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Achieving Your Goals – Is This The Missing Link…

Setting new year resolutions is easy, but achieving them is hard. How come?

Well, achieving a goal usually means that behaviour has to change. And changing behaviour can be challenging, especially if it is a long-term habitual behaviour such as smoking or having a drink at 5pm.

The interface of neuroscience and psychology

In his Author Manuscript 'The Neuroscience of Goals and Behaviour Change,' Elliot T. Berkman writes:

Setting goals is easy; achieving them is hard. But why?

This question has long stumped humanity and will certainly not be answered in this article. A full explanation of why it is hard to accomplish a goal or change old habits may never be possible. However, all hope is not lost. 

Research at the interface of neuroscience and psychology has made significant strides in uncovering the machinery behind goal pursuit. This knowledge, in turn, provides clues about the various ways that behaviour change can go wrong and how to improve it.

Behavioural change can be broken down into two parts. 1) motivation (the will) and 2) the way.

First, what is a goal?

Berkman states that 'a goal is any desired outcome that wouldn't otherwise happen without some kind of intervention'. 

In other words, you have to do something different if you are to achieve your goal or new year resolution.

It doesn't matter how badly you want the achieve your goal if you don't have the knowledge of skills it won't happen. The goal is just wishful thinking. So the first part is the plan or the way.

The way

Do you have the knowledge and the skills to achieve your goal? How are you going to go about reaching that goal?

This is the cognitive part of the process. You plan how to get there. What do what I need? What do I need to know? So, you have made a start. You find out what you need and get it even if you have to pay someone who has the knowledge and skills.

Now you have acquired the knowledge and skills you need to reach your goal.

You have mapped out what you need to do and broken it into small steps. You feel good. You have a plan, but that was the easy bit. So far though you haven't needed a lot of motivation.

What happens (or doesn't happen) next often brings us undone. It is the hard bit. The doing part. Yes, we're talking about changing your behaviour.

The will

To change a habitual behaviour is difficult and requires a lot of motivation. It comes down to how badly do you want the holiday? How badly do you want to give up that bad habit?

How desperate are you to stop lighting up that cigarette or having a wine or beer? These sorts of behaviours are harder to change because you have done it so many times. They are habitual.

The question is now about motivation.

The more difficult and new the task is the more motivation you will need.

The brain's natural motivation network

Now we know why rewarding yourself works

We have been told many times that we should reward ourselves after we have had success, no matter how small. The reason that this works is becoming apparent in the latest neuroscience research.

When a particular behaviour in a given context, it is rewarded, that behaviour and context are paired and tagged with reward value for later repetition.

The key to launching this reward learning and consolidation cycle is finding ways to increase the subjective value of new behaviour.

A promising route to increasing motivation, then, is identifying the value inputs to a new behaviour (i.e., the reasons why the behaviour is or is not valued) and learning ways to modulate them.

How badly do you want to achieve your goal?

How are your New Year Resolutions going? Do you need to boost your motivation?

Your plan of action

When you set your New year Resolution, did you have a plan of action to make sure you could achieve your goal?

If you haven't it isn't too late.

Neuroscience has confirmed what many have known instinctively. That is rewarding yourself when you complete each small step works. Now we see what happens when we do that.

A few easy questions for you to ponder.

  • Is your goal easy, relatively easy, or hard to achieve?
  • Is it psychologically close or far away?
  • Have you broken it into chunks that can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time?

Neuroscience proves what many already knew

Neuroscience research has demonstrated that we have a pathway in the brain called the reward pathway, also known as the reward network.

When we focus on a specific goal, envision that goal as a reality, and link it with intense emotion, we actually light up our reward pathway.

When we do this feelings are generated that make us feel that we have already achieved the goal.

The Brain's Reward Pathway

Can the brain tell the difference between imagined and real events?

Research suggests that the brain cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a real one.

When a particular behaviour in a given context, it is rewarded, that behaviour and context are paired and tagged with reward value for later repetition.  (Rescorla & Wagner, 1972).

The key to launching this reward learning and consolidation cycle is finding ways to increase the subjective value of new behaviour.* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5854216/

More about the WAY

Let's return to the WAY. If you haven't set out a solid plan detailing the knowledge and skills you need to reach your target, then do it now. Stop here and think about your goal and write down what you have to do.

Break it into gettable chucks and put a reasonable timeline on them. This will get your unconscious self working for you (and not against you) because the brain like tangible tasks or steps laid out.

Engaging your Reward Pathway

When you have your plan, you're ready for the next step. Setting your brain's reward pathway alight.

Forbes contributor Christine Comaford reports: The more we activate our reward network, the more good feelings we experience and the more likely we are to achieve the outcome that we want.

Christine has a short video that will help you visualise and reactivate your brain's Reward Network. There is a link to Christine's article and video at the end of this article.

When your reward network (or pathway) is activated, then you experience pleasurable feelings.

When you recall a memory of a pleasurable event, you also experience the feelings that were generated by that event. The idea is to link those feelings with your current goal, thus triggering your reward network.

The reward pathway is connected to areas of the brain that control behaviour and memory. It begins in the ventral tegmental area, where neurons release dopamine to make you feel pleasure. The brain begins to make connections between the activity and the pleasure, ensuring that we will repeat the behaviour.

Drugs and addiction

Sometimes this pathway is helpful, but other times, it can be devastating. For example, certain drugs can trigger the reward pathway, and over time, addiction can develop. 

How your blood pressure affects your ability to achieve your goals

Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist from NYU, suggests that the answer is in your brain—and your blood pressure?

Emily recently explained how properly set goals boosts our systolic blood pressure (SBP), which is the measurement of our body being geared up and ready to act. If the goal is easy to achieve, we get a nice spike. If it's moderately hard but seems like a feasible challenge (harder than easy) we get a larger spike and thus more excitement in the body and sympathetic nervous system. But if the goal is seen as impossible our system writes it off…

Tips for getting what you want. Consider two types of goals.

Why goals:

Without Why goals, it is difficult to maintain momentum. Your 'Why' is your vision, your dream outcome.

Without a Why you are doomed to fail.

How goals:

These are small steps that help you keep track of your progress and moving towards getting to where you want to be. This is your plan.

In 2015 Emily stated that 'when goals look closer, any progress we make towards achieving those goals actually feel easier, so we psych ourselves up and not out. And the goal feels 17% easier.

Emily's research also found that we can actually increase the speed at which we achieve the goal by 23%.

How do we bring our goals closer?

In her article on '4 Scientific Reasons Why Visualization Will Increase Your Chances to Succeed'

Emilie Pelletier tells us how we can bring our goals closer closer through visualisation.. 

 There are key principles to make your mental simulation optimal.  Visualisation, a strong emotion, linking the future to a past successful event. And then repeat exercise often. 

Try Emilie's exercise.

1. Close your eyes and set an intention: mentally say what you want to achieve (your goal) in an affirmation.

2. Imagine the situation or future event you would like to work on. Make the scene as real as you can, like a simulation, using your five senses. (See it, say it, feel it, smell it and taste it). The more vividly you can imagine the scene, the better it will be recorded in your mind as a "memory". 

3. Always incorporate strong positive emotions. This is key; without a strong emotion, the event visualised won't seem real enough to be recorded as a memory.

4. Repeat the process often. Try to visualise daily until you notice desirable changes in your behaviour, skills, confidence, etc.

I hope this will convince you to add visualisation to your daily routine. Click here to read Emilie's full article. You can Read the full article here.

The missing link?

Is activating your Brain's Reward Network by visualising and linking your goal to a strong emotion the Missing Link?

Have your goals been too easy, too hard or impossible to reach?

Take a few minutes and relax in a quiet, peaceful and comfortable space.

Think of a previous achievement or experience you have had that left you feeling on top of the world. A time when you were feeling great, happy, content, fulfilled and full of joy.

Let the feelings of joy, happiness and success flow throughout your body. Immerse yourself in the emotions you are experiencing. Let them flood your entire mind and body.

Now, think of your goal. Picture what you want to achieve. Think of all the benefits you will enjoy when you reach your goal.

Hold the feelings and consider how you will know when you have reached the goal. What proof will you have?

Now you have your dream, how will it affect the most important people in your life? What will they say, and feel? Do you want them to enjoy those feelings?

What does it feel like?

What can you see?

What can you hear?

What do you now have that you didn't have before?

What changed to enable you to get what you want?

The more you do this exercise, the stronger the emotional connection becomes, the closer and more tangible your goal. A close tangible goal is a getable goal.

If your goal is too far in the distance, it will be harder to achieve. When it is close to you, you are empowered and highly motivated to get what you want.

This video explains the Reward Network
The video offers a deeper understanding of the brain and how the Reward Pathway works. It also explains how we become addicted to drugs etc.
References:

When a particular behaviour in a given context, it is rewarded, that behaviour and context are paired and tagged with reward value for later repetition* (Rescorla & Wagner, 1972).

The key to launching this reward learning and consolidation cycle is finding ways to increase the subjective value of new behaviour. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5854216/

Elliot T. Berkman's Author Manuscript 'The Neuroscience of Goals and Behaviour Change'.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5854216/

Forbes contributor Christine Comaford reports: The more we activate our reward network, the more good feelings we experience and the more likely we are to achieve the outcome that we want. Christine Comaford https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BPjPLWNfHk

David R Hamilton PHD asks the question, 'Does your brain distinguish real from imaginary?' https://drdavidhamilton.com/does-your-brain-distinguish-real-from-imaginary/

Christine Comeford's short video shows you how to activate your brain's Reward Network. (The vidieo is poor quality video, but you may find the content helpful.)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BPjPLWNfHk

Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist from NYU, suggests that the answer is in your brain—and your blood pressure?

More videos and articles to help you set and achieve your goals.

A short video describing Locke and Latham's Goal Setting Theory

Read the article about Locke and Latham's Goal Setting Theory

More about SMART GOALS

The Power of Visualization – Advice I Give Myself. 

Are You A Good Listener?

Becoming an Effective Listener 

Transcript:

Almost everyone sincerely believes that he or she is a good listener. Yet, research shows that only about 10% per cent of people listen effectively.

How come?

Well, we speak at around 120–180 words per minute, but our brain can process between 400 and 800 words a minute.

Research demonstrates that 90% of people are thinking about how they are going to respond rather than really listening.

Your challenge for this week? Be aware of what is happening inside your head when someone is speaking to you.

Are You Really Listening, or Just Waiting to Talk? Are you thinking of a story you want to tell?

How often did you find yourself waiting for them to pause so you can have your say? When they were telling you about an experience they had, did you think about a similar experience?

What are you thinking about? Be honest.

Remember, Listening is Responding to the Other Person's message.

Have fun, and I'll see you next week.

Do You Want to Keep Your Staff Or Train New people?

Srceening out

Have you ever joined a couple of people who are talking only to be ignored When you're standing there how did, you feel? 

It's happened to me and I'm sure it's happened to you. I felt pretty uncomfortable, embarrassed and somewhat annoyed.

After a minute or so, I've walked away. That's what we call the act of screening out. The message from the group is clear. You don't belong here. We don't want you.

They accept responsibility and their attendance remains stable. They maintain a positive attitude towards work and coworkers and they're able to express their thoughts and feelings easily and clearly. 

But as so often happens, the clues are missed and the person then escalates from verbal clues to observable behaviors that are harder to overlook. These clues are clues are cries for help.

Cry for help

When a person relationship comes under stress, they give predictable clues that they're unhappy. If the clothes are missed or ignored, then the relationship is highly likely to disintegrate.


Retain Vs Retrain

From a business perspective, it's far more economical to retain staff than to train new staff. 

People who are becoming unhappy in an relationship give you seven predictable clues.

These clues start off verbal and become observable behaviors that mark the beginning of their journey to the departure lounge.

The Clues

Next are the verbal clues they give you. If you 'hear' and respond to the message hidden beneath the anger you can stop the process almost before it gets started. 

The first cry for help is verbal and contains little anger. The second verbal clue the anger is far more obvious.

If you respond to the verbal cries for help, the person is very likely to remain invested in the relationship and they become an active worker.

Active workers

Active workers accept responsibility

  • Their attendance remains stable
  • They maintain a positive attitude towards work and coworkers
  • they're able to express their thoughts and feelings easily and clearly

But as so often happens, the clues are missed and the person then escalates from verbal clues to observable behaviors. These  that are harder to overlook. These clues are clues are cries for help.

Inactive workers

If they're ignored, the person moves a step closer to the departure lounge. They become inactive workers.

  • their attendance at work reduces.
  • occasionally have work related goals
  • They move away from taking on responsibilities
  • Their attitude to their work and coworkers becomes less positive
  • they aren't able to express their thoughts and feelings easily or clearly
  • If no one responds to their appeals to be 'heard', then the person will begin to put some distance between them and the relationship.

Automatic Self-protection

The role of our subconscious brain is to protect us from threats or harm and that's why the person will move away from what is causing them pain.

 

The disconnected worker

  • Their attendance becomes poor
  • They have no work orientated goals
  • They do not accept responsibility.
  • They have zero positive attitude
  • They are indifferent towards work and their work mates
  • When the pain becomes too great, that person quits the relationship.
Learn how to recognise these verbal and behavioural clues in our Mindful Communications course.Learn more

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