Published on October 7th, 2014 | by Kirsten Sanford0
Understand Your Brain To Change Your Luck In Life And Business
By Kirsten Sanford, a.k.a. Dr. Kiki—
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: your brain is an amazing, finely tuned, information processing machine.
It’s just that many neuroscientists and psychologists think that it is finely tuned for a time and place that is now long gone, called the Paleolithic era. During the Paleolithic, which ended about 10,000 years ago, we (the species collectively known as Homo sapiens) managed to evolve away from our African ancestors, and lived as hunter-gatherers in small, nomadic social family groups. If you had been alive during the Paleolithic, you would have spent your days roaming about searching for food, making tools, raising children, or just relaxing. Your social group would have consisted of at most around 100 people, and you probably didn’t run into strangers very often.
If you take a quick look around, you’ll see that your life probably bears little resemblance to what was just described. Most of us live in urban centers where you can walk past hundreds to thousands of strangers every day. Many of us work for corporations who employ hundreds of employees with whom you interact in one way or another. Not to mention the people you see daily at the grocery store or cafe, or your circle of family and friends, or the people you call friends on social media. We are more social now than ever before.
Hunting for food involves either a phone call for delivery or a quick trip to a local grocery store. But, instead of spending hours finding a prey species in the savannah scene, we search through the brightly colored store environment for the food of our choosing. However, at the same time the effort it takes to forage successfully through the store is sapping our willpower to resist cunning advertising ploys and the candy placed at the checkout counter.
Everywhere you turn, you can find something in this modern world that your brain was not originally equipped to deal with. So, with the world we have created stacking up against us, how does one learn to succeed in this modern world armed only with a Paleolithic brain?
Here are a few very basic tricks that will help you not just survive, but succeed at life. You have probably heard people suggest these things before, but science actually backs them up.
Override Loss Aversion: Get out of your comfort zone.
Comfort psychologically means safety. If you’re comfortable in your life that’s a good thing: you have low daily stress and few worries. But, remember that amazing life-changing events don’t really happen while you hang out in the safe-zone. The first thing to do if you want to see change in your life, say progress toward a career or a personal goal, is to get used to being uncomfortable.
We’re wired for loss aversion. Losing things or failing at something results in a drop in the neurotransmitter dopamine. This causes emotional and even physical discomfort. In a survival sense, the neural underpinnings of aversion work to keep you from making choices that lead to recurring failure and possibly reduced survival ability. The unfortunate, yet human side to this is that we’re inadvertently trained to avoid feelings of failure and discomfort—and it becomes difficult to take chances.
So, every day, try to do something that you would not normally do. Start with small things, like initiating a conversation with a stranger, and eventually work up to much larger things like asking your boss for a promotion. Retrain your brain to take chances—one small risk at a time.
Get The Brain Tools: Eat well and get plenty of sleep.
Our brains use approximately 20% of the energy our body produces in a day. And, studies suggest that sustained attention and stressful events can gobble up the glucose reserves that power cellular engines in our brains. The biggest tools in our arsenal to improve our brain’s ability to make tough decisions and avoid deleterious behavior are sleep and diet.
Sleep is required for the brain to do its cellular house-keeping; bad metabolites that slow things down are cleared out to make room for more glucose and other building blocks. It is also the period of time during which your brain organizes all the things you experienced during the day. A good night’s sleep will not only leave you refreshed, but also better mentally prepared for a new day.
A good diet consisting of a variety of foods, rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in processed starches has been shown to extend people’s energy levels throughout the day, and reduce energy spikes and troughs. Dietary fiber challenges digestion so that sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream over a longer period of time. Blood sugar levels affect overall energy levels and cognitive function. So, a balanced diet will leave your brain better prepared for a challenging day.
Reciprocity: Give gifts.
Giving small gifts to others can lead to getting back much more in return. We’re social creatures, and reciprocity, otherwise known as “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” has evolved as one of the primary ways we mend and tend the social fabric. Our relationships are built upon perceptions of fairness, and giving gifts or favors reinforces ongoing relations with other people.
From a young age, we’re taught to return favors, and as neural networks for monitoring social interactions and reward mature, reciprocation becomes wired into our psyches. By giving the occasional small gift at an opportune moment, you activate the other person’s brain to acknowledge you as someone to whom they are connected and now owe reciprocation. Even if the person never returns a gift, you will be more likely to gain a favor or positive interaction by having given the gift in the first place.
Mirror Neurons: Smile and nod.
Simple behaviors can get people to be more agreeable. By affecting a positive and friendly demeanor, you’re more likely to get people to agree with you. The reason is that our brains have a population of cells called mirror neurons that activate when we watch other people. The activation of these neurons is thought to form the basis of empathy because they allow us to, in effect, be that other person in our mind. So, by embodying a positive physical state, you can create a positive mental state in other people’s brains that will affect the decisions they make.
Getting people to verbally say yes can also affect their willingness to do things for you. The “Foot-in-the-Door” technique is successful for getting people to agree with you and help you get things done. By initially getting people to agree to some small request, it increases the likelihood that they will later agree to a much larger request.
Also, connecting with others through situationally appropriate touch promotes relaxation, which will lead to people becoming more easily convinced by your ideas. When you compliment someone, accompany the words with a light touch to the hand or upper arm. The combination of the touch and words will help to turn the brief physical connection into a more lasting mental connection.
So, to get someone to agree with you: smile, nod, touch their arm or hand, and get them to say yes.