We know from neuroscience that one of the brain’s primary functions is to see events and conditions in the world as either threat or reward. This neural imperative raises an important question; if the brain is organized around this unifying dynamic, what is its nature?
While reading Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s book, Living Beautifully (with Uncertainty and Change) it struck me how powerful the role of impermanence is in shaping our lives and its drive in determining what we perceive as threat or reward. This force is constantly compelling the choices and decisions we make and manifesting as our daily behaviors.
Most of us don’t walk around consciously thinking we live in a universe where things are constantly changing and in flux. Most people don’t wake up each morning and plan their day as if it may be their last. However, when you link this idea with the proposition that under the veneer of our lives is the struggle with our immortality, you see how it can contribute to the forms our lives take. The conflict between living in a world where things are constantly changing – impermanent – and our striving to feel grounded, is reflected in our thoughts, emotional states and actions – our “self-identity.” Continue reading →
While there are critics of neuroscience and its interpretations who worry about the “culture’s obsession with the brain and how we have elevated the vital organ into cultish status, mythologizing its functions and romanticizing the promise of its scientific study,” there is unquestionably a place for neuroscience in the coaching relationship.
In full disclosure I am a coach and organizational development consultant and not a neuroscientist, but I have a passion for social neuroscience. And I’m well informed about the most recent research – so much so, that it has become an integral part of my coaching and consulting practice.
On a purely practical level I’ve found that every coaching experience can benefit from learning and integrating some key principles from the growing field of neuroscience. Perhaps one of the greatest “revelations” for many coaching clients is the understanding that they can shift their thoughts and feelings and change behavior. Continue reading →
Recently, one of our clients, the president and CEO of a mid-size company, sent me an email after participating in a development group with his senior leadership team that was focused on collaboration and emotional intelligence.
His message went something like this, “ A situation came up at work where I had the opportunity to put into practice some of the information we discussed and realized how hard it is to change and break old habits.” He also asked a question that many clients ask – how do I remember to remember these things that we’re talking about?” Essentially the question becomes – how do I become more conscious of my intentions and my behavior?
It got me thinking about how easy it is to become captive to our internal narratives and reflexive in our behavior. The question compelled me to go deeper into what it is I do as a coach to support people to break through habituated, unproductive behavior
Two important influences on behavior are the areas of language and attention – how we describe our experience is indicative of the focus of our attention. As a coach one of my goals is to share my thoughts in a language that help clients focus their attention and makes connections with new ways of thinking that align with their desired outcomes.
Being able to hold on to new information and learning requires attention and consistency. Having a “container” for new information is essential. One of the most promising “tools” for increasing our capacity to strengthen habits of attention and consistency is mindfulness. Insights from neuroscience also have the potential to expand the container, while at the same time, bridging psychological explanations for human behavior with a scientific basis. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, “Strengthening attention helps you let go of stressful circumstances because the brain economizes our circuits. Being compelled to pay attention to your emotions is the opposite of being able to choose where you put your attention.” Continue reading →
“If you always do, what you’ve always done, you’ll always get, what you always gotten.”I don’t know who said this, but I heard it for the first time when I was studying NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) . I’d like to change it slightly to, “If you always think, what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
The original statement relates to the law of requisite variety, which states, “a system only has requisite variety if its repertoire of responses is at least as big as the number of different stimuli it may encounter in its environment.” In other words, the less restrictive and more expansive our thinking processes are, the more choices and options we have. Also, the more resilient we are and the more control we have over our lives. Continue reading →
“For me, my role is about unleashing what people already have inside them that are maybe suppressed in most work environment.” Tony Hseih, Zappos CEO
I believe there is a central issue at the heart of so much difficulty in today’s workplace – our inability to regularly connect at the human to human level. To be sure, the structure of the “modern” organization creates serious roadblocks and even undermines empathy, trust and genuine collaboration between co-workers. There is a decaying legacy of hierarchical control models that were never designed to optimize human dynamics. We need a critical conversation that engages organizational leaders and their employees if we are to ever achieve trust and authentic engagement.
Is the “modern” workplace designed for people?
Are the systems created for work designed to maximize productivity and profit or human well-being?
Who factors in the real cost of human labor when analyzing productivity and profits?
What do most managers believe they are managing?
I have far more questions than I have answers on this topic. In fact, I think we’re now on new terrain when it comes to redefining the meaning of work in a global “supply chain” world. While it may seem absurd that in one part of the world children are still working in coal mines; while in another, companies like Google have installed, “Chief Culture Officers,” – this is the new “normal.” Continue reading →