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Understand Your Brain to be Successful at Work

This article was based on episode 230 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


The most important resource in your office is not your people (although they are clearly essential). What matters more is their habits. For a long time, researchers believed 40% of what we do is habitual, but the truth is that newer research has shown it accounts for 98-100% of our self talk, personal beliefs, and actions taken. For our teams to succeed, they must be aware of their destructive habits and learn how to build new, helpful “Super Habits”.


Dr. Jon Finn joins me today to teach our teams how to become Chief Habit Mechanics. Just like a mechanic knows how to recognize what’s wrong with the inner workings of a car in order to fix it, we can become habit mechanics of our own brains. Jon founded the award-winning Tougher Minds consultancy and has worked in performance psychology, resilience, and leadership science for over 20 years. He wrote his best-selling book The Habit Mechanic to help people be their best in the challenging, modern world. Here, Jon explains what our brains really need and the introspective process of building healthy habits.


WHAT PAST SCIENCE GOT WRONG


There are many common neuroscience misconceptions that must be debunked in order to appreciate how our brains are wired for survival and what we truly need in order to thrive.


The Brain Stops Growing In Adulthood (WRONG!)

Neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain is always changing according to what we do, has revolutionized our understanding of how to succeed. Previously, neuroscientists believed that after you hit a certain age (around 25), your brain had reached its optimal functioning. Now we understand that the brain continues to develop throughout our entire lifetimes. Our brains build neural pathways according to what we concentrate on and practice. So if you start to worry a lot, your brain is going to strengthen its ability to worry. This is the power of habits.


We Expend Energy Physically (NOT THE WHOLE PICTURE!)

It’s easy to beat ourselves up when we’re procrastinating. It may feel helpful to know that procrastinating is our brains’ way of trying to take care of us. When a big, daunting task is looming, our brains anticipate the energy it will take and subtly tell us to conserve energy by slowing down. The next time you’re avoiding a project or feeling too tired to start something, remember to have some self-compassion. Start by breaking down the larger task into manageable chunks so it’s easier for your brain to take action.


Food, Shelter, and Safety are the Most Important Basic Needs (SORT OF!)

Our brains crave social acceptance in the same ways that they need food and water. Physically, the part of the brain that alerts us to thirst and hunger is also the part that tells us about social status. We’re hardwired to be concerned about what the important people in our lives think of us. Consider this need as you build company culture and team relationships.


HOW TO BUILD SUPER HABITS


Super habits are habits that are disproportionately impactful in a positive way. For example, when Jon writes a list at the end of his work day of three things he accomplished, he sleeps better at night. When he sleeps better at night, he is able to work better in the morning. Conversely, if Jon works too late, he eats late, which impacts his sleep and affects his next day. This is called a destructive habit which disproportionately impacts our lives negatively.


In order to determine your own super and destructive habits, begin with introspection. Start monitoring your behavior and thoughts throughout the day. Jon calls this process SWAP, or Self Watching Action Plan. When you discover a habit you want to work on, slowly build it up. Check in daily, weekly, and monthly to reflect on how your new habit is evolving. Teach your team what their brains really need and how to become their own Chief Habit Mechanics. Only through knowing how our brains work and what’s missing can we fix them and supercharge our lives for the better!


KEEP UP WITH DR. FINN

Website: https://www.tougherminds.co.uk/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/dr-jon-finn

Get a chance to win a free 12 month ‘At Your Best’ premium subscription membership. To learn more, access the free version of the app at tougherminds.co.uk/habit-mechanic-app/. Get this bonus and many more when you join the Modern Manager community.

This article was based on episode 230 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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