Your brain has an infinite amount of potential! It has the ability to create new neural pathways throughout your life. However after a certain age, our old or habitual ways become ingrained or hardwired within the brain, which is why change becomes difficult. It’s our brain’s natural way of being more efficient; it learns to hardwire behaviors so that we can go into “autopilot” mode to save energy.
A simple example of this is when we drive to work. How many times have you driven to work and not even remembered actually driving there? That is how our brain goes on autopilot. It knows exactly what to do without us consciously knowing how we’re doing it – the actions and behaviors of driving to work are hardwired.
Our brain also naturally makes thoughts habitual. For example, if you engage in negative self-talk, you will do it without consciously knowing it. This makes it easier for us to fall into the trap of making assumptions or reacting to things without thinking it through.
It is not a bad thing to have habitual behaviors or thoughts. After all, it’s our brain’s way of conserving energy for us. However, in order to grow our abilities and potential, we need to become more conscious of habitual behaviors and challenge them.
Try these three simple exercises to help you to increase the neural pathways in your brain:
1. Activate dormant areas of the brain
When dealing with a situation you have never dealt with before, it is easier to have someone tell you what to do. However, if you want to grow your pathways, it is more effective to come up with solutions yourself. This is because when we engage in solving problems ourselves, our brain is actually creating new neural pathways as we are working through the problem. Cool right?
One thing to consider is that it is not easy thinking up possible solutions to a scenario on your own. A sounding board or someone who is willing to challenge you and ask thought provoking questions helps you to think of more creative solutions. Partner up with a coworker you trust, a mentor, or hire an executive coach. It is important that you trust the individual you are working with in order to open up, as well as feel safe to explore every option possible.
Strengthening neural pathways is like strengthening muscles; you need repetition to build it. It is easier to automatically shift to habitual behaviors or thoughts because they is hardwired in our brains. It takes dedication and focus to continue to use new habits in order to strengthen those new budding neurological pathways.
Once again, partner up with a friend, mentor, or hire an executive coach. It is important that this is a person you trust, is impartial, and has your best interests in mind. Task this individual with reminding you to pause before reacting to a situation. Take some time to write out all the options you have on how you can respond and share them with your sounding board so that they can ask you questions to prompt further thinking and problem solving so that you come up with as many solutions as possible.
3. Mute the noise
By “noise” I’m referring to “chatter”, opinions, frustrations and venting from those around you. As a leader, it is difficult to go through the day without letting this type of noise affect you. After all, you care about the people in the organization, and whether your staff is satisfied and engaged. The last thing you want is your team to be upset or unhappy.
With that said, leaders need to find opportunities to block out noise, or address it head on. Think of it this way – if you are trying to get somewhere and the road is cluttered, you will have trouble getting to your destination. In the same way, noise and stress from your environment makes it more difficult to create and strengthen new ways of thinking. Once you minimize the noise or clutter, you will be able to invest more energy into strengthening those new pathways.
With your trusted sounding board, practice methods to mute the noise. Ask yourself:
What part of this noise is serving me?
What part of this noise is not serving me?
As you start to make associations and visualize possibilities, your brain will begin create pathways. And you will start to see that your potential to minimize conflict, avoid reactionary responses, and ability to address issues in a calm, rational manner will expand.
If you are seeking to increase your potential, I recommend that you work with an executive coach as they are highly skilled and trained in this area. Most people mistake that an executive coach is only for executives – not true! Anyone can take advantage of using an executive coach to heighten their career and personal success.
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Tasleem Jessani is an Executive Coach and the Founder of Rubiks Coaching, located in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. She has over 10 years of experience coaching leaders within several industry verticals such as insurance, financial, aerospace and education. Tasleem’s clients have seen accelerated results transforming their teams through mergers, acquisitions and various organizational changes. Learn more about Tasleem and Rubiks Coaching at www.rubikscoaching.com.
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