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This Important Element In You Brain Decides If You’re A Leader Or A Follower

This Important Element In You Brain Decides If You’re A Leader Or A Follower

While we all have pre-conceived notions about what distinguishes leaders from followers, these are not necessarily accurate or based on any scientific fact. Much of this stems from a misunderstanding of how the human mind works, particularly in relation to our retention of information and cognitive thought processes.

If you have ever seen Janet Echelman’s famous artwork, you will see a visual representation of how the human brain works. These pieces rely on subtle intersections and independencies, through which single threads are combined to create an overall visage. Similarly, the average baby’s brain contains 100 million neurons, which are capable of constructing and weaving information patterns that become increasingly complex as cognitive skills develop.

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How Reflective Intelligence is Crucial in Leadership

The complexity of the human mind and the impact of environment means that concepts such as leadership and following are not fixed forever. Despite this, there is one central element in the brain which empowers leadership and leader qualities, and this the capacity for reflective intelligence. While human intelligence tends to be reflective in nature, natural leaders show a higher capacity for this and are therefore able to display far greater levels of foresight through their thoughts and actions.

Individuals who showcase high levels of reflective intelligence also have a greater survival instinct and a more innate ability to spontaneously tackle and solve problems, which are crucial leader qualities particularly in a professional environment.

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While the way in which reflective intelligence manifests itself in strong leadership is clear, however, how does it work within the human mind? Essentially, reflection is an ability of the brain to consciously manipulate the information that it is provide with, enabling us to process and rehearse options prior to taking action. In the example of positive and decisive problem solving, reflective intelligence allows us to recall and process relevant information that informs our actions, leading to quick and effective resolutions.

How to Nurture Reflective Intelligence in the Human Mind

We have already touched on how our roles as leaders and followers are not set in tone, and this is supported by the fact that we all boast some level of reflective intelligence. There are also exercises that can help to develop this skill, both in ourselves, our children and those around us.

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One of the first exercises is to provoke critical and creative thinking in the brain. Actively and deliberately engaging in critical thought and analysis encourages reflection, forcing you to detect the relationships that exist between objects, thoughts and actions (even those that appear to be entirely unrelated). By drawing on your knowledge and a store of information, you can challenge your thought processes before arriving at new, innovative and most importantly informed conclusions.

Leader Qualities can become second nature over time

Interestingly, you can also develop your own level of reflective intelligence by actively teaching your children and those around you. As a parent, for example, you can ask your child’s opinion on specific characters and their actions while reading them a story or watching a film. This not only sharpens your child’s level of reflective intelligence and empowers them as critical thinkers, but it also helps you to ensure that your leadership qualities quickly become second nature over time.

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This is the most important thing to remember, as while we all possess natural leadership skills to some degree or another there are certain mental elements that we can develop with practice. The reflective dimension of human intelligence offers an example of this, as this needs to be consciously cultivated and exercised if it is to be developed and realised over time. You will also find that those with true leadership qualities repeat learning activities on a regular basis, as their reflective intelligence grows and its manifestations quickly become second nature over time.

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Published on August 25, 2019

How to Find Your North Star

How to Find Your North Star

Most of us are familiar with the concept of a North Star–it’s the star  (currently Polaris) that helps travelers on their journeys… acting as a guide to keep them on track. And, I firmly believe that we all have our own individual North Stars as well, which act in a similar fashion.

When I talk about a North Star, I’m referring to a life purpose. If you don’t have one, you’ll be lost in life. But, if you do have one, you’ll have a guiding light that keeps you firmly on track for fulfillment and success.

A life purpose is exactly as it sounds: a purpose that drives your life. For example, think of a famous athlete or musician such as Michael Jordan or Ed Sheeran. People like this live to express their physical, mental and artistic abilities. They’re passionate, energetic — and they know what they want to achieve in life. In other words, they’re following their North Star.

So how about you? Have you discovered your life purpose? Or are you simply drifting aimlessly on an ocean of wishful thinking?

Why We Should Seek out and Embrace a North Star

American author Denis Waitley said:  “Winners are people with definite purpose in life.”

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In my experience, this is absolutely correct. Winners know what they want, and they have a plan on how to get it.

If you’re struggling to achieve the level of success and happiness that you’d like, then you may need to spend some time to find and embrace your North Star (see the next section for help with this).

What benefits will following your North Star give you? Well, first, you’ll develop an almost super-human ability to overcome and defeat obstacles that come your way. This is because, you’ll be fixated on your end goal and won’t allow small things to stop you from getting there.

Let me give you an example of this:

You’ve decided you want to learn electric guitar. You purchase the relevant equipment (guitar, amp, leads, picks, etc.), and you subscribe to an online guitar tutorial site. For the first few weeks, things go well, and you make solid progress. However, unexpectedly, you break the top string on your guitar while playing.

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If you were just casually dabbling with learning how to play guitar, then the hassle of purchasing a new string — and learning how to fit it on your guitar — could be enough to end your fledgling hobby. But, if you were set on being a proficient guitarist, perhaps even a professional musician, then you certainly wouldn’t allow this obstacle to stop you in your tracks. On the contrary, you’d most likely head off straight to your nearest music shop to pick up a few packs of replacement strings, watch a YouTube video on how to fit it, and then carry right on with your playing! And, the next time you break a string, you won’t miss a beat.

Can you see now how a North Star (or big goal) can give you incredible energy, drive and persistence?

It’s the difference between a care-free attitude and a must-do attitude. The former will cause you to drift through life; the latter will keep you firmly on track to reach your desired destination.

A North Star is really just a greater overall goal that will allow you to align smaller, achievable goals to it. For instance, if you want to become a school teacher, you’ll need to pass your grades to go to college, then pass your college exams, then gain the appropriate work experience — and then attempt to secure a job. Without completing each of these steps, you’ll never make it to the front of a classroom.

In other words, big goals only become manageable when we break them down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. If you attempted to join a professional basketball team, for example, but you’d never played before, you’d be laughed off the court. But, if you trained hard, found a great coach, and had a burning desire to make it — the right doors would probably open for you.

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Let me ask you a question: Do you currently feel a little lost or unsure about your future?

If you do, don’t worry. Once you start following your North Star, all the other stars will begin to align for you! You’ll be able to keep your mind on the bigger picture, and you’ll understand the best actions to take in life to realize your dream. And, when you do this, your confidence will inevitably grow, you’ll give your health a boost.[1] In a research-backed article by Psychological Science, it reveals that following a life purpose can even help you live longer.[2] You’ll also feel energized by your progress in pursuing goals that genuinely mean something to you.

5 Things That Can Help You Find Your North Star

So are you ready to discover your purpose?

If yes, then read on to find out five ways that will help you do this: 

1. Break free from mental limitations— You know what I mean, your inner voice that keeps telling you that you’re not good enough to do or achieve the things you dream of.

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2. Ask yourself these questions: What do you love to do? What activities set your soul on fire? If money was no object, how would you spend your time?

3. Think back to when you were a child — What things brought you immense satisfaction at that time? And, were there things you loved to do, but adults told you to forget about them? …perhaps a dream about becoming an actor, dancer or astronaut?

4. Spend time in contemplation — Dwell on the answers to the above questions for as long as you need. And, then wait for answers to come into your mind. This may take minutes, hours, days or even weeks.

5. Listen to that feeling deep in your bones — You’ll instinctively know when your life purpose has been revealed to you. It will feel right to you, and it’ll also excite you to begin taking action.

Finding your North Star is a crucial first step on your journey to success, but navigating your way to it is a whole different challenge. To help you with this, check out my recent article: Need a Breakthrough from the Limitations Holding you Back?

Featured photo credit: Heidi Sandstrom via unsplash.com

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