind of unwanted thoughts.

The foundation of hypnosis is hinged upon the theories of world-renowned psychologist, Sigmund Freud.

Freud suggested that there are three components to consciousness; the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is the focus of hypnotherapy.

It is believed that the unconscious mind contains all thoughts, values and ideas that we cannot access willingly. Instead, it influences our behaviour and emotions without us knowing.

By tapping into the subconscious mind through hypnosis, individuals and therapists attempt to rewrite its contents and improve mental health by deleting negative thinking patterns.

Here’s how to practice self-hypnosis:

(Before you begin your practice, create 2-3 statements that you wish to revisit during your practice. Theoretically, these statements will be planted into your subconscious once a state of hypnosis is reached. Examples mind include ‘I am stress free’, ‘I am not my thoughts’, ‘I am relaxed at work’.)

  1. Begin by feeling physically relaxed and comfortable. Put on comfortable clothes, perhaps practice some yoga or take a warm bath, and enter your practice feeling relaxed and at ease.
  2. Identify an object to focus on. Ideally, choose an object that will require you to look slightly upwards or directly in front of you.
  3. Attempt to clear your mind of thoughts. Focus intently on your chosen object, allowing all other thoughts to gently fade away. This may take some time, and it isn’t easy. If your mind wanders, simply return it to the object.
  4. Expand your awareness to your eyes, feeling them become heavier and slowly closing.
  5. Relax your muscles further with every exhalation. Slow your breathing as you settle deeper with each out-breath.
  6. Visualise an object swaying slowly back and forth. This may be a pendulum swinging or a pocket watch moving from side to side – anything with a slow, regular pace.
  7. Begin to count slowly down from 10 in your head. Tell yourself that you are relaxing deeper and deeper after every number.
  8. Believe and remind yourself that, when your countdown is complete, you will have reached a hypnotic state.
  9. Once in a state of hypnosis, return to the statements you prepared before your practice. Focus on each, visualising it intently and repeating it over and over, maintaining a state of total relaxation.
  10. Slowly count back up to 10. As you progress, become more energetic and alert; reverse the process you used before to reach a state of hypnosis.
  11. When you reach 10, return to your day with a renewed sense of calm.

Social Relaxation Techniques.

13 Practice Gratitude.

Taking just a few moments out of our day to practice gratitude, cultivating appreciation for what we have, is an effective way to reduce stress and encourage feelings of contentment.

When you find yourself consumed in thought and emotion, simply turn your focus to that which you’re grateful for.

That may be family or friends, your job, health, freedom, or even just life itself. Often these modest blessings are overlooked. Reminding ourselves of all that we are fortunate to have can bring us happiness and peace of mind.

14. Reflect On What Makes You Happy.

Humans have a troublesome propensity to focus on the negative of every situation. And there’s a good reason for this.

Many years ago, pessimism served a handy survival mechanism. Our cave-dwelling ancestors developed a tendency to identify problems and hazards rather than contemplating that which made them happy.

As a result, they’d strive for more – more food, better shelter, larger families, and these desires would serve the purpose of helping our species to survive.

Those that sought more increased their chances of survival. Thus, they passed their character traits through many generations.

What was once an evolutionary blessing, however, now manifests itself as a scourge on our mental health.

It can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of our lives; to desire more than we currently have and become disheartened and stressed as a result.

Simply switching your focus to the things that make you happy, whether that be a delicious food, cherished memories or loving family members, can work wonders on our stress levels.

When plagued by pessimism, make a conscious effort to list off 5 things that make you happy. If your mind reverts back to negativity, recenter your awareness on that which fills you with joy.

15. Random Acts Of Kindness.

Executing random acts of kindness is a quick, easy and extremely powerful way to reduce stress and promote feelings of joy and contentment.

Here are some examples:

  • Complimenting a stranger.
  • Buying a meal for a homeless person.
  • Expressing your love to a friend.
  • Donating to charity.
  • Smiling at passersby in the street.

These small, seemingly trivial acts of kindness have the power to lift your own mood whilst brightening other people’s day.

How To Make The Most Out Of These Techniques.

Here’s a few ways to make the most out of these relaxation techniques…

– Be Persistent. 

While a one-off relaxation session won’t do you any harm, in order to feel the full benefits of your practice you should aim to engage in it as often as possible.

– Be Consistent. 

In order to be persistent, it helps to be consistent with your timings.

Whether it be yoga every weeknight, meditating at 7am every morning or writing in a journal before bed every evening, consistency will ensure that you stay committed to your practice and set aside enough time to engage in it.

– Find The Techniques That Work For You.  

T’ai chi may not be for you, and that’s okay. Finding relaxation techniques that you actually enjoy will increase the chances that you stay committed to your habits.

– Optimise Your Environment. 

Practicing these techniques in a quiet, peaceful setting with minimal distractions will ensure that you get the most out of the time you spend.

 

Please check out the interview with Belinda and Mark giving more in-depth information about building resilience.

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching through our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

10 Disruptive Leadership Trends for 2018

This post is the companion to a Voice America interview with Tracy Wilen, researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, and careers on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” Digital Disruption: The future of Work, Skills and Leadership airing on April 17, 2018.

The world is in disruption! You are at the forefront of change. Increasingly, everything we do is impacted by technology from how we communicate with others, connect at work, learn at school, and live our lives. As technology continues to seep into our lives we become accustomed to it and dependent on it, putting pressure on workplace leaders, education systems, and even ourselves to rethink how we approach this divergent world of work, leadership, lifelong learning, skill development, and careers. The

continuing accelerated pace of technology and competitive forces is causing workplace environments to become more technical, diverse, and in need of leaders who understand how to deal with disruption.

This new landscape requires contemporary styles of leadership and new techniques for managing organizations. Today, there are unique pressures on company leaders, workers, and educators to change the ways they prepare and plan for modern-day jobs and careers. This interview and Tracey’s book, Digital Disruption: The Future of Work, Skills, Leadership, Education and Careers in a Digital World, offer educators, executives, and students a fresh approach for how to navigate the future to ensure success. They cover the key forces impacting the future of work, industries, leadership styles, skills, and education with a focus on how to remain relevant in an ever-increasingly complex digital world.

Here are the 10 disruptive predictions for 2018.

  1. Disrupted Society. Society is hyper‐connected, dependent and, in some cases, addicted to continuously being “connected.” And the expectation is that this will be increasingly the case. If you sleep with your phone, panic if it is missing, text numerous times a day, have numerous apps you use daily, frequently post selfies on social media, and buy most items on‐line, and are an Amazon prime member, it is a seamless part of your life. This is you.

 

  1. Disrupted Work. There are many shifts in the work place. One is extreme longevity, meaning many people will work 60 years to afford to retire. This also means a multi‐generational workforce. How we work together will need to change, in addition to how many years we work.

 

  1. Disrupted industry. We often hear about Uber, Air BNB and Amazon. Traditional industries are being disrupted at an accelerated rate. It is imperative that leaders pay attention to not only their industry but also those tangentially connected to monitor trends—and anticipate the impacts they will have on you.

 

  1. Disruptive Leadership. If work and industry are disrupted, do we need disruptive leaders? To compete, leadership needs to change because a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world requires new kinds of leaders.

 

  1. Women as disruptive leaders. Women are Corporate America’s killer app. Women are skilled, educated, have modern-day leadership skills, collaborate, trust, see the big picture, promote employee engagement, and have in-demand skills.

 

  1. Disruptive Diversity. Diversity is strategic for disruption. Innovation and diversity go hand-in- hand invest in 2018. Delivering products and services to a diverse customer base means having a diverse design team and workforce.

 

  1. Disrupted Careers. With all the changes to work and industry, jobs will most certainly change. It is important to keep current with technology, make lateral moves and continually build skills.

 

  1. Disruptive skills. Everyone will need additional and new skills, for some people, Social Intelligence will need to increase, in a digital world. Do you see how you are perceived as a leader or team mate? Can you read the room and get a feel for what people think of you? Others will need to increase their ability to make sense of the increasing volume of data and turn the insights into action.

 

  1. Disrupted Education. Education must supply the world with capable people who can work, think and be relevant in the digital world they will work in. Integrated work and learning strategies is a path many colleges are taking with employer Internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and summer jobs.

 

  1. Disrupted selves. Are you taking time for a “career selfie”? Have you mapped out your career trajectory? Do you collect data and review your progress on a regular basis? If not, you are likely to be missing opportunities to make the series of small changes that will keep you current and relevant.

Disruption is on top of everyone’s mind. As technology rapidly accelerates, so does fear of the future. People are worrying about the impact of future technologies on our lives, how we lead firms in the digital era, our personal careers, and future jobs. Some people are tackling this head on and some are somewhat resistant or frozen in their track because the newness and pace of change. What are you doing in each of these areas to ensure you manage the disruption rather than being disrupted?

About the author

Dr. Tracey Wilen is a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, leadership, education, and careers. A former visiting scholar at Stanford University, she has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, and Cisco Systems. She was an adjunct professor at several Bay Area colleges, teaching classes in business, technology, and women’s workforce topics. Dr. Wilen has authored or co-authored twelve books including Employed for Life (2014), Women Lead (2013) and Society 3.0 (2012). She has appeared on CNN, Fox, and CBS News and is a regular guest on radio and TV shows across the US as an expert contributor. Dr. Wilen was honored by the San Francisco Business Times as the Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

Top Skills to Lead For the Future!

This post is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre, President and Chief Operating Officer of Metcalf & Associates on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 16, 2017: Seven Characteristics of Leadership 2020: A CEO Story. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Columbus CEO on January 25, Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Key Roles. The following article is an article published in Forbes March 2017.

Technology, innovation, and geopolitical change are accelerating the need for U.S. companies to get (or stay) ahead of the competition. But for companies to fully evolve, attract the best people, and produce the best products and services, their leaders must evolve too. Leaders who don’t keep up will slowly be overtaken by those who continue to keep up with the changing tides.

Take technology, for example, and the evolution of flip phones to smartphones. While this evolution has been widely noticeable, many leaders don’t think of themselves as the “flip phones” of leadership.

Kate worked for a financial services company. The company occupied a competitive market space in a complex environment that was changing quickly. She began consulting as their CFO to address profitability and controls, and after a couple of months, she was asked to join the company as president.

Kate’s leadership skills and extensive business experience enabled the company to address some internal challenges as well as position it to be a much more valuable player in the industry. Specifically, she revised financial processes to ensure accurate payments, addressed organizational structure and moved people into roles where they would have a greater impact. Within three years of Kate joining the firm, the company was sold at a substantial increase in valuation.

In today’s quickly changing and complex environment, Kate exhibited the competencies leaders need both now and well into the future to succeed. In our book, Leadership 2050, Mike Morrow-Fox, Susan Cannon and I discuss the following qualities leaders should possess as the rates of technological and geopolitical change in our world increase exponentially more.

1. Be professionally humble. In the above example, Kate not only identified the company’s purpose and guiding principles but actually used them daily when communicating with people so they understood what she expected them to produce and how she expected them to behave. When everyone was aligned, they made the right decisions and took credit for the organization’s success.

2. Have an unwavering commitment to the right action. Everything Kate did was driven by the company mission and Kate’s personal values. On one occasion, she told a major customer they could no longer talk to her people because he continually berated them. As a leader, it’s important for your followers to understand the goal of difficult actions and their purpose.

3. Be a 360-degree thinker. It is imperative for leaders to understand their industry and trends driving future success. The changes Kate led the company through involved updating processes to position the organization as a bigger competitor in the industry. She needed to understand the company, the industry, and best practices from other industries. She invested in growing business units while defunding the commodity businesses.

4. Be intellectually versatile. Leaders who can draw from a broad range of knowledge are better equipped to anticipate and lead change. Kate was highly committed to the company she was transforming, yet she made time to continue to learn. She values her professional network and is highly involved with her family and the arts. These outside interests allow her to recharge and remain resilient, which is crucial when work becomes very demanding.

5. Be highly authentic and reflective. Leaders who continually seek feedback and model growth promote change-friendly cultures. Kate is authentic in that she not only lived her personal mission and values, but also sought feedback. Though she works long hours and delivers results, she also takes the time to think about how her actions will ripple through her business and how her partners, clients and competitors will respond and be impacted. It is this focus that sets leaders apart over time.

6. Be able to inspire followership. During this and other turnarounds, Kate’s attrition rate was minimal — even during layoffs. She was as transparent as possible in explaining the company’s challenges and the opportunities they were pursuing. She dealt with challenging issues head on in ways that aligned with her values. Her humility and commitment to the right action were also highly inspirational; her team knew she was working for the best interest of the organization and all its stakeholders — not her personal gain.

7. Be innately collaborative. Kate continually sought input from across the business, her board and her customers. Her goal was to create a highly successful organization, and she knew that she could only do it if she created an environment where everyone worked together. By hearing different points of views based on different roles, there is a better focus on solving problems and creating market-leading solutions.

It is imperative that leaders continue to develop their mindset as well as their skills and behaviors to stay ahead of the accelerating pace of change. Kate models the mindset and behaviors required to transform a company working in a highly complex, ever-changing and competitive space. These mindsets and behaviors are the foundation for leaders. By going through a structured leadership development process, leaders can build the skills necessary to create continual innovation in their organizations.

So don’t become the outdated “flip phone” of leadership. Invest in your development to help you evolve at the rate you and your company need to thrive.

To become a more innovative leaderplease consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

 

Trends and Projections For Leaders in 2018

This post is a companion to the interview with Dr. Dale Meyerrose, Retired Air Force Major General. on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 26, 2017, 2017 Retrospective and 2018 Projections with Dale Meyerrose.

Endings or beginnings? How do you choose to view the close of a year and the unfolding of a new one? Self-aware and strong leaders pause for reflection throughout the year, these dates, however, are great reminders to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. As 2017 wraps up, I want to close by highlighting trends we saw this year and what they might mean as we look at 2018.

  1. Volatility continues to increase. We continue to see record-setting natural disasters whose recovery stretches government infrastructures. We are seeing technology raise questions about venerable institutions with the strengthening awareness of crypto-currencies and blockchain. On the human front, the #metoo trend is the latest to disrupt the existing power structure.
  2. Anticipate trends as much as possible. Highly effective leaders are looking at the trends across a range of categories to determine those that are likely to impact us. Because so many disruptions come from nontraditional sources, it is no longer sufficient to look at only industries in which we’re involved. How do you monitor trends within and outside of your industry?
  3. Resilience is more important than ever. As leaders, we need to respond to volatility with grace and instill confidence in those who follow us. We need to have the capacity—with clear thinking and energy—to process the challenges that we face as well as those that face our organizations. Do you have practices that allow you to remain focused in times of challenge such as reflection, mindfulness, meditation, or prayer?
  4. Continue to build skills. The most effective leaders continually learn and grow, building on their already solid foundation. With the pace of change, all of us need to make time in our increasingly demanding schedules to refine our skills and expand our base of knowledge.
  5. Reconnect with your core. It is no longer enough to just do an adequate job, it is important to have a sense of purpose and an inner compass. Before my holiday travels, I will take my car to my mechanic to ensure it is in top working order for travel through the snow and mountains. I try to do the same with my purpose and inner compass, I take time at the end of the year, which happens to correspond with my birthday, to reflect on the past year and think about the upcoming one and, most importantly, identify which of my beliefs no longer serve me. This is different than skill building, it is about mindset. If my inner “operating system” is out of date, I am likely to make decisions that don’t work at this juncture in history. Are you making time to look over the year and consider not only what actions you took but also what motivated you to take those action? Are your beliefs and motives still aligned with your goals?

Most cultures reward activity and doing more with less. What we are doing now is leaving most of us exhausted and often overwhelmed. These are not the main characteristics anyone puts on their LinkedIn profile “willing to overwork but often exhausted…” It’s important to consider and rethink how we respond. What I suggest is counter to most cultures: Sometimes the best action is inaction.

So, as we reflect on 2017 and plan 2018, how will you navigate the accelerating demands on your time and energy with the physiological constraints we all face? If you can make changes in your organization, what will you do for yourself to build time to recharge and refresh?

The team at Metcalf & Associates wishes all of you a happy holiday season spent with those you most value in your lives. We hope you take the time to recharge and refresh your body, emotions, and spirit. We are looking forward to doing exactly what we recommend: balancing spending time with family and making time alone for quiet reflection.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

The Best Advice for Leaders

This post is a companion to the interview with Skip Prichard, CEO OCLC on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 19, 2017Nine Secrets to Creating a Successful Future. The blog was written by Skip. 

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard was from Jim Rohn. He said, “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

That struck me as particularly odd at first, but this simple wisdom stuck with me and became a part of my thinking.

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to work hard on your job. It will help you stand out, get noticed, and advance your career.

But, if you stop there, you’ll miss out. Working on yourself pays far better than a salary. When you work on your own personal development, you start an almost magical process. Your capabilities expand with each new skill and that sets you up for new opportunities that you likely can’t even imagine.

Take advantage of the magic of personal development, of working harder on yourself than on your job. You’ll be glad you did.

And, I must also mention that my upcoming book, The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future, will help you on the personal development journey. I share the nine personal development secrets that the most successful leaders employ.

About the author

Skip Prichard is an accomplished CEO, growth-oriented business leader, and keynote speaker. He is known for his track record of successful re-positioning companies and dramatically improving results while improving the corporate culture. He is a keynote speaker on topics ranging from leadership, personal development. growth strategies culture, corporate turnarounds, and the future of publishing. His views have been featured in print and broadcast media including the BBC, The New York Times, CNN, NPR, The Daily Beast, Harvard Business Review, Information Today, the Bookseller, Publishers Weekly, Christian Retailing, and the Library journal.

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