Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Brain’s Peaceful Genius We All Should Get to Know

We think we hate work. There is a very funny and popular blog called WorkHate that is intended for (and I quote): Anyone who’s ever thought “I hate work, my job, my boss, oh god; I think I’m gonna cry.” The blog calls “mental health days” an American tradition and offers a guide to Great Sick Day Getaways. Yet research suggests that it’s not leisurely getaways we want.

In a series of books on the optimal experience defined as Flow, the ground breaking psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago presents his research on tens of thousands of people. His research found that people do not regard leisure time as all that satisfying. We wind up feeling “bored and empty.” At work, however, most people report that they feel engaged and content. The irony is we think we want to dump work for leisure. When researchers ask what we would rather be doing, we typically say we want more time to relax, despite reporting that it bores us.
We’re Just Confused
It’s stress, not work, that we really hate. It’s the stress at work that we want to get away from. Stress is the polar opposite of being relaxed. Stress represents a brain in dysfunction producing a highly dissatisfying and debilitating experience of life. No one wants that. The problem is 78% of us struggle with stress, and half of those experience extreme stress on a regular basis.

 

The Genius Peace Awakens
The key is to be relaxed at work. To a stressed mind the idea of relaxing at work can sound impossible. You may even think it could get you fired. By “relaxed” I mean cultivating a dynamically peaceful state of flow as you work. Peace is the polar opposite of stress and the research shows that this state of flow rewards us in every way that counts.
  • Being at peace as you approach a task is how you slip into that zone called The Top of Your Game. Neurologically, it’s how you light up the 30 billion higher order brain cells that can turn you into a genius for a few hours.

Psychologically, it’s how you coax the brain into a flow of positive emotion which, in turn, produces the fearless self-confidence and optimism that can move mountains.

Physiologically, being at peace as you work is how you maintain the high level of energy it takes to stretch yourself and go the distance.

Who among us doesn’t want this level of personal power available all day long. It’s attaining your best day, every day. Combined, these neurological outcomes not only make you a peak performer, they also generate an intrinsically rewarding work experience. Inevitably, this dynamically peaceful and positive way of being attracts other great minds to work with you to do what you can’t do alone. The icing on the cake is that, at the end of the day, you return home with more to give your family.

Cultivating this brain state is simpler than you might think.

 
 
 
 
Try It Yourself
Devote a few weeks to cultivating a dynamically peaceful attitude. After two weeks of practice, your brain will start to wire for this powerful experience. This attitude will become second-nature, giving you a kind of immunity to stress. It increases your capacity to sustain peak performance by restoring joy to the experience of working.
The chronic absence of joy in our work is really what we hate. You can begin to fix the problem today by using this simple guided process to develop a dynamically peaceful state of flow.

The 90-Second Window

Do you want your brain at full power generating the creative and practical intelligence that not only succeeds but excels?

Do you want the emotional intelligence that makes you passionate about work, joyful about life, and cool, calm and collected in a crisis?

Do you want to dramatically increase your odds for a long and healthy life?

Who doesn’t? All of these outcomes are yours when you learn to master the 90-second window.

The 90-second window is all about the brain. There’s no denying that a big part of human experience is brain circuitry. We are thinking circuitry igniting emotional circuitry that triggers physiological circuitry. Most of what we view as stress is a bada bing, bada boom, bada BANG progression, escalating within this 90 second span of time.

  • We think a thought such as I can’t do this.
  • The thought turns into an emotional response, such as anger or fear.
  • The emotional charge ignites a physiological reaction that sends the body into an uproar.

If we aren’t skillful at neutralizing the process, the 90 seconds turns into an endless looping process that beats us down. Our reactions amplify and more stress hormones flood the brain, debilitating higher brain function. After a while, the process of endless looping becomes automatic, meaning the brain is now wired for it. This, by definition, is chronic stress and chronic stress can become life threatening.

Not good. So here’s the good news and it couldn’t be better. You can gain full control over the 90-second window. When stress or anxiety begins to run the 90-second pattern, simply observe what is happening, emotionally and physically, without being pulled in deeper. Follow the bread crumbs back to the fearful, negative or stressful thinking that triggered the reaction in the first place. This is where choice comes in. Once you identify the negative thought, you choose not to believe it. You stand in the expanding mental space this choice will generate and watch your reaction disappear like smoke. If stress or anxiety raises their ugly head a moment later, simply repeat the process of finding the thought that re-stimulated the circuitry and discharge the thought.

It also helps to change the context for viewing stress or anxiety. Instead of saying: I am angry or I’m overwhelmed , you can say “Wow, the fear circuitry in my brain just switched on.” Then give your brain the 90 seconds or so to run its course while you practice being fully aware of all that is happening. The more you practice, the less time it will take for your system to reset. Eventually things won’t progress much farther than buda-bing, meaning your thoughts. You’ll be master of busting anxiety and stress at the point of inception, transcending a negative thought instead of getting hooked by it. That’s the power of peace, which is the key to emotional, creative and practical intelligence.

One last word, and this is critical: To master the 90-second window, you will need to practice being quiet on the inside and to practice it often. The research shows significant benefit in doing this at least every two hours. Step away from your desk and find a secure place where you can give your mind and brain a moment’s rest. Imagine that the quiet you seek is already there, waiting for you to arrive. All you need to do is show up and relax into it by following your breath and letting go of your mind.  Taking this time with frequency builds the awareness that opens to the mental spaciousness that makes you larger than a stressful thought, a stressed-out person or bad news. It gradually reshapes and remodels your brain because, in the absence of toxic stress hormones, higher order brain circuitry expands and integrates with other networks, making your brilliant.