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Why The More Often You Expose Yourself To The Unfamiliar, The More Your Brain Will Grow

Why The More Often You Expose Yourself To The Unfamiliar, The More Your Brain Will Grow

A new day starts and your brain is like a fully-charged battery- fully active- but as the day proceeds you become overloaded and drained because of streams of information. The world can be overstimulating with ongoing tweets, Facebook flashes, emails, radio, television, and attention-grabbing billboards. By the time the clock says that it’s time to go home you shuffle along like a zombie.

With this daily information influx, how can you develop and expand your ability to learn?

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Step out of the world through meditation.

Release your mind and let it wander away from task-related thoughts. By “letting go” you boost the capacity of your brain to retain information and to perform at a higher level. Breaking out of your regular routine and rigid structure inspires creativity and allows the brain to recharge.

“Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace.”- Lao Tse

Stress and tension from excess mental activity are released by meditating. Relaxing the mind and body is crucial to reaching a thoughtless state and for relaxation. Meditation decreases the overload of “noise” in the brain which has been shown to improve memory and scores on intelligence tests. It has many positive effects on memory such as regulating alpha rhythm brain wave[1] – crucial to reducing the volume of distracting information. According to research studies on mindful meditation, brain cells use waves or frequencies to regulate the flow of information like radio stations that broadcast at particular frequencies. The alpha rhythm is particularly active in the cells that process touch, sight, and sound in the brain’s outermost layer, called the cortex, where it helps to suppress irrelevant or distracting sensations and regulate the flow of sensory information between brain regions.

By allowing yourself to become fully immersed during meditation, the brain makes deeper connections and the ability to recall information is enhanced. Silence, or the sounds of nature, relax the mind. Watch your thoughts drift away and breathe away the tension.

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Get distracted!

There are times when you need good concentration. Those may just be the right times to take a drive or get away to the nearest coffee hangout. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, a slight level of distraction can sometimes be the perfect formula for creativity and heightened focus according to a study in a consumer research journal.  Humans are social creatures. Being in the vicinity of others (on the road or in a coffee shop) can be psychologically reassuring enough to allow better concentration than being solitary.

Advances in neuroscience have good news for all music lovers. Music activates every part of the brain.[2] Music is a universal healing tune that can uplift your mood,[3] motivate you, and even help you to concentrate.[4]

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Take on a challenge!

Get out your surfboard and take on the waves or go bungie jumping. If you are not ready for an adventure of that sort, there are other relatively simple challenges that can be done from the comfort of your couch. Challenging your brain can be as simple as thinking of names of famous people that begin with the same letter. Even a crossword puzzle or board game stimulates the brain. Research indicates that unlike being glued to a television set, surfing the web activates complex reasoning and decision making. While watching television is passive, the virtual world is interactive and boosts brain power.

Confirm that booking! Venture forth.

Boosting brain power comes from new experiences. Examples include learning a foreign language, learning how to play a music instrument, participating in community activities, and traveling. With the memories of unforgettable experiences, the benefits of travel endure.

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Neuroscience Professor Huganir described the brain as a circuit board where new experiences create brand new circuits.[5] Emotional peaks with electro-chemical connections causing heightened emotional states can facilitate memory and learning, so turn up those emotions as you step out of your rut and into the unfamiliar.

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Nena Tenacity

Nena is passionate about writing. She shares her everyday health and lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

Here Are 30+ Easy High Fibre Breakfast Ideas You Can Try At Home A Wholesome Diet Is What You Need to Gain Happiness: 30 Natural Low-Carb Foods 10 Best Healthy Snacks That Even Gym People Eat When They’re Hungry! Want A Quick Yet Healthy Breakfast? Avocado Toast Is Your New Breakfast Idea Want To Look Younger And Be Healthier? Acai Berry Is Your New Breakfast Idea!

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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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