The Yin and Yang of Creating Success
It’s something many of us yearn for, and doggedly pursue. We set our goals high and fail to be satisfied until they are complete and then set some more.
But what does success really comprise and what does it take to achieve it?
At any given moment our clever brain has three things on its mind,
To keep us safe
To help us find reward
To conserve (mental) energy
When it comes to success, oh boy, does our brain know how to celebrate! It’s that sense of exhilaration, joy and wonderful extra swoosh of dopamine triggered by the brain’s reward circuitry that makes us feel so good and want more.
Achieving success begins by recognising how your brain is set up to guide you to the reward you seek. While being focused, having a plan and the momentum to take action is important, true success requires a number of complementary interrelated and opposing forces.
Focus vs. Uncoupling from focus
Focus requires your full and undivided attention. This is hard work for your brain and consumes a lot of mental energy. While staying on task is an essential cognitive skill, so is the time spent on unfocused work.
While we assume our conscious mind is doing all the heavy lifting thinking, it’s easy to overlook the important role played by our subconscious. Planning for success includes accessing all those other unconnected thoughts and ideas by allowing your mind to wander, accessing your imagination and natural creativity.
Alert vs. Asleep
Being alert to what is happening around you helps you to stay focused. This keeps you safe, and helps you to notice those nuances of what others are saying and doing (or not).
You may be wondering how being asleep promotes your success? Well, I’m yet to meet a highly successful person who hasn’t appreciated the value of getting enough sleep. Unless they happen to be one of those highly annoying people with the short sleep gene who really can get by with 4-5 hours of sleep at night, but they are rare. The rest of us mere mortals do much better by attending to our physiological need for 7-9 hours of good quality uninterrupted sleep for better attention, memory, cognition, creativity, accuracy and mood. Did I mention that getting enough sleep is more than a good idea for your future success?
Connection vs. Disconnection
We are hard wired to connect with others. It’s another safety feature, but the added advantage is that working with a support team amplifies results, because it allows for the sharing of ideas and knowledge. With technology advancing so fast it’s hard to keep up, so sharing data makes sense and helps conserve precious mental energy.
But taking time to be alone with your thoughts is also part of the critical path for success. This is the mental sorting required to determine what you’re looking to achieve, what it might look like, how you’re going to get there and who you need to come on the journey with you. Finding your thinking space starts with scheduling in your 15 to 30 minute daily appointment. If you’ve no time to think, how can you possibly know you’re heading in the right direction?
Move vs. Be Still
Many entrepreneurs and successful business people credit their success to the fact they stay physically fit and healthy. When designing your success making exercise part of your normal schedule makes perfect sense because all the studies have shown how aerobic exercise (the huffy-puffy sort that gets your heart rate up) primes the brain for better mental performance. Better still it helps reduce stress, boosts your feel-good hormones and zoups up your memory and cognition.
Stilling our chattering mind can be harder than corralling a troop of monkeys with ADHD, but is an essential component to better thinking. Thinking hard all day long and interacting with our technology leads to those hyper stimulated, hyper connected minds that find it difficult to switch off. That’s why practicing some form of meditation or mental relaxation, restores and refreshes minds for greater clarity and focus. Mindfulness has been shown to increase the brain’s level of neuroplasticity leading to an increase in the cortical density of grey matter in the hippocampus (the area used for learning and memory) and the prefrontal cortex in just eight weeks.
Logic vs Intuition
Many of us have become used to driving a lopsided brain that is heavily weighted to the left. The left hemisphere is primarily concerned with logic, analysis and reasoning, so when working with the numbers, calculating your expected return on investment and implementing your plan this is very helpful.
But sometimes it’s good to tune in to your intuition or “gut-feeling” This is especially true if you’re well experienced and have accumulated expertise and wisdom. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always right, but ignoring your gut can occasionally come with a painful cost. That’s why thinking critically and listening to that inner voice can facilitate better decision-making.
Success vs. Failure
It’s great to savour our success, but important also to embrace our failures; to be grateful for the opportunity they provide to assist our understanding of what matters to us, to stay curious and develop possibility thinking. As Thought Leaders we are encouraged to ‘Fail Fast’, to try lots of things out, to discover what works, what doesn’t and move on quickly. Failing fast is a great way to accelerate our way forward.
Your success encompasses all your social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual needs. The success journey is designed to help us appreciate the setbacks, obstacles and challenges we face along the way as part of the instructional guide to personal and professional growth. Because just like playing “pass the parcel” it is that delicious anticipation of reward, rather than the final prize that gives us the greatest pleasure of all.