Search This Blog

CCE in brief

My photo
Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Mental Fitness - Support your Talent for Success

React to This

What these folk have in common is that they have all gotten in trouble for just doing what came to mind.  They may have rationalized their action (or inaction) but never did they consider that part of their noggin was leading them to engage in activities that were long-term detrimental for them.  Their minds already had a model in place - additional facts were irrelevant.  If they thought about consequences at all, the train probably went something like this - be aggressive or righeteous enough, or just ignore what challenges you, and things will carry on.
All people have an inclination to react positively to what agrees with them, negatively to what doesn't and to completely ignore what doesn't appear to be relevant.  If you don't have kids, do you spend much time thinking about how stroller/wheelchair accessible buildings are?  When was the last time you thought about where, exactly, your produce comes from?  You see my point.

These inclinations are inherited instincts that have been developed over countless generations of evolution.  We all learn to control ourselves to some degree, too - not eating that extra dessert, for instance, or putting in the extra effort on a project or at the gym.  This ability to self-regulate, to pause the "react" function and think things through is an essential social tool.

This executive function is equally rooted in our biology; it's the newer part of our brain, that which sets us apart from other animals, that allows us to pause on reaction until we have thought things through.  The part of the brain that houses this funciton also allows us to connect dots - if I do A and the other person responds B, then C will result.  This conscious thought lets us plan ahead, but it also lets us create; ie, if I take this product and find a way to combine it with that service, I'll have a new offering to market.

Everyone has both pieces in their cognitive matrix - the reactive and proactive ones.  Confidence is supported by one; mental competence, the other.  Ideally, you want a mix of both - to acheive a mental balance between action and thought, a state of mental fitness called mushin in bushido.

What we have to ask ourselves is, what influences this mental fitness?  Part of it is biological; just as people have high or low metabolisms and varying degrees of pigmentation that impact sensitivity to light, some people are naturally more reactive than others.  They might be anxious, excitable; they might get depressed easily.  Some folk are readily creative, others need stimulation.  Some of it is external; diet, environment, our day-to-day interactions.  Just as someone smoking every day has a greater succeptibity to lung cancer or someone typing all day will be prone to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, soldiers, police officers, ERT and teachers are more likely to develop traumatic stress disorders than others.

Like physical exercise and accomodation, it isn't until we understand how these cognitive kinetics work that we can really learn how to harness the full potential of our thoughts and mitigate the things that negatively stress our brains.  Just as physical health requires us to pay attention to external factors - light and humidity levels, traffic, repetitive injury, traffic - mental fitness requires the same level of awareness and management of our external worlds. 

Chicken and Egg

Now think about this on the grand scale for a second.  A heightened focus on reacting to things that go beyond our mental models leads to stigma.  Stigma can have grave consequences, but much more common are the subtle accumulated stresses that build up leaving us with the cognitive (and social) equivalents of arthritis.  Which can be a real problem in promoting productivity in the workplace.  Which might just have something to do with the mess our global economy is in.

I couldn't begin to tell you the number of leaders I know who fall into the "we are smart, they are dumb" trap.  Experience of disagreement and a poor understanding of motivation leads to this sort of mentality, time and again - stagnating connect-the-dots opportunities and instead closing one's perspective off behind cognitive firewalls.

So, leaders, I ask you - what really comes first, poor results from employees or poor management?

Colin Powell puts it best:

The Train has Left the Station

Now, the decision-makers who read this will probably chuckle, pity my naivite and go back to their traditional top-down model of engagement.  To them, I offer a reminder of the names at the top.  Thanks to social media, economic woes and a young generation that grew up watching their parents have opportunities they themselves are going to have less acccess to, every Vikileak, every Goldman Sachs, every Scott Thompson can and will come to light.

Business as usual is already at it's end; the question is, how consciously are you going to be prepared for what comes next?


  1. brain training software
    - is an Industry Leader in Healthy Brain Workout, Fitness Program, Neurofeedback for ADHD, Brain Exercises, Neurocare, PTSD Disorder and Biofeedback Systems.

  2. I think this post provides a valuable perspective on the intersection of mental fitness and talent development, and offers practical suggestions for individuals seeking to cultivate their skills and abilities. It's great to see resources and information being shared to support individuals in their personal growth and development.
    Virtual couples counseling
    Android App
    Online therapy sessions app
    IOS App
    Self-care tips app