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  • Writer's pictureCarole Stizza

How do you keep your brain working FOR you when things go south?

4th quarter is here and if your numbers, bookings, sales, or activities feel lower than usual or change faster than you can keep up with - you are not alone.


Everyone seems to be holding their breath for a change in interest rates, news of decreased warfare and more peace around the globe, the end of several strikes on our own home front, and our political environment to feel more collaborative. I hear people ask one another often, “What is going on?!”


Becky was spinning, the bank wanted to renegotiate the new project loan, she was in the middle of hiring a new team of contractors and was worried this would affect how many she could hire, the calendar was full of meetings she hadn’t had time to assess if she even needed to attend, and her brilliant executive assistant just went on maternity leave. On top of that, two clients wanted to put projects on hold due to their own budgeting issues - obviously affecting her own budget, and the board meeting was already upset at the 4th quarter prospectus numbers. When we met, it took longer than normal to get her to simply breathe without panicking and talking in circles. How to help bring someone like Becky back into good thinking patterns is a part of my work that I cherish, because we are all different and yet our brains work in similar patterns of thinking.


Whether you are thinking in perpetual circles, ruminating on what you are trying to figure out without action, or simply becoming so overwhelmed with information, your brain shuts down and has a profound effect on how our brains choose to function every day. So how do you keep your brain working positively FOR you when things like this feel never-ending?


First, let’s get a better read on how the brain works.

Thanks to neuroscience, we now know that the brain has two networks with different functions that cannot be active at the same time. Technically, one is called The Task-Positive Network (TPN) while the other is called The Default Mode Network (DMN).


TPN is related to external, goal-oriented tasks requiring attention - like your To-Do list is used to solve problems and respond to requests (even ones you make of yourself).


DMN is associated with being introspective and thinking about ourselves and others. This network helps us to interpret emotions, listen to our bodies, create connections, and build relationships.


Here’s the funny thing - they both NEED each other to function at their best.


Unfortunately, our world generally values the TPN results more than the DMN because it is hard to see how someone is thinking or reflecting, whereas it is easier to see things getting crossed off a list of To-Dos. However, we can only create connections and build relationships when we are in DMN. Thus, if we spend all our time in TPN (or focused only on performance and results) the critical relationships, trust, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and collaboration needed will suffer.


Spending too much time in either denies our brains the ability to operate at peak performance.


To keep your brain working for you - even when things go south, feel hard, or you must wade through tons of information - take a few moments to reflect:


  • How often and when do you find yourself consumed with your to-do list and not making any time for thinking, reflecting, or evaluating what truly needs to happen more than anything else on the list?


  • Do you prefer to hang in TPN or DMN thinking and why?


  • Depending upon that answer, what might you be missing out on?


But how do you get quicker at taping into this type of thinking?


Here’s a tactic I recommend keeping handy. Given the caliber of achievers I work with, I know you will glance at your to-do list first and when you do, take a few moments to assess “What is going right?”


This feeds our accomplishment feelings as it pertains to that to-do list and re-organizes it as to what is most important to work on based upon what is going right.


Next, look at that list and ask yourself, ‘Where do I need to GROW next?” This will help you identify where you need to spend time reflecting, thinking, or creating relationships vital for the success of that growth.


There are a few more specifics in getting this to work for each person and I’m happy to chat if this is of interest to you and how you help your team get to their best mode of thinking. Do not hesitate to book a call to chat as I love helping others lead in the daily messes, especially when it gets you to results fast.


To learn more about how I aim to help future leaders achieve results faster, tap into our Leadership Challenge information.

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