Prime your brain for positivity

Have you ever been in the market for a car and once you have decided on the make and model you have seen it everywhere? Not only have you seen it everywhere, but everyone seems to be driving the same colour in the model you want too! Up until now, you have never seen them before.

This doesn’t occur just because you have exquisite taste in cars, it happens because of a system in your brain caused by the Reticular Activating System. It works to essentially tell us what to look for and what to filter out. It lets the information in that validates our thinking and filters out what is not useful.

Suppose we expand the use of the Reticular Activating System to our work and social connections. In that case, we actually can prime it to look for the positive or negative side of any equation. Thinking about the system differently, the system is there to look for information that validates our beliefs.

Why is this so important?

Neuroscience has a pretty simple explanation for this…

Our beliefs affect our behaviour which affects our results.

Because of this, the stories we tell ourselves are important to master.

Let’s look at an example.

If every time someone asks you how you are, you reply, ‘I’m busy.’ What will inevitably happen is you will feed this feeling of busyness. You will find information that supports your belief of being ‘busy.’ You might subconsciously continue to scramble, work without method, and focus on the piles that increase rather than the things you are ticking off. This perpetuates the feeling and also can invite others such as tiredness and overwhelm. 

Make your brain with you (not against you!)

In these moments, we can look for a new story. A story that is there and is as equally true but for whatever reason we have filtered it out. For example, your new response to ‘how are you?’ might be, ‘I’m happy. I’m achieving lots.’

How different does that sound?

This concept feeds into the emotionally intelligent behaviour of being aware of your mood and emotions and demonstrating a positive demeanour. It’s not about lying to yourself, you can be busy AND happy. Exhausted AND kicking goals. The beauty about focusing on the more positive story is we can program our Reticular Activating System to work for us. It will begin to look for information that supports our beliefs and in doing so we can begin to feel better about ourselves and our situations.

If you are already a master of this, I encourage you to lean into positively influencing others. If you have colleagues who tend to walk around expressing negative stories, help them flip their script. This could be as simple as them saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ You might simply add ‘yet!’ to the end of their story. Or, if they seem deflated, frustrated or overwhelmed, help them find the positive components in the situation. Simply ask them, ‘What are the positives in this situation?’ or ‘What have you achieved so far?’ If they struggle with this, you may wish to help them identify these. This is what true leaders do!

To begin harnessing the power of your Reticular Activation System, download this free worksheet to help you flip the script. To take even more control, check out the self-paced, Essentials Toolbox, available here.

Self-paced leadership development designed for Pharmacists

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