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Your lizard brain on vacation: How environment builds the brain

Have you noticed how certain habits and routines change when you change your surroundings, for example, when you go on vacation? Your environment constantly shapes your brain and your habits whether you are aware of it or not.

In his book “Situations Matter,” Sam Sommers argues that by understanding the powerful influence that context has in our lives and using this knowledge to rethink how we see the world, we can be more effective at work, at home, and in daily interactions with others.

Today, I bring you my observations about the power of environment to change our habits from the beautiful island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, where my daughter and I have recently spent a blissful week of vacation.

By | 2017-05-05T15:00:44+00:00 May 5th, 2017|Brain, Peak Performance, Perception|0 Comments

Stewing is worse than doing: How to overcome procrastination and overwhelm

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all the things you need to do? And when you feel overwhelmed, do you sometimes complain, procrastinate and not take any action at all (or spend hours on social media)?  And all this time, you are building resistance. You are not alone. Many people can relate to this experience. Resisting and complaining sap your energy. Whenever you feel the build-up of resistance, you want to stop and think about how you can transform that inner resistance into strength and action.

Stewing is worse than doing.

What causes procrastination?

There may be several causes of procrastination. Here are some common reasons why people procrastinate:

  • Poor time management habits;
  • Feeling of overwhelm;
  • Perfectionism;
  • Resistance to the task itself or other people’s expectations;
  • Lack of focus, purpose, or commitment;
  • Lack of confidence;
  • Indecisiveness;
  • Fear of failure;
  • Fear of success.

So, how do you move from the state of being “stuck” and resistant to acceptance and action?

You have to find your “tapas,” and I am not talking about Spanish appetizers here, albeit delicious.  I am talking about one of the Niyamas in yoga – habits and practices of healthy living. The word “tapas” in Sanskrit  means heat. You need to build your inner fire of enthusiasm and self-discipline strong enough to burn off any causes of procrastination above. Just like you engage the core muscles in your body to maintain balance, power and control, the following six-pack practices will help you build your mind muscle and start moving forward.

1. Visioning.  Connect your project to your core goals and values. Why is it important in the long term?  How will it help you become a better version of yourself? What are the potential rewards of your labor? Enthusiasm can grow as you become more engaged in the task. What can help you get into the state of flow?

You can also purposefully generate some external pressure to help your build your inner fire.  Talk to people who can motivate you for action. Make public commitments to get things done by certain dates. When other people expect to receive something, you will be more likely to deliver on that promise. Time constraints may be a good thing as they can drive creativity. Create a schedule and a routine around the activities you need to do. Remember that the brain loves patterns and routines. Make sure that your new patterns include a cue to get yourself started and periodic rewards to keep going. This cue – action – reward cycle is at the core of habit formation. What will you do for fun to reward yourself for your great work? Think of little rewards you can give yourself when you complete each part of a longer project.

2. Assessing progress. Organize your thoughts and assess your progress objectively. Mentally run down the list of burning questions you must address. Here are a few favorites to get you started:

  • What needs to be done?
  • Why would it be desirable to do those things?
  • What have you already accomplished that will help you move forward with this project?
  • What do you need to know to complete this project?
  • What kinds of resources and help will you need when you start working on the project?
  • What’s the next action step?

Write out your answers. Writing brings clarity, calmness and objectivity to the mind. Notice any shifts in your mental and emotional states once you have done the exercise.

3. SMART goal setting. Create a plan or action. Define objectives, deadlines, and milestones for your project. It’s time to set SMART goals:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Realistic (but don’t be afraid to stretch yourself)
  5. Time-defined

Try a three-tier structure for your goals: the theme, the goals to support your theme, and the steps to accomplish your goals.

Your theme can be the big reason behind the project, the main aspect of it, or the crucial learning and development point. The theme helps to unify the parts of the project, provide additional motivation and momentum to move forward.

Break your project into well-defined goals that will serve as the milestones for your work. When deciding upon goals, make them big enough to really stretch your comfort zone. We often underestimate what we can achieve.

Picture the benefits you gain from completing your goals. Visualize the outcomes. How would you know you have accomplished your objective? How will it feel to succeed? Capture your best reasons on paper and return to them when you need extra motivation.

Identify the cost of your goals. Each goal comes with a price tag. What do you have to give up for the opportunity to achieve your goals? Identify those trade-offs and decide if you are truly willing to pay the price.

Prioritize and eliminate inconsistent goals. The goals we set often compete for our time, effort, and resources. It’s important to know the priority of your goals and check for conflicting objectives. You may be as passionate about visiting Italy as you are about traveling to Bali, but you can’t be in two places at the same time. You must choose.

Set a deadline for each of your goals.

Schedule regular intervals to revisit your goals and track your progress.

Finally, divide your goals into smaller tasks or steps, giving each task a target date for completion as well. These steps will give you a clear picture of what you should be working on at any given time.

4. Mental rehearsal. Use procrastination to brainstorm and mentally “rehearse” the project. Give yourself permission to come up with bad ideas and don’t filter anything. Your unrestrained imagination may lead you to innovative solutions. You can also use this time to create a mind map of your project. Those of you with a perfectionist streak may find it therapeutic to produce something fast without worrying too much about quality. Remember, it’s just a rehearsal. That way, you will have something to build on and improve later.

5. Gamification. To make your project more enjoyable, bring in some game elements. Schedule periodic rewards to have something to look forward to. Find a way to get more feedback about your performance by soliciting it from your network or sharing some ideas on social media.  Make sketches, draw or doodle to find new creative ways to present information. Take time to daydream as it is associated with increased creativity. Change your surrounding and try working in a coffee shop or park to bring some fresh sensory experiences to your brain. Look for the sources of inspiration.

6. Staying energized. You want to keep your inner fire burning without getting burnt out. Give yourself extra time to plan for any unforeseeable delays.  Make sure you get a good amount of sleep. Your brain needs oxygen and nutrients for optimal performance. Both nutrition and exercise directly affect the quality of your thinking. Rest, walks, meditation, listening to music help to recharge your brain. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a prerequisite of productivity.

How do you build your tapas, or inner determination, to stay on course?

By | 2017-03-27T16:21:43+00:00 March 27th, 2017|Attention, Brain, Change, Creativity, Peak Performance, Yoga|0 Comments

Transform your fear of public speaking and test your presentation skills

Do you feel nervous when you have to speak in public?  Does your heart start beating faster? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Does your throat get dry or palms – sweaty? The trick to overcoming the fear of public speaking is not to fight your anxiety but to transform it into energy that can propel you to perform better. According to research,  you can boost your performance in high-stake  situations when you interpret the signs of anxiety as excitement and focus on things that can energize your even more.  Make your fear facilitating instead of debilitating.  Here are a few things you can focus on to generate excitement:

  • your passion about the topic;
  • the importance of your message;
  • the interests, pains and concerns of your audience;
  • the connection with your audience;
  • the wisdom, care and support you can get from the audience;
  • the quality of your content;
  • the depth of your expertise;
  • your readiness and willingness to share and co-create with your audience.

You get the idea…While the eyes are on you (by the way, you are competing with the phone screens), you are not the most important person in the room. Your audience members are. Your flop is their pain, and your win is their gain.

Play can both relax and focus the brain to help you learn better. Click the image below and play the Thumbs-up / Thumbs-down game developed by our Bookphoria team to test your presentation skills and learn how to improve them.

Presentation Skills Game

Multimedia solutions, such as brief video explainers, games, scenarios, and animations, can make both live and virtual presentations more engaging while briefly shifting the focus from you as a speaker to allow you to regroup and recharge. Want our opinion on what kind of multimedia solution you could create? Need to develop a brain-captivating presentation or signature talk? I’ll mentor you for free.
Click here to set up a free rapid fire mentorship session with me.

 

By | 2015-01-06T15:57:58+00:00 January 6th, 2015|Learning, Miscellaneous, Peak Performance, Public Speaking|0 Comments

Bookphoria’s Magic Sanity Potion for the holidays

santiy potionIf your holiday season is anything like ours, it is not just “gratitude journals,”  “Santas” and “truffles.”

Putting on a couple of pounds,  frantically searching for presents, experiencing sudden nostalgia due to the lack of the vitamin D (not because of our Russian origin!), increased cravings for anything chocolate-covered are also a huge part of this season…

How do we deal with all this mess?

Here is our little secret – a special Bookphoria’s Sanity Drink that was created by combining both of our favorite recipes together, resulting in this majestic elixir of youth, slim waists, calmer moods, and glowing skins.  And today we are ready to share it with our followers!

Introducing….

Bookphoria’s Magic Sanity Drink Recipe:

Ingredients:

Green apple
Celery 5 stalks large
Ginger root (1/2 thumb)
Carrots 3
Lime 1 (peel the skin off)
Spinach 1 cup

Directions

Process all ingredients in a juicer, shake or stir and serve.

Benefits: The calming properties of celery, lime’s immediate uplifting qualities, carrots’ and apples’ youth benefits, ginger’s magical powers to de-bloat and keep the digestion healthy, and spinach’s alkaline powers will leave you refreshed, slim, glowing, calm and happy!

Please, keep the holiday season fun! Share below YOUR favorite recipe and the winner of the best recipe will get a prize! You can also send us your recipes to: info@bookphoria.com

To make your holidays even more “sane” download the “Ultimate Online Tech Toolbox” that will help you minimize your stress while dealing with technology this season!

Thank you for being a part of our community of passionate and dedicated experts!

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Click the button below to get your free copy of “Ultimate Online Tech Toolbox” now!

By | 2014-11-27T02:58:31+00:00 November 27th, 2014|Peak Performance|0 Comments

Go the distance for your audience

keep_calm_and_fight_the_distance_posters-ra2637186e5dc43ac814a5ddba477e4e2_wvf_8byvr_512Last fall, I began practicing Krav Maga, a self-defense system originally developed for the military in Israel. One of the concepts we learn to evaluate in Krav Maga is distance. Ideally, you want to be far enough from a threat to escape and avoid confrontation altogether. When it is not possible or safe, the worst place to be is often mid-range because that’s where you will feel the most impact from an attack. To defend and counter attack effectively, Krav Maga teaches to close the gap between you and your opponent to neutralize the attack and gain control of the opponent. Moving closer to danger does not feel natural, so we need to repeat the drills over and over to make the techniques almost automatic.

This evaluation of distance and risk can apply to many other situations in life, including the fear of public speaking, as well as presentation design and delivery. Our brains are wired to conserve energy and resources and keep us in the comfort zone of what we know. It takes effort and a leap of faith to learn a new skill, change habits, or test novel solutions. Our brains are happy to stay away from challenge and maintain the status quo.

As a presenter, you want to challenge your audience’s brains. You may choose a mid-range strategy, getting by with the known and frequently used methods, such as lecturing with PowerPoint slides, notes or handouts. What’s the downside? Your audience members have to battle a multitude of distractions, such as social media, email, their own concerns and preoccupations, etc., to stay focused on your expert content. Our attentions spans are getting shorter, and our working memory is limited. We can consciously process only about seven pieces of information at a time. The cognitive load of dense expert content is like a punch. It can leave the audience’s minds fuzzy or even deliver a knock-out.  If your audience members have to struggle through loads of information, they are more likely to give up. That is the real risk that many presenters face.

In contrast, opening your presentation in a surprising way that grabs attention, telling stories, interacting with the audience, playing games, using catchy visuals and multimedia to generate discussions may seem like novel approaches. They may require you to take a leap of faith and venture into the unfamiliar territory. The risk shifts from the audience to you as a presenter to come up with innovative solutions to keep the audience’s minds engaged and active.  You have to relinquish some of the control over the material to let your audience to co-create their learning experience with you.  You have to be open to unexpected turns and new possibilities emerging from your interactions. However, if you are willing to take that risk, you are closing the gap between your expert content and the audience. You can offer multisensory experiences that entertain and educate, nourish and sharpen the minds. When the participants are both challenged and engaged, they can reach the so called state of “flow,” or relaxed concentration, and feel good about their progress, so they will be happy to continue learning from you.

Are you willing to go the distance for your audience?

By | 2014-07-03T19:27:56+00:00 July 3rd, 2014|Communication, Peak Performance, Public Speaking|0 Comments