Share this article
Do you feel as though you are stuck in bad habits and struggle to create effective change in your life?
Often certain beliefs and behaviours become hardwired in our brains and they seem impossible to shift. These can lead to entrenched bad habits, destructive behaviour and even addictions.
But the brain is an amazing organ and it is capable of change. By rewiring our brain, the mind can be transformed and a person can become unrecognizable.
This is where neuroplasticity comes in as it can help break our mental wiring and allow us to change our thinking and therefore our circumstances.
Neuroplasticity and Leadership & Development
Now apply this thinking to Leadership and Development. Have you ever found yourself stuck in a rut when it comes to work? Did it seem impossible to find a way out of a difficult situation and achieve growth?
Leaders and team members alike can find themselves reacting in the same patterns day in, day out, even when business isn’t going well.
Even if you know change must happen, it’s not always easy to achieve the right type of change that will last.
Understanding how your brain works will help put you on the path to change.
How does the brain work?
Our brains are made up of billions of neurons. These neurons connect to others creating ‘neural pathways’.
When you learn something new you create a neural pathway each time. The more you do something, the stronger the neural pathway becomes and the easier that action becomes. Whatever you do every day will add to these pathways.
But this goes for any action – healthy or unhealthy.
Bad habits are created when neural pathways become rock solid and this negative behaviour becomes automatic.
Can I re-shape my brain?
You need to allow experiences to reshape your neural pathways. The study of neuroplasticity has identified a concept known as ‘experience-driven plasticity’. When you seek out new experiences, new connections are created in your mind and your current neural pathways become reorganised.
Practical ways to re-wire your behaviour
- Write down your beliefs – the physical writing of a belief creates a system or a mind map that you can follow. If you put it down on paper it becomes more real and if you repeat it, it becomes entrenched.
- Focus on brain health – pay attention to your diet, sleep and spend time outside – these will all give your brain more energy and better brain health. This will lead to improved brain strength.
- Play computer games – this might seem strange but computer games can help increase memory, problem solving and resilience…just don’t overdo it!
- Focus on your fitness – exercise improves brain function as your brain connectivity and motor skills get better when you exercise. Cell growth is critical in neuroplasticity and exercise will help blood flow which drives this growth.
- Switch on to mindfulness – sometimes the practice of meditation can scare people as they’re not sure if they’re capable of doing it. But if you dial this down to practicing mindfulness, there is less pressure. Mindfulness is simply the process of sitting (preferably somewhere quiet), closing your eyes, becoming aware of your breath and focusing on the present (what can you hear or are you aware of right now). This will help you to let go and will allow you to relax. During this relaxation new neural pathways are formed that are positive and calm.
By working on the above, you can change the structure of your brain for the better.
How can this change the way I approach my work?
By changing the structure of your brain in a positive and healthy way you will create empowering habits that will stop limiting your progress in your work.
Adopting new behaviours can make sure you relearn models of how to work effectively and acquire new skills. You can improve how you react to negative emotions and to those who work around you.
Being open-minded to the way you approach work and those around you will make you more flexible. When things go wrong you will approach negative events with this question: “What can I learn from this?”
Neuroplasticity will change you from a pessimist into an optimist and you will be more open to giving those around you the benefit of the doubt as you will know from your own experience that people can change.
And that is the beauty of neuroplasticity – it has the power to shift culture. It can make you kinder towards others. It can help you be compassionate. It can encourage you to work as a team and it can take difficult problems and make them solvable.
If applied to Learning & Development, neuroplasticity can effectively bring about lasting change.