Monthly Archives: May 2010

Who Is Most Likely To Succeed? The Profile Might Surprise You.

Every year at this time, the senior class votes for the person they think is most likely to succeed. Typically, it’s high academic achievers who win the honor. The fact is, it’s the boy or girl blessed with a dynamically peaceful and positive attitude who are more likely to succeed than someone headed for Harvard.

Why? A dynamically peaceful and vibrantly positive attitude immunizes us from stress, secures the mind–body connection for optimal health, lights up the neural networks that produce creative intelligence, and generates the brain structure and chemistry that can elevate talent to greatness. It’s a special attitude that catches all these birds with one net.

Neurologically, this dynamically peaceful human being wired for meaningful success stands shoulder to shoulder with an inherently fearful human being, wired for stress, overwhelm and chronic fight-or-flight. Our brain is home to both. Ultimately, which one we become is up to us. We choose between the two. How much brain power we actualize deepens almost entirely on the conscious choice to be at peace, which means the capacity to live life without fear.

There is a region of our brain — called the prefrontal cortex — that is home to the better angels of our nature. It is the foundation for everything we think of as a fully integrated and fully functioning person. A healthy prefrontal cortex produces the kind of human being we all what to be. It’s the same human being we wanted for a parent, a spouse and a boss. It’s also the adult we hope our children will grow up to become. In The Mindful Brain, Daniel Siegel, M,D. of the Mindsight Institute at UCLA, describes these better angels. There are nine in all.

Inside The Prefrontal Cortex
1. Attuned communication is achieved, enabling us to tune into another’s state of mind to establish interpersonal resonance.

2. Emotional balance is maintained, permitting us to become aroused enough so life feels vibrant and meaningful, but not so aroused that we become manic, chaotic, or overwhelmed with emotion.

3. Body regulation is controlled, coordinating and balancing the sympathetic (the accelerator) and parasympathetic (the brakes) branches of the autonomic nervous system. This allows us to energetically engage or calmly disengage from situations in the most appropriate manner.

4. Response flexibility is reached, which is the opposite of a knee-jerk reaction. This capacity enables us to pause before acting. It inhibits rash impulses, giving us enough time before we act to remember our intention and use it to make the best possible response.

5. Empathy is invoked, allowing us to consider the mental perspective of another person: to see, feel, and understand a situation from someone else’s point of view.

6. Insight is acquired through input and output fibers to parts of the brain that produce representations of autobiographical memories with emotional texture, linking past, present, and future to produce the perspective we call wisdom.

7. Fear-related behavior is attenuated through the stimulation of inhibitory GABAA receptors, reversing the fear conditioning that drives chronic stress.

8. Intuition is generated through information from the neural networks surrounding our intestines and our heart, enabling a flow of information, intelligence, and creativity that becomes the joy of excelling.

9. Morality is established, fostering the capacity to transcend a limited self-interest and think for the larger good.

Each of these functions expresses an attribute of inner peace. The neural integration of all these functions translates into a highly successful, intrinscially rewarding life, at nearly every level that matters. These nine qualities are actually neurological domains that are part of the operating system we were born with. They do not need to be drilled into us. They can be trusted to emerge naturally as we remove the condition that blocks their full expression. That condition is fear. The stress hormones that fear produces are neurotoxic to the prefrontal cortex. How much brain power we actualize depends almost entirely on the conscious choice to be at peace, which, in the most fundamental sense, means to live our life without fear.

I have provided a number of tools in this blog site that help transcend fear and the stress it generates. Scan through the entries and find one that suits you. A little practice can produce a big result.

The Power to Move Mountains

All of the great spiritual masters see the same enormous capacity in each and every one of us. The Buddha says that your mind is naturally illuminated. Jesus says you are the light of the world. Muhammad says heaven is nearer to any of you than the strap of your shoe.

All the sages tell us that if you read between the lines of the story that anxiety and stress script, you begin to discern the voice of sanity called peace, quieting, focusing and unifying your mind. They point to peace as the foundation from which a natural state of joy arises to express and extend the creative force in you that can achieve anything.

They say behind all the conditions of poor health, broken hearts and personal failure there is a power inside that can move mountains on the outside, regardless of circumstances,

So why isn’t this our usual experience? What happened?

Fear is what happened.

“Our deepest fear,” states Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love, “is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

The Trappist monk Thomas Merton echoes that sentiment: “Perhaps I am stronger than I think,” he wrote. “Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak. . . . Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me.”

“Is a candle meant to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not to be set on a candlestick?” Jesus asked. Of course, we all know the answer. So what’s the problem?

I think most of us would say that our inner candle is under a bushel. The question is: How do you return the candle of your powerful nature to the candlestick of your life on earth, so your light can shine on this ordinary day and transform it into something extraordinary?

Mercifully, it’s simpler than you might imagine. Your powerful nature can come back on line in a heartbeat. It’s rather miraculous that way. All you need to do is make peace the most important thing in the world. Choose peace until it flows into everything you do.

Human culture tends to wire most people’s brains for stress and fear and these demons undermine your powerful nature. Thus the first step is to rewire your brain. How? Again, by practicing being at peace, every day, all day long. Peace is the key. We mistake peace for complacency but, in actual fact, peace is incredibly dynamic. Peace as an attitude is neuroplastic, meaning it can rewire your brain to transcend stress and anxiety and generate the sanity that knows how to reclaim and lead from your powerful nature.

A Five-Second Drill That Turns On The Light

Here is a five-second drill you can do a few times a day to get you started:

  • Let everything go: All your problems, all your needs, all your dissatisfaction.
  • Casually relax into the quiet of your mind, freed of worry and complaint, and allow a feeling of peace to gently emerge.
  • Now imagine your mind becoming one with a Higher Power that possesses perfect intelligence.
  • Imagine sensing that this Higher Power holds you in the highest regard.
  • Allow yourself to be with this experience for 5 seconds or more, if you like.
  • Feel this perfect intelligence quieting, focusing and illuminateing your mind.

Close this exercise by valuing as golden whatever glimpse of illumination you received and allow the experience to encourage you to come back for more.

You can follow-up by practicing the four steps I have outline in Four Steps To the Good Life.