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!
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)
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!
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.
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).
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!
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