The three brains in your head

Hello and welcome to the first article of my neuro blog. Since 2013, I have become increasingly interested in what neuroscience, the scientific, multi-disciplinary, study of the nervous system can teach us about the brain. My assumption was that understanding the brain would in turn illuminate my comprehension of the mind. The two are definitely "correlated" (I can’t escape my financial past!) but they are not the same. I expect I’ll return to that difference in future posts.

With this neuro blog, I mean to share some of what I’ve discovered about the brain and the insights about the mind which learning about the brain has made possible for me. Having an appreciation for how the brain works has helped me manage my thoughts – to cope with the less helpful ones, my emotions – to move away from the uncomfortable ones, and my behaviour – to choose more how I act.

Let’s start with a quick description of the brain (see insert). As I hinted in this post’s title, we have three brains in our head. From an evolutionary perspective, it starts with the brain stem – that’s the part of the brain which remains alive when you are ‘brain dead’. It manages ten autonomous functions, such as your heart beat, your breathing, your digestion (which starts with salivation), eye pupil dilatation, urination and… sexual arousal. This very old part of your brain is completely unconscious, completely inaccessible to you. But it reacts. It’s called the ‘lizard brain’ and consider what you know of lizards: when they’re afraid, what do they do? Flee, freeze? Sometimes a big lizard may fight back. This part of the brain is all instinctual.

The second brain – called the limbic system – we share with all fellow mammals on Earth and it is the seat of our emotions. It is also completely unconscious. Will you be surprised if I tell you that brain takes a lot of decisions? Anyone who has engaged in impulse buying will know what I mean.

Last but by no means least is the neocortex, that part of our brain where our consciousness lies (but that part is a very small component of the neocortex). This is where we reason, consider abstract concepts, refrain our impulses, make different kinds of decisions and engage in language.

So what? Most of what’s going in our brain is unconscious: as such, the thoughts we think are just the tip of the iceberg. Most of what we do is governed by unconscious processes which are completely inaccessible to us. We are not as much in control as we thought we were. We are ruled by what the neuroscientist David Eagleman calls "zombie systems". Do you find this thought sobering? I certainly did. But I also felt relief: appreciating that my behaviour was in large part the result of unconscious processes helped make sense of actions I didn’t always understand – such as: why are there days when I give in to my chocolate cravings or others where I easily ignore "the call of the chocolate"…?

If you’d like to tell me about your behaviour and/or your brain, you will find me at alexandra@coachingforinspiration.com. In the meantime, relax and let your brain look after you!

4 Steps to Optimal Performance

Going for GOLD™

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!) 

Hello and welcome to this new edition of Career Tips! We are now close to the midway point in 2015. Are you happy with your achievements at work? For those of you who have a midyear performance review coming up, are you comfortable with your achievements to-date?

Depending on how you answered this question, how about upping your game?

For that reason, I thought I would share with you a simple method to optimise your performance. Inspired by the 2012 Olympics, it is my hope that the GOLD™ method will both inspire you and provide you with pragmatic tips so you add value to your employer and you too get a gold medal for your performance in 2015!

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5 Tips to Help you Manage your Priorities in the Office

The Art of Getting the Right Things Done

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Welcome to the fourth edition of Career Tips in 2015! This is also the second installment of a three-part series on personal effectiveness. Last month, we looked at reasons why managingpersonal effectiveness your time might make sense and in fact could deliver for you benefits both at work and at home.

If you missed that article and would like to catch it, just click here.

Building on from such techniques such as the time log and the priority matrix, here are five tips to get you to more purposefully allocate your time in the office and raise your personal effectiveness:

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Where Does Your Day Go?

Good Things Come to Those Who Manage Their Time

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

 

For this third installment of Career Tips in 2015, let’s look at ways thanks to which you will be able to overcome the setbacks and slippages which are sure to come your way (we discussed those last month; if you missed the article, go there) and achieve the objectives you set yourself for this year.

Fundamental to goal attainment is your own personal effectiveness. This offering is the first of three on that theme.

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Coping with Difficulties to Achieve your Objectives

How to Get Back on the Horse

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Hello and welcome to Career Tips! Following on from last month’s article on goal-setting, I thought I would put forward an offering about goal achievement. We all know it: life is messy. In fact, life gets in the way. This article discusses how to manage the setbacks and slippages which are likely to happen as you progress towards achieving your objectives.

When I chat to people about their goals and ask them why they didn’t succeed, I hear again and again: "Things got in the way" or some variation on that theme.

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Top 5 Tips to Thrive in the New Year

Your 2015 Success Formula

Let me start this first article by wishing each and everyone among you as well as your loved ones a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year 2015! happy new year 2015For those of you who will prefer to watch the video, note that it was originally recorded in 2012 but, three years on, I trust you will find its content relevant to your challenges of today.

The start of a New Year is a time for resolution-making, goal-selection, objective-setting whether it is about personal issues or work matters. I personally use a method called ‘SMARTEY’ to ensure that I carefully articulate my objectives.

If you are curious about the ‘SMARTEY’ approach, click here.

 (click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

What I thought I would discuss with you today is a mindset for success. Was 2014 a bit of a roller coaster? If your work environment remains challenging and possibly volatile, how you manage your thoughts could make the difference between peace of mind and stress, achievement and drudgery, as well as, dare I say it, pleasure and pain.

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Keys to Maintaining Motivation – for You and your Team

Reflections on Motivation and How we May Lose it

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Welcome to the sixth edition of Career Tips in 2014. Earlier in the year, we talked about your work goals for 2014, we discussed your blind spots getting things doneand how they can prevent you from making the progress you seek against your professional objectives, we reviewed techniques for working efficiently and finally we explored identifying and therefore being in a position to better play to your strengths. We then took a break and I shared with you a webinar on career transition which I trust was informative. If you missed it, you can catch it up here.

Indeed, achieving goals – in a professional context: performance at work – is about the capacity to keep doing what is required in order to progress and eventually achieve your goals. We have discussed how your blind spots will obstaclesinterfere, just as lacking in personal effectiveness is also likely to slow you down, while being unaware of your strengths will mean more hard work than is strictly necessary. But what we haven’t yet discussed and that which underpins any achievement is motivation. It is therefore time for an article which unpacks the components of motivation and helps us understand how we get demotivated.

The articles on goals, strengths, blind spots, etc. are available here.
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5 Tips to Make Sure you Achieve what you Want

Optimise your Chances of Success by Identifying your Blind Spots

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

 

In the preceding article (click here), we talked about setting ourselves and our team goals which truly motivate. Goals which play to our skills, but which also make us feel blind spotempowered and autonomous, give us a lot of satisfaction and, for that reason, we are much more likely to keep at them, despite setbacks, until we reach them.

In this follow-up offering, I am turning my attention to blind spots. When it comes to goal achievement, life is likely to throw obstacles in our way. But it isn’t just the outside world which may interfere: we may also be holding ourselves back – without being aware that we are. This is what I mean by blind spots: things about ourselves that we don’t know or have forgotten about that are getting in the way of us realising our objectives. Let’s look at 5 ways to find those blind spots.
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Top 3 Tips to Set Goals which Motivate

A Fresh Look at Setting your Team’s Work Objectives

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)


In this first offering of 2014, I am returning to the topic of work objectives as many of you are likely to be or soon will be engaged objectivein considering your objectives at work for 2014 and then discussing them with your line manager. For those among you familiar with these Career Tips, you may recall that I have previously written about the subject of setting work goals. You may find some of these articles of interest and they are available by clicking here.

Beyond the well-known techniques to set objectives – such as the SMART acronym – and then to stay on track, achieving goals – whether at work or at home – is all about motivation. The motivation to get started but, even more importantly, to keep moving until the objective is achieved, despite setbacks and obstacles along the way. As such, as self-empowered individuals but alsomotivation as line managers responsible for delivery, we need to identify goals which motivate because those will stand the most chance of being achieved.
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3 Steps to Setting and Achieving your Goals in 2013

A Recipe to Keep your New Year’s Resolutions

(click below to view the video or read on if you’d prefer!)

Hello and a happy and prosperous 2013 to all! For many, January is the month of so-called "resolutions". And yet, I just read that one in four New resolutionsYear’s resolutions are broken in the first week, that is to say 7 days – at most – since they were made. Impressive! That is to say: impressively depressing!

So how can one do better and keep to more New Year’s resolutions in 2013 of course but also for the following years? Here is a small recipe with just three ingredients that will allow you to make the right New Year’s resolutions for you and to stick with them. I have been using it for years so I know it works!

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