We have different degrees of happiness and different kinds of suffering. Material objects give rise to physical happiness while spiritual development gives rise to mental happiness. Since we experience both physical and mental happiness, we need both material and spiritual development. This is why, for our own good and that of society we need to balance material progress with inner development. ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Do you recognize the inner demons (such as your fear, self limiting beliefs etc.) obstructing your journey to your happiness and success? Listen to my radio show on Saturday April 7th at 8PM CDT and learn a 5 step (Chod) process to fighting those demons.
If you have listened to my radio showlast Saturday on March 31st you probably heard my guest Dr. Ed Moloney talk about the importance and power of positive thinking. Most modern Management gurus would all acknowledge that people perform better when they are feeling positive. So, as leaders we naturally want our teams and organizations to be positive environments. However, most leaders are not aware of the factors that influence the positivity of environments. We think we are controlling environments when we monitor what is said and done, but experimentation tells us that thoughts themselves become pervasive and set the tone in an environment.
It is commonly acknowledged that positive environments are conducive to higher performance. Among other things, positivity in an environment helps people think more clearly and doesn’t waste the energy that negative emotions demand. Conventionally, we get people to feel more positive by taking action such as showing appreciation for their work or inspiring them to be of service to customers. Now we see there are other factors that must be considered in creating a positive environment.
First, we must become more careful with our own thoughts. Consider what the impact we will have on an employee or group when we harbor fears of them failing, or when we allow our minds to be overrun with anxiety. We may think there is no harm in our thoughts, as long as we control what we say and do, but remember that the episode from the movie Apollo 13 tells us otherwise. In that movie, the Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris) says two powerful things: “Failure is NOT an Option
.” And “I will not allow that [negative] thought to exist in this space” (even if it was only a thought by a crew member!)
We also must become more attentive to the thoughts that are pervasive in our organizations. We need to detect and control the thought energy of our organizations as diligently as we measure and control the performance outcomes. This has implications to the criteria we use for hiring and promoting, as well as the priorities we choose to address.
We have all experienced negative people who can be among our best performers. We generally tolerate their negativity until and unless they say or do something that are harmful to the group. However, now we see that their mere presence has a detrimental impact to the organization.
In general, this knowledge demands that we become more cognizant of group energy, including how it is generated and its impact on performance. Most leaders are currently unaware that thoughts alone can become pervasive and affect the entire organization, either positively or negatively.
Coming back to the original topic of positive thinking, we would all generally agree that thinking positively is a good thing; especially, when we are feeling positive.
But, what about when things go crappy? What about those days when you are so stressed the veins pop out of your forehead? When you hate your job — or you have lost it? What about those days when you are sucker-punched by a series of unfortunate events that makes the life of Job look like a garden party?
Here is the secret that is not really a secret. It’s revolutionary, exciting science.
Positive thinking really does change your brain. Not in some magical, woo-woo kind of way, but in a real physical way.
The science is called Neuroplasticity. It means that our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains. The idea was first introduced by William James in 1890, but it was not accepted by many who uniformly believed the brain is rigidly mapped out, with certain parts of the brain controlling certain functions. If that part is dead or damaged, the function is altered or lost. Well, it appears they were wrong.
Neuroplasticity now enjoys wide acceptance as scientists are proving the brain is endlessly adaptable and dynamic.
It has the power to change its own structure, even for those with the severe neurological afflictions. People with problems like strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. It is completely life-altering.
So what does this have to do with positive thinking and with you?
It means that repetitive positive thought and positive activity can rewire your brain and strengthen brain areas that stimulate positive feelings.
In his widely-acclaimed book, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Norman Doidge M.D. states plainly that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself and/or form new neural pathways — if we do the work. Just like exercise, the work requires repetition and activity to reinforce new learning.
Here are some actions you can take to change your own brain during the bad times.
Everyone fears doing something new because we don’t want to fail. The truth is, we can do most anything if we take action, stop negative thinking, and shift our perceptions of the truth about our abilities.
Action steps: Force yourself to stop thinking about reasons you can’t do something, even if you don’t feel brave or capable. Every time a negative thought creeps in, retrain your brain to think a positive thought about your abilities instead. Then take small actions every day toward achieving your goal or desired change. Nike’s slogan, “Just do it,” has real validity.
Have you ever found yourself trapped in obsessive over-thinking about a problem or in a state of anxiety or worry that lasts for days or even weeks? It drains your energy, affects your sleep, and spirals your mood and outlook on life. Focusing on your problem only strengthens the worry function in your brain.
Action steps: When you find yourself in that cycle of worry or compulsive thinking, remember the three R’s — rename, re-frame, and redirect. When the worry begins, mentally yell “Stop!” Rename the issue by reminding yourself that worry isn’t real. Rename it as a compulsive reaction, not reality. Re-frame your thinking by focusing on positive or distracting thoughts, even if you still feel anxious. Force yourself to think different thoughts. Redirect your actions. Go do something uplifting, fun or mentally engaging. The key is following these steps repeatedly, every time you worry obsessively, to break the pattern and rewire your brain.
Sometimes we might feel blue or out-of-sorts, and it’s just a temporary fog that settles in and lifts after a few days. Some mood disorders, like depression or serious anxieties that morph into phobias, can be debilitating and unrelenting. Psychologists and therapists have used treatments based on Neuroplasticity to get to the cognitive root of these disorders and put a patient’s life back on track.
Action steps: A serious mood disorder or phobia requires the help of a trained counselor. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and feelings. If you suffer from severe anxiety or depression, you need someone skilled to help you get to the root of these thoughts and to show you how to change them. Ask them about CBT.
Scientists are now looking at Neuroplasticity to approach a wide variety of cognitive problems and disorders including:
Auditory processing problems
Autism and hypersensitivity
Cognitive problems after brain surgery
Depression and anxiety
Issues related to love and sex
Learning disorders and reading problems
Loss of senses — vision, balance and hearing
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Stroke and brain injury recovery
The aging brain and memory
In his book, Dr. Doidge chronicles amazing case histories of patients whose astonishing progress had previously been dismissed as hopeless. Through the applications of this science, we all have the ability to be happier and more positive, raise our IQ’s, rejuvenate aging brains, and learn new skills with ease.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.