Let your brain work for you rather than against you
I may be a neuroscience nerd, but I think most people would agree when I say that the brain is a remarkable, fascinating organ. Our brain generates as many as 70,000 thoughts per day; it never stops learning, changing and rewiring itself; and my favorite fun fact – it produces enough electricity to power a lightbulb.
Yet our brains are so complex, they can also work against us. It’s important to understand how your brain works because whether you consciously realize it or not, you are neurologically wiring yourself – for better or worse – on a daily basis.
By looking at ways in which our brains are holding us back, we can begin to train our minds to break free from the mental barriers keeping us stuck.
When it comes to completing a project, our brains are wired to think about the big picture. This causes many people to feel overwhelmed, and less motivated as a result.
In a study conducted by Kenneth McGraw, participants were given a challenging puzzle to solve and had as much time as they needed to complete it. They were interrupted before finishing it and were told the study was finished. Even though the study had ended, nearly 90 percent of participants continued working on the puzzle anyway.
What does this show? When people commit to starting something, they are much more motivated to finish it. Since procrastination is the result of our brain’s tendency to focus on the most difficult parts of a task, we can beat it by knowing that simply starting the task will get us to the finish line the fastest.
Even as I sit here writing this article, my brain is simultaneously thinking about everything else I have to get done today. In this case, I can choose to keep going down the rabbit hole, or I can take back control and not allow my brain to hijack my thoughts. I choose the latter.
Fixating on the negative
Many of us spending more time dwelling on our insecurities instead of our strengths, and what’s not working in our lives rather than what is.
According to Clifford Nass, communications professor at Stanford University, negative feelings necessitate more thinking and processing than positive feelings.
In other words, the extra brain power that’s needed to process negative emotions means we spend more time dwelling on the bad stuff and less on the good.
While it’s human nature to focus on the negative, the good news is you have the power to reframe your perspective. Recognize the fact that you can be your own worst enemy and accept that no one judges you more than you judge yourself.
I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate what you see – the good, the bad, all of you. This will require some patience at first, but the more you do this, the more these positive thoughts will become ingrained in your mind.
Short attention span
Here’s a fun fact: the average attention span for a goldfish is nine seconds, and according to recent research, the average attention span for a person is eight seconds.
Yes, you read that right. Fish can focus better than we can.
This statistic should actually come as no surprise considering how inundated we are with technology. Our brains have adapted to the sensory overload of all our emails, social media notifications and being plugged in 24/7. Think about it: it’s virtually impossible to have a conversation with someone without hearing the bing! of one of your cell phones. Today’s digital culture essentially forces us to operate in multitasking mode.
It’s important to remember that technology is our tool, not our boss. We control the “off” switch. We need take the time to look up from our screens, to fill our senses with experiences, sights, and sounds and actual people. Be present in everything you do.
Remember, you – not your brain – are in the driver’s seat!