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Entrepreneurial Success Starts With Training Your Brain

Entrepreneurial Success Starts With Training Your Brain

Have you ever read about the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur and wondered if you really have it in you to be one? On a bad day, many of us fall prey to self-doubt. The good news is that even if we fall short of certain qualities, it’s not the end of the world! Science tells us that we have the ability to turn ourselves into the people we want to be thanks to the wonderful phenomenon called neuroplasticity!

In fact, our brains can be thought of as malleable plastic — they are constantly being changed by our day-to-day experiences. In scientific terms, neuroplasticity refers to the “rewiring” of the neurons that process and transmit information in the brain, and the alterations that occur at synapses (the gaps between neurons that allow for information to be transmitted between them).

When it comes to neuroplasticity, one of the key things to keep in mind is that neural pathways (paths that connect different areas of the brain and nervous system) can not only be created at will, but can also be eliminated. Every time we learn something new or have a novel idea, a new pathway is created. The more we use this pathway (through practice and repetition), the firmer and more ingrained it becomes; likewise, the less we use it, the weaker it becomes, until it is eventually forgotten.

Neuroplasticity is important because it shows:

1. It’s hard to change a mindset and its accompanying habits, but it’s possible: think of your brain as host to countless nerve battles. Studies have shown that it is actually more difficult to unlearn a bad habit than it is to learn a new one — this is called competitive plasticity. The more we repeat a bad habit, the more control it has over a brain map; so naturally, old bad habits have a competitive edge over our new ones; the important thing is to keep going — your new habits will eventually win the battles!

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2. You always have the power to change yourself: No matter how old you are, deliberate practice, as well as rest and maintenance, can result in successful neuroplasticity. So if you think you can’t change the way you think, you are the only one standing in your way.

Do successful entrepreneurs think differently?

So our brains can be trained, but is there one specific entrepreneurial mindset that we need to aim for in order to become successful? While there isn’t one specific key to success, studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs do tend to have some cognitive processes in common.

1. An ambidextrous mind

An ambidextrous mind is one that is able to strategically go back and forth between two problem-solving strategies:

1. exploration (this is a creative approach in which your mind explores innovative new solutions/alternatives to problems)

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2. exploitation (this is a more logical approach in which your mind uses existing information in the most efficient way possible).

Research conducted by a team of MIT researchers suggests that being a successful entrepreneur doesn’t simply mean having the ability to switch between strategies, but also knowing the most optimal time to do so — it’s all in the timing!

2. The ability to embrace change and challenges

The brain scans of 30 entrepreneurs were compared to those of 30 non-entrepreneurs while they carried out various activities. It was evident in the study that when it came to rapid problem-solving, timely risk assessment, embracing challenges and seizing opportunities, successful entrepreneurs could be counted on to come first in a series of tasks.

Both of the above two points rely heavily on a person’s mindset. Want to have the mindset of a successful entrepreneur? You’ve got to work for it!

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Become the architect of your brain

In order to build up our physical muscles, we train them through a variety of physical exercises — we shouldn’t treat the brain any differently! Training the brain with mental exercises will help your neurons to develop stronger connections, and will prepare your brain to accept new connections a lot easier. Below are three ways that you can get started on training your brain for success.

1. Brain training games

There are hundreds of different games available that allow you to work on important brain functions such as memory; you can improve your intelligence while actually having fun! Lumosity is one such tool that encompasses a variety of games and activities for different aims and objectives; Brain Metrix is another.

2. Awareness

You have around 60 000 thoughts bombarding your mind every day, and you need to be aware of the ones that limit you. You need to be aware of your thoughts, (which collectively means your mindset) and catch the ones that are not aligned with your goals and then, replace it with one that is. YES, you will need to do this over and over again, but eventually, the new will become the old.

3. Mindset reinforcing tools

Consistently reinforcing your desired behavior and beliefs is crucial if they’re ever to become second nature to you. Repeating the thoughts you want to have and using tools that allow for subliminal messages of your choice to appear on your computer screen, for example, will allow you to work on making the necessary changes to your subconscious mind (the power of which should not be underestimated).

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4. Rest and sleep

In his studies of neuroplasticity, Norman Doidge observed the “Monday effect.” He noticed that the plasticity mechanisms being used by the participants on Mondays versus Fridays were markedly different. While the changes on Friday had more to do with strengthening neuron pathways, the changes on Monday had more do with the formation of new ones that took longer to form, but were more permanent.

Put simply, having a well-rested brain won’t necessarily help you learn things quicker, but it will help you make more permanent changes! Getting enough sleep, meditating and not being too hard on yourself can make a huge difference.

When it comes to neuroplasticity, learning how to keep going is key. Find the right techniques for you, keep at them and you’re eventually going to see results — science is on your side!

Featured photo credit: http://getrefe.tumblr.com/ via 66.media.tumblr.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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