Learning Lab

Your Brain is a Temple

By Amy Brann

It is interesting to think about the way that many people spend so much time, money, and attention on external embellishments like beauty treatments, decorating homes, and even grooming pets. We invest a lot in our external world. However, when we examine how much time and energy we invest in shaping our internal world – the balance isn’t normally tipped in its favour. It can be difficult, particularly in the age of technology that plugs us in to a multitude of thoughts and opinions to shut out things that don’t serve us.

Telling the Story

Why do people allow others into the living room of their minds to dump rubbish you may be wondering? It has to do with loving to hear a story. As humans we connect when we share narratives together. It is how we bond. By sharing what we do and how we feel about it with one another. The problem then becomes when we believe someone else’s narrative above our own without a very good reason to do so. Take for example Lucy, she is a very successful woman in her mid-thirties who wants to start her own business. Lucy is excited about this proposition and wants to share her vision with three friends at lunch. The first friend is supportive and tells Lucy that she believes in her talent and knows she will do a fantastic job with her new business. The second friend tells Lucy about something that she is doing that is just as good or even better than Lucy’s new venture and that she wishes her luck. The third friend asks Lucy if she is certain that she wants to give up the comfort and security of her current position in order to take such a risk. She goes on to quote to Lucy her very slim chances of success and of course she is only telling her this because she loves her.

Which story will Lucy allow to stay in her brain? This is the first and biggest potential obstacle to Lucy’s success. There will always be people to tell others how things are not going to work. However, if you want to be one of the people who is able to reach goals and aspirations these cannot be the stories that are allowed to remain in your consciousness.

Neuroscience in Story Telling

When humans tell stories or listen to stories chemical reactions take place in the brain. In essence, what we tell ourselves and others, and what we believe is true creates chemical changes in our brain and therefore in our body. That is why what you allow your mind to pay attention to is so vital to your success. In order to have your body and brain align with success and happiness you must tell yourself—and believe – stories of success and what that looks like to you.

It almost seems too simple, and it is. The discipline comes when encountering people like Lucy’s third friend that want to change your mind and your body chemistry. Is that third opinion one Lucy needs to hear? When a person becomes stressed about all of the things that can go wrong in a plan their bodies can begin to go into a threat response. Threat response involves the release of cortisol and adrenaline. Over time this can reduce efficiency and effectiveness in thinking and planning. What is potentially a more beneficial approach from a neuroscience standpoint is to tell stories of courage, of tenacity, and determination which inspires good solution making chemistry like oxytocin and ACTH (a fast acting arousal hormone) that encourages action and moves people into the direction of behaviours that lead to success.

Create your Story and Make it Work for you.

How will you create your story and make it work for you? Like a map you must have an ultimate destination and know how you are going to get there. Have daily checkpoints that move you in the direction that you want to go and have a place to rest, recuperate and celebrate progress along the way.

One way to do this is to create a vision board. Many people use vision boards as a way to visually remind themselves daily about what they want and how they plan to get there. Mapping out the smaller goals that need to happen along the way in order to meet the larger goal. For a vision board consider making it personal, a vision board is really powerful when its creator looks at it in the morning and feels a flood of chemicals pour through his/her body that creates excitement to take action toward the goal. If the reaction is overwhelming, stressful, or flat then it is back to the vision board to tweak. The brain loves visuals!

We Become the Stories we Tell Ourselves

Sir Edmund Hillary was known to have said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” There are so many quotes by those who have made historic contributions to their fields about the subject that they could fill a library. All the quotes have the same kernel of truth however, which is this, whatever you believe about yourself or your organization is ultimately what you will become. The stories that we believe set up our brain chemistry, our attitudes, and our intentions. This becomes our actions, our expectations, and our habits, that in turn become our reality and our achievements (or lack thereof). That is why it is so important to remember to keep your thoughts and your mind as clear and organized as you might your home or office. And treat the space between your ears as a sacred place because it is and that is the first step to achieving any goals or aspirations that you may have both personally and professionally.

What stories are you surrounding yourself with?

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