If everything worked out perfectly in your life, what would you be doing in ten years?
Working with colleagues at Cleveland Clinic, Boyatzis put people through a positive, dreams-first interview or a negative, problems-focused one while their brains were scanned. The positive interview elicited activity in reward circuitry and areas for good memories and upbeat feelings – a brain signature of the open hopefulness we feel when embracing an inspiring vision. In contrast, the negative interview activated brain circuitry for anxiety, the same areas that activate when we feel sad and worried. In the latter state, the anxiety and defensiveness elicited make it more difficult to focus on the possibilities for improvement.
Being in the positive mood range activates brain circuits that remind us of how good we will feel when we reach a goal, according to research by Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin. That’s the circuit that keeps us working away at the small steps we need to take toward a larger goal – whether finishing a major project or a change in our own behaviour.
This brain circuitry — vital for working toward our goals — runs on dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical, along with endogenous opioids like endorphins, the “runner’s high” neurotransmitters. This chemical brew fuels drive and tag it with satisfying dollops of pleasure. That may be why maintaining a positive view pays off for performance, as Frederickson’s research has found: it energizes us, lets us focus better, be more flexible in our thinking, and connect effectively with the people around us.
It’s been decades of parenting and marriage books that have repeatedly taught readers to replace criticism with questions and appreciation/approval for other things as a means of steering behaviour. And, the message has been heard and responded to — and worked well for all.
Well, everyone but execs in the business world where so many big companies still rigidly hold to the “necessity,” of creating predatory dog-eat-dog environments for employees to perform in.
But lo, a star of brilliant and revolutionary thought has finally appeared at the very pinnacle of the business world and an angel has appeared with the heavenly hosts singing:
“Maybe now it’s finally time to fire all of the managers who think they can motivate others through abuse???”
(Sadly, probably about as few will listen to this Christmas as did the first one — and a few will again try and kill the messenger as well… [SIGH])
But, read the full article — and the linked authors as well. The handling of one’s own heart still has far more power than an entire army of Steve Ballmer hurling innocent office chairs to their deaths at Microsoft and threatening to, “F-ing kill,” all sorts of people. (Note: The second link contains excessive profanity and is somewhat comedic — though mostly based on reality and richly deserved…)
The critical takeaway of this research is that a simple adjustment of focus can have a stunning impact on the entire functionality of the human mind-altering brain activity, thinking processes and even the entire motivation and happiness set point of a person. Even if no one is likely to change employment in North America, you still can change yourself.
And, further research from people like Dr. Levine is beginning to show how one can even begin to heal deeply buried trauma from having been subjected to working with this sort of individual or even more extreme damage.
You can rewire your brain.