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Reprogram Your Brain, Change Your Life

Reprogram Your Brain, Change Your Life

Mental blocks. They’re referred to as limiting self-beliefs, negative anchors, and hereditary fears. They are the things that stop you from doing what you want to do, not because you don’t want to do them, but because you fool yourself into thinking you can’t.

Here are the first steps to reprogramming your brain and changing how you see the world.

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Rethink the Language You Use

The term “programming,” has been intentionally used. Language has a direct impact on your brain chemistry, which simply does as it’s told. Importantly, your brain has no option but to agree with what’s suggested if it’s offered no compelling alternatives, so when you tell it something is going to be hard, or huge, or impossible; it agrees. Through changing the terminology used, you can adjust your perceptions subconsciously, and in doing so adjust your brain chemistry ever so slightly, giving you an advantage over fear.
It’s hard to overcome fear, but easy to reprogram something.
Going for a long run on a hot day is difficult, but popping out for a jog is enjoyable.
If we make things large in our minds, they will become large in reality. Remember, your brain follows direct instruction, so offer it easier and more digestible presuppositions.

Teach Yourself That Life Is Good

You know that overwhelming feeling, when it seems like all you do in life is work? The tension in your chest that comes from feeling like you can’t escape, the headache that results from stress and the mysterious muscular pain that shouldn’t exist after sitting at a desk all week. Contrary to popular belief, stress doesn’t eventuate through hard work, but rather through not seeing any way out, or a light at the end of the tunnel. When you forget why you’re doing something, the relevance of it in relation to life diminishes – and you begin to question its validity, and then yours as the person completing it.

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“Why am I doing this?”

Through offering yourself a reward, you can put your brain in a more positive frame, thinking less about what needs to be done, and more about the end result. However, this can come with dire consequences, as anyone who’s been exposed to drug addiction, or alcoholism will attest to – make sure your reward creates a positive impact and doesn’t become your reason for doing everything. Addicts will look back fondly to their first years of substance abuse, the efforts they would put in at work, looking forward to that drink at the end of the day, before the drink became the only thing that mattered.

Discipline Yourself, and Your Mind

Most of us just think reactively, allowing in whatever images or comments that happen to be floating around. Through this, we are also reactive in our moods, which are dictated by our thoughts. It’s important to note that your experience of anything is simply an interpretation; it’s why one person can love an experience – skydiving for example – and how another can be terrified at the mere thought of it. Same experience, different interpretation.

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The same applies to daily living. We may choose to take other people’s behaviors or actions personally, and in doing so make ourselves angry, producing chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol, which were used by our ancient ancestors to prepare for battle, or retreat hurriedly from a predator, but serve little purpose when someone runs a red light in front of you.

Instead, depersonalize the event and treat it as an occurrence, rather than something that, “happened to you.” Realize that the world isn’t personally attacking you, and don’t allow feelings of self-pity or self-importance to cloud your judgment. You’ll experience an increase in the chemicals that produce happiness and inner peace, such as dopamine and serotonin, and most importantly, you’ll be able to handle stressful situations much more easily.

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Your brain is a computer, and when programmed with intention, it can reduce the impact of negative events, and encourage focused action towards the things you love.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Jasso via unsplash.com

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Rhys Knight

Head of Content at www.knight.global

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Published on July 29, 2020

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

How to Build Strategic Thinking Skills for Effective Leadership

Have you been thinking of how you can be a more strategic leader during these uncertain times? Has the pandemic thrown a wrench at all your carefully laid out plans and initiatives?

You’re not alone. The truth is, we all want some stability in our careers and teams during this disruptive pandemic.

However, this now requires a bit more effort than before and making the leap from merely surviving to thriving means buckling down to some serious strategic thinking and maintaining a determined mindset.

Is There a Way to Thrive Despite These Disruptions?

Essentially – yes, although you need to be willing to put in the work. Every leader wants to develop strategic thinking skills so that they can enhance overall team performance and boost their company’s success, but what exactly does it mean to be strategic in the context of the times we live in?

If you happen to be in a leadership position in your organization right now, you are most probably navigating precarious waters given the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There’s a lot more pressure than before because your actions and decisions will have a much greater impact these days not just on you, but also to the people who are part of your team.

Companies often bring me in to coach executives on strategic thinking and planning. And while pre-pandemic I would usually start by highlighting the advantages of strategic thinking, nowadays, I always begin these Zoom coaching sessions by driving home the point that this pandemic has now made strategic thinking not just an option but an absolute must.

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Assessing and making plans through the lens of a good strategy might require significant work at first. Nevertheless, you can take comfort in the fact that the rewards will far outweigh the effort, as you’ll soon see after following the 8 strategic steps I have outlined below.

8 Steps to Strategic Thinking

As events unfold during these strange times, you’re bound to feel wrong-footed every now and then. Being a leader during this pandemic means preparing for more change not just for you, but for your whole team as well.

As states and cities go through a cycle of lockdowns and reopening, employees will experience the full gamut of human emotions in dizzying speed, and you will often be called on to provide insight and stability to your team and workplace.

Strategic thinking is all about anticipation and preparation. Rather than expending your energy merely helping your company put out fires and survive, you can put the time to better use by charting out a solid plan that can protect and help you and your company thrive.

Take the following steps to build solid initiatives and roll out successful projects:

Step 1: Step Back, Then Set the Scope

One of the things that leaders get wrong during their first attempt at strategic thinking is expecting that it is just another item on a checklist. The truth is, you need to take a good, long look at the bigger picture before anything else. This means decisively prioritizing and stepping away from tasks that can be delegated to others. Free up your schedule so you can focus on this crucial task at hand.

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Then, proceed with setting the scope and the strategic goals of the project or initiative you plan to build or execute. Ask yourself the bigger question of why you need to embark on a particular project and when would be the right time to do so.

You need to set a timeline as well, anywhere from 6 months to 5 years. Keep in mind that your projections will deteriorate the further out you go as you make longer-term plans.

For this reason, add extra resources, flexibility, and resilience if you have a longer timeline. You should also be making the goals less specific if you’re charting it out for the longer term.

Step 2: Make a List of Experts

Make and keep a list of credible people who can contribute solid insight and feedback to your initiative. This could range from key stakeholders to industry experts, mentors, and even colleagues who previously planned and rolled out similar projects.

Reach out to the people on this list regularly while you work through the steps to bring diverse insight into your planning process. This way, you will be able to approach any problem from every angle.

Bringing key stakeholders into this initial process will also display your willingness to listen and empathize with their issues. In return, this will build trust and potentially pave the way for smoother buy-in down the line.

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Step 3: Anticipate the Future

After identifying your goals and gathering feedback, it’s time to consider what the future would look like if everything goes as you intuitively anticipate. Then, lay out the kind and amount of resources (money, time, social capital) that might be needed to keep this anticipated future running.

Step 4: Brainstorm on Potential Internal and External Problems

Next, think of how the future would look if you encountered unexpected problems internal and external to the business activity that seriously jeopardize your expected vision of the future. Write out what kind of potential problems you might encounter, including low-probability ones.

Assess the likelihood that you will run into each problem. To gauge, multiply the likelihood by the number of resources needed to address the problem. Try to convert the resources into money if possible so that you can have a single unit of measurement.

Then, think of what steps you can take to address these internal and external problems before they even happen. Write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Lastly, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different possible problems and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

Step 5: Identify Potential Opportunities, Internal and External

Imagine how your expected plan would look if unexpected opportunities came up. Most of these will be external but consider internal ones as well. Then, gauge the likelihood of each scenario and the number of resources you would need to take advantage of each opportunity. Convert the resources into money if possible.

Then, think of what steps you can take in advance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and write out how much you expect these steps might cost. Finally, add up all the extra resources that may be needed because of the different unexpected opportunities and all the steps you committed to taking to address them in advance.

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Step 6: Check for Cognitive Biases

Check for potential cognitive biases that are relevant to you personally or to the organization as a whole, and adjust the resources and plans to address such errors.[1] Make sure to at least check for loss aversion, status quo bias, confirmation bias, attentional bias, overconfidence, optimism bias, pessimism bias, and halo and horns effects.

Step 7: Account for Unknown Unknowns (Black Swans)

To have a more effective strategy, account for black swans as well. These are unknown unknowns -unpredictable events that have potentially severe consequences.

To account for these black swans, add 40 percent to the resources you anticipate. Also, consider ways to make your plans more flexible and secure than you intuitively feel is needed.

Step 8: Communicate and Take the Next Steps

Communicate the plan to your stakeholders, and give them a heads up about the additional resources needed. Then, take the next steps to address the unanticipated problems and take advantage of the opportunities you identified by improving your plans, as well as allocating and reserving resources.

Finally, take note that there will be cases when you’ll need to go back and forth these steps to make improvements, (a fix here, an improvement there) so be comfortable with revisiting your strategy and reaching out to your list of experts.

Conclusion

A great way to deal with feelings of uncertainty during this pandemic is to anticipate obstacles with a good plan – and a sure road to that is practicing strategic thinking.

In the coming months and years, you’ll need to continue navigating uncharted territory so that you can lead your team to safe waters. Regularly doing these 8 steps to strategic thinking will ensure that you can prepare for and adapt  to the coming changes with increasing clarity, perspective, and efficiency.[2]

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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