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Brady Wilson

Beyond Engagement Brain ScienceI love triathlons: the churn of bodies in the swim, the crazy thrill of cycling down a hill, and the gritty challenge of getting off your bike and running on legs that feel like rubber.

But saying “yes!” to triathlon means saying “no!” to a million pleasures. It means embracing a rigorous training schedule, learning to fuel well, and (aaghh!!) drinking far less beer.

We all get the importance of exercise. We spend precious time and resources going to the gym, participating in sporting events and hiring coaches to up our game. But here’s the irony: we focus a lot on the body and only a little on the brain—the organ that organizes our lives.

What you’ll see below is a triathlon for your brain: three disciplines to fuel your energy, focus your thinking, and re-engage your humanity.

But first, why focus on the brain?

Your brain is metabolically expensive—it only comprises two percent of your body weight, yet it burns an incredible 20% of your body’s fuel reserves.

If you allow your brain to run low on energy, two big things will happen that will change the course of your day:

  1. Your executive function will shut down.
    Why does this matter? Your executive function (E/F) is the air traffic control centre of your brain. In the midst of tantalizing distractions, triggering tensions and the daily tsunami of data, your E/F enables you to focus your attention, regulate your emotions, and sift through the trivial many to get to the vital few. Let’s face it: these are the power-tools of value creation.
     
  2. Your emotional brain will switch from a social connection device into a social protection device.
    Why does this matter? Your emotional brain is wired to make you smart at sociality: the ability to connect quickly, understand deeply and partner innovatively. But when your executive function shuts down, you lose the abilities of emotional regulation, rational decision-making and focused attention. Your brain starts to “catastrophize” and your thinking becomes impulsive and extreme. Connection gets lost and protection becomes king.

3 disciplines to boost your energy

  1. Tap into gratitude
    As you go to grab your toothbrush at the end of the day, identify one thing you are grateful for.

    Now, take three deep breaths as you bring to mind the sights, sounds and smells associated with your gratitude. This literally changes your brain chemistry, releasing a surge of dopamine and serotonin: “Miracle-Gro” transmitters that make you more creative and calm.

    Inserting a few gratitude moments in your day will have a significant impact on your innovative energy.
     
  2. Mindfulness
    Learn to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings in a particular way. 

    This practice strengthens your anterior cingulate: the part of the brain that harmonizes your emotional and rational functions.

    Find five minutes in your day to sit, focus on your breathing and observe your thoughts and emotions. This will improve your energy levels and overall well-being. 
  3. Generosity
    Here’s an act of generosity I love to do. You may want to try it. Next time you go to buy a coffee, give the barista at the till $20 and ask her to give the next customers a free drink until the $20 runs out. Then surreptitiously watch the fun as people respond to this delightful surprise.

    Generous people experience a “givers glow” when happiness chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin flood their brains.

    Be an intentional giver and you protect your brain by reducing stress and forging a sense of connection and well-being. It is a powerful drug that helps to keep your brain at peak performance. 
     

This post is based on content from Brady Wilson's latest book, Beyond Engagement:  A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need.

To learn more, register for one of our upcoming Beyond Engagement webinars.

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