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3 Power Habits for Busy Leaders to Become Better Leaders

Guest Writer: Gi Gi O'Brien

 

How to capitalize on the brilliant executive-enhancing neuroscience behind meditation, gratitude, and nootropics.


"Neuropsychology holds the secrets of one’s ability to sustain motivation, empower action and thrive in prosperity if one simply and intelligently masters their mind-brain energy"

— Gi Gi O’Brien.

Ever wonder how some leaders thrive as if powered by an energy source giving them extraordinary ability? Well, they have a few things in common. Feeling ignited, limitless, relentlessly optimistic, and able to overcome whatever obstacles dare to cross their path. In the face of overwhelming demands, good leaders know they can handle them. They act with courage instead of comfort.


When I say these power habitsmeditation, gratitude, and nootropics — are executive-enhancing, there could not be a more appropriate description. They leave you with a clear mind, a full heart, and most importantly, a whole lot of needed stamina to lead.


The brain has evolved from basic consciousness starting in our survival reptilian brain, which is great for our primal instinct, response rates, and not getting ourselves killed. We progressed into developing our limbic brain, and with it came the ability to process emotions and feelings, something increasingly important in corporate culture. The pinnacle of our neuropsychology is our executive neocortex brain, the intellectual brain that masters metacognition (thinking about our thoughts), analytics, reasoning, and responsiveness, not just reactive action.


Without focusing on the executive brain, how can one reach the epitome of leadership?

Image designed by Creativesufi & copyright of gii


I define leadership as the ability to make clear, concise decisions tactically. To understand the whole strategically, as a mechanism of micromanaging the parts in synergy. It is a demand for near and farsightedness, macro and micro considerations, and the ability to be personally detached yet emotionally engaged. It is an ability to withstand stress, embrace and eradicate risk, and demonstrate the gumption to thrive in the face of dynamic changes. Most of all, however, it is an ability to demonstrate through one’s own humanity how others can reach the epitome of their self-actualization as a skilled, intelligent, and impactful contribution to a team and mission.


It’s the balancing act of many demands to which the average man may fall into conflict.


So what makes three little daily habits of meditation, gratitude, and nootropics so powerful for leaders? The secret is in science; the neuroscience.

Image designed by Creativesufi & copyright of gii


Meditation


Meditation can be looked at from the spiritual side of mind over matter and energy to impact. Alternatively, the neuroscience of matter to mind deciphers how the brain changes physical feeling. I can attest to the changes in neurotransmitters creating healthier emotions and thoughts in my psychology and mind.


I’ve found that meditation focused on breathwork oxygenates the brain in ways that stimulate relaxation and improves anxiety and pain tolerance. I believe these mental health benefits stem from a more detached experience of emotions where one becomes objective rather than obsessive. The focus becomes less subjective and thereby creates a less intense feeling of stress and the pain of overwhelmingness. Great leaders hold space between emotions and their implications. They analyze them until they reach a constructive place.


The Harvard Business Review article “What Meditation Can Do For Your Leadership” speaks on mindfulness meditation being the antidote to ego, a huge obstacle for some leaders. Through the practice of meditation, executives can also deepen their relationships with their teams. Beyond mastering emotions, controlling thoughts, and the ability to navigate one’s experience and responses — meditation can increase brain health, memory, cognitive capabilities such as learning new skills and reduce negative implications usually felt from multi-tasking and stressful problem-solving.


From CEOs like Arianna Huffington (Thrive Global), Jeff Winer (LinkedIn), and Ray Dalio, the billionaire investor guru, to sports icons like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, the Seahawks, and celebrities that include Will Smith, Oprah, Madonna, Russel Brand, Joe Rogan, and Tim Ferriss. The list is long, and there’s a reason.


Tip; inhale for four seconds slowly, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds slowly.



Gratitude


More than a buzzword or a trend, there is a multitude of significant ways in which gratitude can enhance your leadership through neuroscience. The Wharton Health Care Management Alumni Association article “The Neuroscience of Gratitude” attributes the benefits of gratitude to the release of both serotonin, ‘the happiness molecule,’ and dopamine, ‘the reward molecule.’ These neurotransmitters facilitate optimism, intrinsic motivation, and improved moods to power high-performance. It doesn’t stop there. Gratitude triggers other positive emotions that foster employee engagement and lessen undesirable behaviors from your teams. When people are appreciated, respect enhances, and the desire to deliver and exceed expectations increases.


They say you attract more of that which you are grateful for, so if for no other reason than the vibrational laws of attraction, start expressing your gratitude. Gratitude vibrates as an emotion (energy in motion) at approximately 900Hz, above Enlightenment at 780 Hz. It is one of the highest vibrational and healthy emotions one can feel. Leaders who practice gratitude can expect improved blood pressure, stronger immune systems, stress regulation, and better sleep to dominate their daily strategy. Not only will gratitude also breed more patience, perspective, and optimism, I find it trickles into creating empathy and compassion that makes the bond between leader and follower that much more solid. The expressions of gratitude span across entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, and wellness gurus; even Lady Gaga gets the daily gratitude in.


Tip: journal and write blessings, use sentences that start with “I am grateful for,” and when things hit hardship, ask yourself, “What can I appreciate about this situation, what lesson am I grateful for that can improve my organization and teams?”.


Nootropics


Nootropics are establishing their place right in the heart of the multi-billion dollar industry of cognitive enhancement. They are not really new, just newly understood and marketed. With the increasing concern of illegitimate claims on their health benefits, I was hesitant to endorse these now trendy supplements' efficacy fully. Our favorite word “may'' is almost always used with health supplements and the results they allude to. Rest assured, concerns with efficacy and risk with nootropics relate to some pharmaceutical-derived formulations or those which may have incorporated toxic chemicals. But, I have to say that I believe there is a great opportunity to use natural nootropics powered by the earth to support the cognitive demands of leadership.


“Bruhl and Sahakian (2016) stated that as demands on working people change, cognitive abilities were becoming more important. Since many workplace factors negatively impact cognition, an increasing number of healthy people are reporting the use of performance enhancing drugs as cognitive enhancers to maintain or to improve work performance. This was supported by Cederstrom (2016) who reported metaanalysis by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Oxford showed significant cognitive benefits from cognitive enhancers.”

— extract from “Performance Enhancing Drugs (Nootropics) in the Workplace” published in the Journal of International Management Studies, Volume 13 Number 2, August 2018


Some will say the etymology of the word Nootropic comes from “nóos” (mind, intellect) and "trope” (change, turn, revolutionize). Romanian Neurophysiologist Corneliu Giurgea coined it in 1972. A failure to create a sleep-aid by synthesizing a neurotransmitter GABA derivative turned into a medical discovery of what he called nootropics.


“Humanity will not wait millions of years until Mother Nature will hand it a functionally better brain...[Humankind] will directly, openly and consciously take part in evolution. Corneliu Giurgea (1923-1995), Father of the Nootropic Concept

Fast forward to 2021, natural nootropics are created from plants, herbs, trees, leaves, or mushroom extract. These are then combined in blends intended to positively influence cognitive abilities such as brain-boosting, memory enhancing, and improving mental alertness and concentration. The compounds in true nootropics should pose no risk to addiction, and if they can help, then why not support your nervous system.


I think the state of your brain health and abilities can largely impact your mind and mood. The ways in which a leader extends their praise, reprimand, vigilance, risk aversion, and patterns of choice are all up for influence. When you take supplements like natural nootropics, you can support your brain and enhance your cognition and focus.


Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that give instructions about your state of pleasure and pain. Happy hormones like serotonin for confidence, dopamine for reward, and GABA for anti-anxiety and calming all impact how you show up as a leader. Luckily many neurotransmitters are positively regulated through the right nootropics. There is also the sense that your placebo and believing in their impact influence their impact. But for me, that’s just an added bonus.


Tip: Ensure you follow the dosage guidelines and usage direction for any supplement and consider the necessary duration and frequency. Use as needed.


Recommended natural nootropics: Coffee extract, Lions Mane, Ashwagandha, Ginkgo Biloba, Cordyceps, B vitamins


Practice makes Habits Perfect.


There is nothing nicer than the ease of a habit. If you can consistently get your power habits done, your leadership will excel from good to great and from great to remarkable and feel good in the process.


Meditate = 10 minutes

Express Gratitude = 5 minutes

Take your nootropics = 5 minutes


Total time to become an executive-enhanced leader who is thriving in greater performance and happiness in ways you could not have imagined = 20 minutes


Habits are formed when an action taken is done with consistent repetition in ways that allow the brain to form dominant pathways for this action. Habits are hard to break because these neurological connections have been strengthened, which is great. After all, once you form them, they will stick. Much like how driving can now almost be done on auto-pilot or brushing your teeth, habits are the path of least resistance because it’s the one that is most familiar. This is called neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change through growth, reorganize and remap its own neural networks to create preferred pathways.


Consistency creates reinforced neuroplasticity that leads to habits and ease. Be consistent.


Three tips for scheduling these habits amidst the busy leadership lifestyle:

  1. Set reminders: name your alarm, leave notes on your mirror, post it on your laptop or your coffee machine, set a daily calendar event - whatever it takes, remind yourself to meditate, be grateful and take your nootropics.

  2. Manage your energy: you need to manage your energy, not just your time. As willpower depletes during the day and you are in crisis control, you will be less inclined to make time. Make sure you start your day with your Leadership Power Habits. It only takes 20 minutes, total. The irony is that the less time you think you have is when you need to be practicing these power habits the most. They will become so impactful that you will feel the difference when you do not practice them.

  3. Set intentions of impact: if you believe in the power of these habits, they become even more powerful. In the 2014 study led by Kaptchuk and published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers discovered that placebo was 50% as effective as the real drug. Even when patients taking a placebo knew they were taking a placebo. Was it simply that they believed it would work, and it did? This article published by Harvard Health Publishing, “The Power of the Placebo Effect,” forever changed my decision to believe in my actions and outcomes. Setting an intention when taking action and believing in an outcome could make the outcomes that much more powerful. Believe me.

Let your brain support you for the leader you can be, not just the leader you are. Enhance your neuropsychology, improve your mental health, lead by example, and empower not just your life but those who look to you to lead the way.


Create habits that make your leadership a legacy.


Subscribe here for first access to gii Magazine and exclusive intelligence tips for success, well-being, and happiness. Read more on gratitude in my Thrive Global piece, “How Gratitude Made Me A More Resilient Entrepreneur; Some light neuroscience on using thankfulness to avoid depression while launching a startup, and feel happier, immediately.”


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or visit my website for more info!

 

Gi Gi O'Brien, Guest Writer Brainz Magazine

Author | Social Entrepreneur | Visionary


Gi Gi is the director of strategic marketing at Travelier Magazine, founder of Nathazel Global Portfolio, and founder of gii. She is currently living in her island home Barbados, where she is creating a framework to innovate intelligence and evolve traditional IQ to include EQ and HQ to live a sustainable high-performance life that is fulfilling holistically.


Her book "The Intelligence of Happiness; How to Thrive using Authenticity, Self-Alignment and Simple Neuropsychology" is set to publish in September with Scribe Media. @thebarbadosbillionaire

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