Here’s the picture of me as a child. I had a dream. I wanted to be on stage and dance.
And when I was in my thirties I thought that I was grown up enough to start my ballet school. Then I also decided that I could dance in my forties.
I remember one lesson. We had to learn a choreography which seemed endless and I thought: “How on earth I can remember all this.. ?”
It felt so difficult I couldn’t even try to remember it and I told to myself:
“Don´ t think - Just do it!”
And a miracle happened: I could remember the most of it.
And.. When I was close to my forties my dancing looked like this.. ;)
Most people think that when you want to do something extraordinary you just have to work hard. Work is inevitable and actually you should work so hard that people around you are pissed off because everything seems so easy for you.
But what if work is not enough?
Maybe it´s not so simple because today we know more about the function of our brain. I think that developing mental toughness can improve your performance in every area.
It´s quite common that at some point in your process it feels like things get into chaos. And sometimes you don’t know how to proceed. When this happens I think the best thing you can do is to give your brain a break. So you don’t think, you do nothing or do something else and let your subconscious part of the brain process. When you quiet down your mind like this it becomes neutral and you find the answer!
Have you ever thought in which situation you get your best ideas?
It seems that they usually come when you least expect. But.. Mostly people get their best ideas when they are relaxing a bit and when their brain activity alters. As Seth Godin says: “There is no writer ́s block!” You can be creative whenever you want.
I read that Thomas Edison worked long hours.. But it seems that also he had other ways to solve problems. He´s known as a powernapper.
“Being busy does not always mean real work.” - Edison -
QUIETING DOWN THE MIND
My experience of learning this choreography was the first time I consciously tried to quiet down my mind. My mind was blank, empty and it made me to concentrate without thinking whether I can or cannot. And that’s why I could do it.
When I “accidentally” found this empty mind I’ve been using it since to eliminate my doubts and disbelieving thoughts. I’ve been more daring and it has made my dreams come true in many ways. I even worked as a dancer in a theatre.
CONCEPTS called NEUTRAL MIND, NEGATIVE MIND and POSITIVE MIND
It was quite interesting to find out that in yogic world they have these concepts called NEUTRAL MIND, positive mind and negative mind. This neutral mind sounded similar to my experience.
Positive mind is positive. It could think: “ Yes! I´ m gonna do it! And everything´s gonna be okey!” It keep us going and doing beautiful things. It can be very inspirational but it can also prevent us from seeing when something must be corrected.
Negative mind is negative. It could think: No! “It´s not possible. And it´s better that I wont´t even try!” It protects us but it can prevents us from seeing all the possibilities that exist in our way.
Neutral mind is like a scale. It balances and weighs the information being made by negative and positive emotions.
Do you ever think that you could think better? Thinking is the skill which doesn’t always get better by thinking. To improve your critical thinking you should try to maintain your neutral mind. It helps you to see things from a different perspective and it´ s possible to make better, honest decisions.
Problem solving, creativity, critical thinking and decision making are the top skills also mentioned in Future of jobs Report by World Economic Forum.
And we can develop our neutral mind simply.. By our attention.
ATTENTION & CONCENTRATION
When you learn to keep your attention long enough in whatever you want this attention activates your prefrontal cortex. It connects to your amygdala and it shuts down its reaction which is the basis of our emotions and stress. Have you noticed that focused action sometimes fades out the fear? It´s natural.
Neutral mind means this: There’s less disturbing emotions. And neutral mind also reduces stress.
And there´s more: This attention changes our brain so that we also develop excellent concentration. I don ́ t know any processes which we couldn’t make better with that.
And it´s vital to understand that multitasking does the opposite. Because your attention shatters, your brain gets alert and your concentration falls to peaces you’ll get worse.
AMYGDALA REACTS - THIS IS OUR LIFE TODAY
You should know that our amygdala reacts to every challenge as well as to every opportunity in our life. And if we aren’t aware of this it wants to keep us alive almost at any cost. And I’m sorry to say this but this is our life today.. Too much multitasking and too many things trying to capture our attention all the time. Less sleep and too much work without breaks. And this constant reacting results in the opposite to all the benefits that even short breaks can do. You’ll get cautious to act. You make bad decisions based on poor thinking and poor concentration. You lack of creativity. You’ll get unhappy, angry and exhausted. And eventually your productivity decreases.
And it´s possible that your body degenerates, you´ll get in poor health or you can end up sudden death before you can enjoy your success.
How many of you have missed the break because you didn’t have the time?
This defensive survival reaction in you and your emotions create beliefs which create your values and your purpose for this life. If you don’t have time for breaks your life is just surviving.
Could there be any other reason to do things?
I think it´s time to study our emotions.
Because it´s our emotions which usually make us do things. Or do you trust reason or common sense?
It might be surprising that by studies also reason is emotional. Because it´s very difficult to make even simple decision such as what to eat without your emotions.
Do you know how your emotions are made?
This is the question I asked many times before. I wanted to find the answer because my emotions have urged me to do many things but sometimes they have also put me heavily down. In 2015 neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux finally gave me the answer.
It goes like this:
First your sensory system detects some object or event. You don’t have to be aware of this (stimulus) but your amygdala reacts. And as I said before it´s the same brain area that wakes up also defence reaction which is the basis of stress.
This activity in your brain wakes up your body. For example: your breathing and your heartbeat become faster and your muscles tighten up. Have you noticed this when you start to feel anxious? It´s possible that you haven’t. You can also react by behaving.
When all this gets your attention you make an INTERPRETATION based on your memories and the current situation and you can feel emotion. But because it ´s an interpretation your judgement might not be absolutely true or your behaviour might not be the best solution. That’s why it´ s good to know our emotions and understand where they come from.
WHAT ABOUT INTUITION
Many successful people use intuition. It has been studied that the more experienced we are the more we use it. Intuition is like a flash or a subtle sense you notice for example when you have to decide between two options.
I think intuition might be the body response feedback before your conscious mind has time to create the actual feeling. Because of this it´s fast and much more clear. The processing of your subconscious mind is so much better. If you want to use it you need to become more aware of the sensations in your body.
Today we probably know that we have to exercise for our health but it´s even better if you won’t just exercise but like best athletes be aware of your body and motion. Be motion.
And then there is this ATTENTION again.
KNOW THE SECRET
I tell you a secret. We can call neutral mind also meditative mind. Meditation usually means that you try to keep your attention on a thing. In mindfulness meditation we can observe for example our breathing, our body or our emotions.
But we can also be mindful in every task we do and with every people we meet. If you give them your full attention every people can be your meditation.
One more thing we can gain by quieting our mind is empathy especially if we practice compassion. And that’s what we definitely need if we want to become good leaders.
Emotional intelligence is also the top skill we need in the future.
And it ́s interesting that when we practise compassion our brain alters and we will also increase our own happiness.
I think success doesn’t mean reaching our goals at any cost. I think it means doing inspirational things with people we respect and even love.
Richard J. Davidson said:
“Our brain seems primed to learn love.”
When it comes to success most people are still chased by the old surviving mechanism in their brain but giving breaks to our brain can also lead us all to better purpose.
Need to learn more about these things?
Contact me! In english or in finnish :)