5 steps to a smarter way of thinking

23 March 2016 -


The first in a five part series on unleashing your brain’s full potential looks at some simple ways of thinking differently and thinking smarter

Guest blogger Neil Pavitt

What I aim to do over the next five weeks is give you a series of tips from my book Brainhack, that will help you unleash your brain’s full potential.

1. The Done List

The trouble with to-do lists is, I don’t think they make us any more productive. What you need is a done list. Seeing what you’ve actually achieved will spur you on.

A long to-do list means: “we’ve got a lot to do” – it doesn’t mean we do a lot.

Unconsciously it changes from a to-do list into a “what you haven’t done list” and creates more stress and anxiety.

A ‘done list’ of things you have achieved creates positive associations and new connections in your brain making you feel more positive about yourself.

A done list is about achievements, whereas a to-do list is about goals.

2. Accentuate the positive

In Britain we’re not very good at accepting praise and we certainly don’t feel we should wallow in it. But in fact, that’s exactly what you should do.

The reason for spending time focusing on praise is that we need time for it to embed in our long-term memories. Then, when something happens to knock our confidence, we have positive memories of our ability to give us a boost.

3. The bird in the hand syndrome

It’s been found that people value something more once they own it.

If you give someone a bonus upfront and tell them that they’ll lose it if they don’t reach a specific target, they’re far more likely to reach that target.

It seems it’s hardwired into us. It even affects those who buy and sell for a living. Professional market traders are often reluctant to sell investments they already hold, even though they could trade them for assets they would prefer to invest in, if starting from scratch.

4. Exercise more to make your brain run better

You know that feeling at the end of a really busy stressful day when your brain feels “fried”. That’s because it is fried. The stress hormone cortisol is released to keep you in a state of heightened alertness.

It’s called the “fight or flight” mechanism and it’s why exercise is so good at countering it. Just the act of running will help reduce the cortisol in your body. Even a brisk stroll will have a similar beneficial effect.

As well as reducing stress, exercise has also been proved to increase the production of grey matter in the brain.

5. Let your body do the talking

The next time you’ve got an important meeting, interview or public speaking engagement, try power posing.

Research has proved that if you adopt a ‘power pose’ for two minutes, you get a 20% increase in testosterone (the hormone linked to dominance) and a 25% decrease in stress hormone cortisol.

Power posers were also 25% more likely to take a risk.

Find somewhere private and spend two minutes standing tall with your hands on your hips like Superman or Wonder Woman. It may seem hard to believe, but this will dramatically increase your levels of confidence.

Neil Pavitt is a writer and creativity coach. This article is based on his latest book Brainhack: Tips and Tricks to Unleash Your Brain's Full Potential (published by Capstone)

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