Career Woman

Rewiring your brain for confidence

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The idea of change can bring up a myriad of emotions. Sometimes, it feels great to venture out on an undiscovered trail or to accept a new position halfway around the world. But other times, we fear making changes and resist, even to our own detriment.

A few short decades ago, scientists believed brain circuits were more or less “done” developing after a few years. Now we understand that our brains actually have an enormous capacity for change, and we can consciously make these changes.

Dr Fred Travis, a neuroscientist whose recent work has focused on the brains of world-class performers, recommends that we think of the brain as a river, with ebbs, bends and even debris in the way. The connections between your neurons, or brain cells, continuously change based on events in your life. Neuroscientists believe that around 70% of our brain connections shift each day.

Because of the relative newness of the field, it is almost as if we are stepping into the unknown. The possibility that the brain can rewire itself to overcome experiences that could hold us back in life brings new hope for the future. Imagine the possibilities. Past experiences will certainly shape us, but we have the capacity to heal and recover from traumatic times.

Dr Michael Merzenich is well known for his research regarding brain plasticity. In an early Ted Talk (2004), Dr Merzenich pointed out that our individual skills are shaped by our environments, and that our brains develop specific skills because of this environment. The old mindset that these skills were more or less “settled” into the brain has been proven false, and we can indeed rewire our brain circuits. We can break the habits of the past by relearning information.

To really understand how marvellous the brain is, consider that it is continually recording information, billions of events and sensations that we don’t even consciously consider–but our brain is catching everything. All these stimuli are rewiring how your brain cells communicate with each other through tiny but very real physical changes. These small variations in how the neurons connect create your personality, your hopes and your dreams.

Each of us has something uniquely our own to offer the world. However, we often convince ourselves that our voices aren’t worthy, or that our thoughts aren’t revolutionary. If you feel anxiety about speaking up or worrying about work is causing you to lose sleep, seek help. Start with a conversation with your medical professional and bring your body and brain back onto a path of good health. Finding the confidence to overcome mental or physical issues can help you achieve your dreams.

One problem in the modern era is that young girls may have a difficult time finding role models that can help guide them to success. We are inundated with wealthy pop stars and actresses, but for most people, this kind of celebrity is extremely rare. What about female role models in business and politics?

I tell my daughters to have their voice in this world, and it became clear I needed to role-model that.

Melinda Gates, Co-Founder of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Women leaders have a voice that is louder than it has ever been in history, and women all over the world have opportunities that were once denied to them. Our brains have a great capacity for change if we only dare to step forth. Now is the time to lead future generations into the spotlight. Are you ready?

Citations

  1. Travis F. Your Brain is a River, Not a Rock. Frederick Travis. 2015.
  2. Merzenich, M. Growing evidence of brain plasticity. Ted Conferences, LLC. 2004.

About Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano is a social scientist, leadership expert and award-winning filmmaker. Over the past 20 years, Silvia has developed a career, revolutionising the way organisations and individuals think about leadership. She developed the About My Brain Institute in 2009, an organisation using neuroscience to develop leaders, teams and cultures. Over the two decades of working in this space Silvia has noticed a number of patterns. She has authored a number of books including ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, and recently released her award-winning documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’. Released earlier this year, the documentary uses a scientific foundation to argue that modern leadership requires an integrative approach with both the body and mind and concludes that leaders can be made. Through interviews with experts and leaders around the world, the documentary explores how a democratic, collaborative view of leadership is the only way for individuals to reach their true potential in a world where creativity is king.

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