Over the course of my career, I've discovered tools and frameworks that have completely changed what I thought was possible. At times, these lessons were passed down to me in the form of a story. Other times, they emerged in the form of a single, radical idea. Often, they were accompanied by hard skills, techniques, and practices.
Time and again, I've seen these tools eviscerate seemingly insurmountable obstacles within myself, my clients, and my community. Whether they reframe a problem or deliver a powerful new perspective, their effect can be so immediate that it can feel like magic. Sometimes, they can lead to such a foundational lesson that they cause a transformation with permanent impact.
They rewire you.
The good news is, the latest research in neuroscience and mindfulness provides a scientific basis for this phenomenon: it's called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is your ability to change both the structure and the function of your brain.
That means that you get to write the software and redesign the hardware of your operating system, at will.
This is what I love about coaching.
Coaching is the active, intentional practice of rewriting and designing our own operating systems.
There is no reason you have to obey an old program running in your head once you realize you are the architect.
1. Your attention matters. You can grow something in your life or business just by spending your attention on it. Take your attention away from something and it will diminish. Your attention is magic. I encourage you to explore this in meditation, to strengthen the skill of directing your attention. Your entire experience of reality is determined by what you pay attention to.
2. You are powerful, because you have free will. Our power comes from how we deploy our free will. Our free will is the mechanism we use when we choose where to direct our attention. We may not be able to control our thoughts, but free will gives us the ability to choose amongst our thoughts, and therefore, the impact of our emotions, narratives, and realities. A number of things may be present in your life, but it is within our power to choose what they mean to us. Use your free will consciously. Use it wisely. It is the key to your liberation, and the end to your suffering. When you choose freely, you can change your brain, your emotions, your story, your life, and your reality. Your free will is your agency.
3. The most exciting science behind this can be summarized in one word: Neuroplasticity. By directing your free will, you are reprogramming your brain. The act of choosing a different thought or reaction, perspective or meaning, is how you rewire your brain. The neurons that have wired together can be unstuck and reformed into new connections and patterns (this is known as myelination). I think this is the most fascinating and empowering discovery in human potential in the 21st century. (Couple this with what we now know about the reticular activating system, the theory of selective attention, the anterior cingulate cortex, positive psychology, and our potential comes unmasked!)
The leader you want to become, the teams, culture, and communities you want to build are all within your reach. Because with your attention (aka focus) and free will (aka power), you are a force that is capable of creating. Just as you took an idea and turned it into a business, you can take an intention and turn it into thriving teams, growth, and revenue. You can choose. You are the designer of your human experience. You are the founder of You.
You see, our limitations are often not based in the physical. Rather, they are mental. When Roger Bannister did the "impossible" by running a 4 minute mile, he opened the floodgates for many others to do so as well. This was no demonstration of physical evolution, but rather, an update to a mental model.
You can update your mental models at any time you choose. Our phones get software upgrades all the time -- why not you? What software version are you running?
Where do you start?
1. Gain immense and detailed awareness of what you avoid -- feelings, people, situations, etc. What we resist typically runs our life, even more so than what we crave. Identify what you avoid and avoid them just 10% less, and your life will change. You may find yourself addressing conflict, expressing your true self, and taking on greater responsibilities or risks. Be willing. Discomfort is the place of growth. Radical acceptance and curiosity are your keys.
2. Awaken your imagination. Your imagination is the most powerful, limitless tool for creation that you have. Use it! Dream, wonder, and create, all in your mind, and then bring those ideas into reality. Tap into the art of possibility. Best case scenarios are much more likely if you imagine them first.
3. Take radical ownership over every aspect of your waking experience. By taking radical ownership over your actions, thoughts, and impact, you will realize your agency and power. Don't blame others. Make this your operating maxim, and you will never feel helpless again.
5. Learn how to forgive for your own sake. Holding onto grudges, big or small, hurt you in both personal and professional spaces. Saint Augustine said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” This includes forgiving yourself. Forgive, and direct that energy toward forward progress.
6. Cultivate your confidence. Confidence is the belief that what you do will yield a positive outcome. Ask yourself where your confidence comes from, and ensure these sources are intrinsic (i.e. my effort), vs. extrinsic (i.e. what you cannot control, i.e. others' approval). Confidence is about action. Do small things that challenge you every day. You will see how strong and resilient you are. After that, it is difficult to be anything but confident.
7. Get clear on your mission and purpose. These are not elusive enigmas designed to intimidate you. Go find yours, now. Everything will fall into place when you align with your mission and purpose. Your work will gain meaning, and it will energize you. This is the framework I use.
8. Activate a positive mindset. A positive mindset can lead to a 31% increase in productivity and 37% increase in sales. That's it, you don't have to change anything else -- just adopt a positive mindset. Tell your brain to look for the positive in your life, and it will find it. When this seems challenging, simply decide to choose the next most plausible positive thought. The more you do this, the more neural pathways you create, the easier and faster it becomes.
9. Say thank you. Not only does the emotion of gratitude shift you into a positive mindset, it evacuates fear and anger from your body. It also puts you into an abundance mindset. You are appreciating what you already have, and able to reframe challenging situations into gifts and lessons.
10. Meditate and journal. This is the fastest path to self awareness. If you're interested in growing, these are non-negotiable. Meditation is literally the practice of training your focus, i.e. your attention, i.e. your power.
Here's the good news: there's only upside. You can start anytime, simply by attending to and choosing anew, again and again. By raising our awareness of existing patterns and beliefs, and intentionally redesigning & rewiring our brains, we can maximize our potential, and unleash the leaders, partners, and teammates we were meant to be. We can come home to our highest selves, and live our dreams.
This is what I think entrepreneurship (and life) is all about. I hope you zero in on your mission and purpose, craft your strategy, and empower your people. I hope you find your gifts and spend your lifetime giving them away.