Take Charge of Your Brain:
Five Keys to Effective and Mindful Self-Leadership
Self-leadership, the ability to be focused, aware, and intentional in behavior, is imperative for living a life of personal fulfillment and happiness. While there are many resources available suggesting methods supportive of self-leadership, becoming mindfully self-aware is the most essential. Current research informs us that neural integration, the smooth and balanced operation of the brain, is enhanced by mindful self-awareness – by paying attention on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment. Studies have shown the activity of paying attention in this manner, with a compassionate heart, improves the capacity to regulate emotion, to develop healthy patterns of thinking and to reduce negative mindsets, all supporting effective self-leadership.
Research on mindful awareness practices reveals an enhancement in our relationships with others due to an increased ability to perceive the nonverbal emotional signals from other individuals. This form of awareness may directly shape the activity and growth of the parts of the brain responsible for our relationships, our emotional life, and our physiological response to stress. Clearly: self-leadership, mindful awareness, and intentional choice are enhanced by practicing a skill set that prepares us to be our own best leaders.
Having a clear picture of the desired outcome and being able to stay on course in one’s life depend on the following 5 strategies proven to be effective by neuroscientists:
- 1. Intention and commitment: setting an intention and committing to change brings success.
Learning a new behavior means we must create new connections between our brain cells. Intentional, repeated behavior is necessary for neural integration. The brain actually changes (called neuroplasticity), creating new pathways based upon repetition.
- Awareness and attention: instead of resisting the old way, try substituting a new one. Awareness and attention strengthen brain pathways and neuronal connections. Each time focused attention is substituted for resistance, you create new pathways in the brain. Lead your brain instead of letting your brain lead you!
- Deliberate Practice: rehearse the new behavior in your mind. Mental rehearsal is another effective key to self-leadership. Becoming familiar with new behavior assists in integrating the new and releasing the old.
- Own it: act as if you have already mastered the new skill. Brain changes are created by behavior accompanied by full attention. Purposefully paying attention to the present moment and acting “as if” actually stimulates the brain to become active in specific ways that then support and promote growth in these regions. It could be said that the mind, now, is using the brain to create itself.
- Mental notes: make mental notes to increase focus and attention. Naming your experience with words helps to stay focused and clear. Such action also cultivates the ability to be an impartial witness to feelings and thoughts that may be interfering with intentional behavior and successful personal leadership.
At the heart of self-leadership is the discovery that being aware of our on-going experience creates attunement – or a personal resonance – that enhances and makes use of specific social and emotional circuits in the brain. Cultivating mindfulness and personal leadership stimulates the growth of these circuits, transforming a state of mindful awareness into a long-term state of mental and emotional health, wisdom and successful self-leadership.