March 23rd, 2012 // 4:49 pm @ Coach Lynn
Contrary to popular belief, high achievement has very little to do with IQ or your technical competence. In fact, it doesn’t even have to do with your financial resources, knowing the right people, your upbringing or luck. The most important long- term predictor of your success is your Emotional Intelligence (EI).
EI has a lot to do with neuroscience. Exactly how well does your brain work? By that I mean, how successful are you at engaging the parts of your brain that regulate the emotions that drive your behaviors?
Here’s what’s really cool. You can train your brain to be a winner. With the advent of fMRI brain scanning techniques, we now know that brains are continually learning and growing new neurons.
Our brains are subject to change no matter what we do. This is a key discovery of modern neuroscience. What sets successful people apart from those who are less so is the desire and the knowledge to take charge of the brain’s continual learning and growing process.
Resilience and Motivation are two critical abilities that highly successful leaders strengthen through repeated practice. The brains of successful people “light up” differently and work more efficiently than others because they’ve developed these abilities through practice – just like a basketball player learns to make free throws. Other critical emotional abilities you can train yourself to have include Focus, Persistence, Empathy and Flexibility.
In their book The Winner’s Brain, authors Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske write about strategies great minds use to achieve success.
1. Self-awareness: Know your strengths and work on developing them to reach your goals. Select those goals that intrinsically motivate you because of your unique passions and drive so that you fulfill your own definition of a meaningful life.
2. Emotional regulation: Thoughts and beliefs affect feelings and subsequent behaviors. What you believe about yourself, your world, and others directly affects what you feel and how you act.
3. Cognitive reframing: Repeatedly engaging in negative thoughts and actions results in undesirable brain alterations. Actively engaging in positive thoughts and actions leads to beneficial ones. You won’t always achieve your goals, but you can benefit from failure. Putting a positive spin on things changes the brain and primes it to be resilient and motivated.
4. Deliberate practice: London taxi drivers train very hard to memorize city street addresses and in doing so enlarge certain areas of their brains. Musicians experience that same brain growth in other areas. We all do. The key is to keep practicing in spite of setbacks.
5. Meditation: Research is conclusive on this: practicing even small doses of daily meditation can improve focus and attentional control. You don’t have to be a Zen master; sitting calmly for several minutes is a start. Longer sessions benefit the brain more.
6. Physical exercise: A regular exercise program increases attentional focus, improves learning and memory, reduces impulsivity, enhances mood, and lowers stress. More blood to the brain helps provide oxygen and glucose to fuel its functioning. As little as 20 minutes of cardio exercise releases BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factors, which support the growth of new neurons.
7. Nutrition: What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Fruits and vegetables, low fat sources of protein, berries, apples, fish and omega oils all provide elements for a healthy brain.
8. Sleep: Seven to eight hours of sleep are vital for optimal brain function. It helps restore the balance of communication between reasoning and emotional centers and improves memory.
Interestingly, our brains change based on what their owners choose to do. People who achieve true success are often forced to overcome obstacles and in doing so, rewire their brains to get where they want to go.
As we mature our brains evolve accordingly. We have a significant amount of control over this development. Through deliberate, proactive practice, we can change the way we think and behave.