How we really make decisions

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog!

Are you enjoying the summer? I’m writing from the South of France and it’s just blissful!

Today, I’d like to address decision-making. Remember that I posited in an early post that "there is no thinking which is not emotional which in turn implies that our decisions and behaviours are rooted in emotion with any rationale therefore representing only an ex-post rationalization" (for more, see what your brain is for). Let’s unpack this statement a bit more, shall we? In that post, I presented a simplified model of the brain whereby any stimulus is first processed by the limbic/emotional system. Let me add here that another key organising principle of the brain is ‘association’. [Read more…]

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Really learning (part 3): meaning and chunking

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog!

In this third – and final – blog on the topic of facilitating learning, let me build on the positive implications of harnessing emotion and of maximising attention and engage you on the themes of meaning generation and chunking. At this stage of the game, I have posited that we can support others’ learning by associating it with positive emotions (check out emotions help us learn) as well as by varying our delivery in order to keep our audience’s attention (read learning and attention).

I want to further propose that learning – the process of memorising new information and then of recalling it at will – is also helped by meaning. When discussing the impact of emotions on learning in my April blog, I mentioned anticipation as one of the positive emotions which can facilitate learning. And indeed, when we look forward to learning, we have a sense that this pending new information will add to our existing body of knowledge. It will complete it and we will feel the richer for it. We look forward to learning and to feeling good about it.

[Read more…]

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Really learning (part 2): back to attention

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog!

For those of you who teach, did you think that leveraging emotions was a good idea? If so, how did you practically do so? For those among you keen learners, did you agree that emotions facilitate both the processing and later the recall of new knowledge, as I proposed in my April post?

In this month’s article, I am continuing to look at how we learn and some of the brain processes associated with that activity. I want to return to attention (I hear some of you moaning "oh noooo….). In a future post, I propose to engage you around the notions of meaning and chunking.

As such, in addition to the opinion that we best learn when the new knowledge is associated with a positive emotion, I also hold the view that we best learn when we are able to pay as-close-to undivided attention while being taught. But that is a tall order – judging only by the masse of self-help books which expound on techniques for captivating and retaining an audience’s attention. [Read more…]

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Really learning: the role of emotions

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog!

What did you think of my suggestion back in April to leverage language to influence how you feel? Did you tell yourself you ‘only’ felt your negative emotions – to hasten their passing? – and that you were your positive emotions – to encourage them to linger a bit?

This month, I am sticking to emotions and my focus is on how they can help us learn. I am curious by nature but I noticed I wasn’t always retaining new learning even when I had found it interesting. As a coach and facilitator, I am keen that my clients be able to not just have those great insights but to return to them and thus plan their behavioural change. [Read more…]

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Emotions, language and who we choose to be

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog! And I promise, no more about paying attention! I appreciate that four articles – fascinating though they were, weren’t they? – on that topic is enough. But before we move on, wasn’t it interesting to see how neuroscience – and notably understanding how our brains process stimuli, including social cues – can validate what we have empirically known for a while? That is to say 1) that our perception of reality is strictly individual, 2) that, as a result, disparity of view (and consequently disagreement and potentially conflict) is in fact the norm, 3) that cultivating self-awareness will make us less upsettable (a word invented by the renowned psychologist and caustic writer Albert Ellis), and 4) that we must therefore challenge our views and seek to broaden our horizons by a) asking open and [Read more…]

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Paying attention and happiness (part 4) – active listening

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog! Last month, we discussed other-awareness and landed on the notion that disagreement – about beliefs, values and behaviours – is more likely to be the norm. I advocated tolerance but also proposed that you put on a metaphorical Detective Columbo’s raincoat (no need for the cigar nor the dishevelled look) and go look for the other’s person’s inner landscape, asking open questions to give them the freedom to respond as they wish, and thereby letting a new reality emerge – theirs. [Read more…]

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Paying attention and happiness (part 3) – other-awareness

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog! Last month, we discussed how paying attention to yourself – self-awareness – can benefit you in terms of enhancing your emotional intelligence but also bolstering your resilience and adaptability. In addition to making emotional self-management smoother, I have noticed in folks gaining in and practicing self-awareness a quietening of the mind, a stronger sense of self, greater acceptance of life’s daily irritants and a lesser reactivity overall. A third benefit I have noticed from paying attention to oneself is that it also boosts motivation, increasing self-determination and therefore improving one’s goal achievement prospects.

Let me now invite you to look at the other side of the coin: other-awareness. [Read more…]

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Paying attention and happiness (part 2) – self-awareness

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog! And of course: best wishes for happy 2018!
 
In last month’s blog, we discussed the fact that voluntary attention – what we consciously focus on – is the instrument thanks to which we can shape our reality – rather than it being just the result of an interpretative process based on our unique life experiences. Really paying attention is the means through which we can expand our horizons: by consciously choosing what we attend to, we challenge our ‘newspaper syndrome’ (for a refresher, see http://coachingforinspiration.com/my-brain-the-newspaper/).

Paying better attention as well as more frequently, thereby refusing to accept the limited reality which is presented to us, is worth our while because otherwise "[w]e can’t study, listen, converse with others, work, play, or even sleep well" (see Allan Wallace’s book ‘The Attention Revolution’, 2006). Apart from the obvious discomfort which must ensue from such fundamental dysfunctions, what is really at stake is our happiness. Lacking the capacity to focus robs us of choice and leaves us vulnerable to the myriad stimuli in and out there, waiting to turn us into weathercocks.
[Read more…]

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Paying attention: the secret to happiness (part 1)

Hello and welcome to this month’s neuro blog! Let’s see: where have we got to? Three articles in, we know about the three parts of the human brain (see: http://coachingforinspiration.com/three-brains/) and the dominance of the unconscious. We also know that one of the main purposes of the human brain is sense-making (see: http://coachingforinspiration.com/brain-is-for/).

In last month’s article, we discussed the fact that because ours is only an edited reality which is the result of an interpretative process based on our unique life experiences, it is as though we each read only our own individual newspaper and perceive reality through a filter we are mostly unaware of. Indeed, we don’t get to choose our newspaper, we cannot read any other one and everyone else reads a different one – from mine, yours and each other’s.

It is a wonder that we agree on anything!
[Read more…]

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Imagine reading just one newspaper – for the rest of your life

Hello and welcome to the third article of my neuro blog. In the first one, I described the three parts of the human brain (see image to the left for a reminder of the triune brain), notably the importance of the unconscious. In the second article, I suggested that one of the main purposes of the human brain is sense-making (see second photo below).

The diagram describing how the brain processes stimuli – whether internal or external – highlights that nothing is experienced directly. There are a number of implications therefrom but today let me discuss communication. [Read more…]

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