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.