A Guide to Understanding Brain Waves for Peak Performance

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We learn all we can about diets and exercise, supplements, medical check ups and even skin care. But there’s an often overlooked component to our health and quality of life: our brain waves! Just as we can influence our physical health through lifestyle choices, we can harness the different levels of brain waves to improve various aspects of our lives, from sleep to peak mental performance.

The miraculous human brain is a ceaseless symphony of activity, with neurons communicating through electrical impulses. These impulses generate brain waves, a measure of electrical activity, which vary in frequency and are associated with our state of mind and level of consciousness.  Healthline explains, “When a group of neurons sends a burst of electrical pulses to another group of neurons, it creates a wave-like pattern. These waves are measured in speed cycles per second, which we describe as Hertz (Hz).”

brain wave chart by section and color

Oscillations are measured in cycles per second. Different rates of oscillation (that is, different speeds of brainwave rhythm) correspond to different states of consciousness and mental activity, such as thinking and sleeping. The main brainwave patterns have been named after Greek letters: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, theta.

Let’s learn more about each level: 

Delta Waves (<4 Hz):

The slowest brain waves, predominant during deep, restorative sleep. Practicing conditions that enhance delta wave activity can significantly improve sleep quality.

Theta Waves (4-8 Hz):

The waves are associated with light sleep, meditation, and creativity. They bridge the conscious and subconscious realms, offering opportunities for profound creativity, healing, and personal growth.

Alpha Waves (8-14 Hz):

While you are alert during Alpha, you can be in this state with relaxation and calmness. Alpha waves can enhance focus, facilitate learning, and promote well-being. Learning techniques that promote alpha wave activity can be particularly beneficial for stress reduction.

Beta Waves (14-30 Hz):

These waves are dominant during our waking state, when attention is involved in cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta waves are crucial for effective problem-solving and decision-making. Managing beta wave activity can help achieve peak mental performance without the downside of stress or anxiety.

Gamma Waves (>30 Hz):

The fastest of the brain waves, gamma waves are associated with heightened perception, problem-solving, and consciousness. Enhancing gamma wave activity is thought to correlate with improved cognitive function and emotional control.

Recognizing and understanding these different brainwave states holds immense potential. It can be integrated into daily life by intentionally shifting our brain wave activity through mindfulness practices, meditation, biofeedback, using binaural music or targeted exercise and relaxation techniques. Using those, you actually can optimize your mental performance, enhance creativity, improve sleep, and reduce stress.

I’ve written on Heart Leadership and Gut Intelligence, to expand awareness of just how much our bodies have going on.  Just as we’ve embraced other pillars of health and peak performance, it’s time to recognize the role of brain waves in our overall well-being. By becoming attuned to the rhythms of our brain and leveraging this knowledge, we can unlock new dimensions of health, productivity, and personal fulfillment! It might just be the next frontier in achieving your best life. 

Look for the sequel to this blog which will expand on some techniques that are being worked with to enhance brain wave levels. Join my newsletter with positive news, my monthly blog, and helpful resources to be sure you don’t miss a thing.

Crafting a Personal Mission Statement: Your Path to Purpose

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Have you ever found yourself wondering, in some quiet moment: ‘Is this all there is?’ Those whispers from within, hinting at a deeper yearning for happiness, satisfaction, or a clearer direction in life, are more common than you think. Life’s routine of paying bills and tackling emergencies may be balanced with wonderful trips, memorable family occasions and fun hobbies… but what truly fulfills us is pursuing these with an overarching sense of purpose.

Creating a personal mission statement is like drawing a map for the journey. Imagine navigating each day with a clear sense of purpose, leading to a life that’s not only more productive and happier, but truly fulfilling!

Without a personal roadmap, your life’s path can feel dictated by randomness, responsibilities and at times, the will of others. But it doesn’t have to be. A personal mission statement, crafted through curiosity, introspection and a bit of soul-searching, can illuminate your own vision and values, leading you to live your best life. 

Interested? Here’s a step-by-step guide:  

“Begin with the End in Mind” – Stephen Covey

To start, set up a folder or get a notebook devoted to the purpose. As you work with the steps below, jot ideas down and let writing flow. Anything you write down has a far more profound effect.  You can also record voice memos as ideas come, then make notes on what stood out after. The way this works is to mine for the thoughts and answers inside you, the place where your genuine resources reside. You’ll find by tapping into them they will organically take on a shape which you can hone into a truly authentic personal mission statement.  

  • Discover Your Strengths

To start, identify what you excel at, both professionally and personally. Highlight activities that bring you peace, joy, or that sense of being in the zone. Understanding what you’re good at and what brings you happiness is crucial for setting a clear focus.

  • Determine Your Values

Consider the question, “What is life asking of me?” Reflect on what meaning drives your responsibilities and contributions to your family and friends, in your community and at work. Now, think of your heroes. Which of their qualities inspire you or are ones you’d like to emulate. Pinpointing those contributions you find to be of worth and fulfilling will be the bedrock principles by which to guide your future actions.

  • Envision Your Best Self

Now that you’ve reacquainted yourself with your strengths and values and what makes you feel most useful and happy in each role, envision yourself at your best TODAY. It’s not about reaching back for attributes from younger years – you’ve already been there. Instead, reflect on moments you’ve felt most alive and fulfilled and jot those down as clues. It’s about who you want to be now, and how you want to make choices to effectively build the best life that is truest for you. 

  • Define Your Purpose

Assess these key areas of your life—physical, mental, social, spiritual—and how living your values should serve each. It can be clearer to you if you also list the roles you have, and do the same –two slightly different ways to get a well rounded purpose.  This isn’t an exercise about achievements you shoot for, but about detecting the principles you want to live by and who you aspire to become.

  • Envision Your Legacy

Fast forward to the future: What do you want to be remembered for by the people important to you and in each role you play? This vision can act as a powerful motivator for shaping your actions and decisions. When daily life can make you forget, or if you’re at a crossroads, remembering what you envision here can suddenly simplify your choices, often making the right one stand out clearly. 

  • Set Your Long View Goals

With all the groundwork laid, you can now articulate a few key, overarching goals. While we have many goals day to day or year to year, for this, look to broader, long range goals. Some examples may be: To cultivate a deep, trusting relationship with my life partner, to raise kids who know they are loved and valued for exactly who they are, to build a business that serves others and has a strong and satisfied staff, to be known as a person of integrity in business and my personal relationships. 

  • Write Your Mission Statement

This statement should be your guiding light, succinct yet comprehensive enough to give you direction both daily and in the long term. Whether it’s a flowing paragraph or two or bullet points, the clarity of your mission is what matters most.

A personal mission statement is more than words on paper; it’s a living document that evolves as you do. It’s about:

  • Leading a life aligned with your deepest priorities.
  • Navigating daily challenges with an eye on your long-term vision.
  • Steering clear of distractions that don’t serve your mission.
  • Becoming a creative force in your life and a positive influence on others.

In crafting your personal mission statement, you’re not just plotting a course for success but defining the very essence of your life’s journey. It’s your own constitution that aligns with your personal “Why’s” to guide both your daily actions and long-term outcomes – so worth investing a little time to do with interest and curiosity. Enjoy the process, for it is in this creation that you’ll find a deeper connection to your purpose and a more profound sense of direction in everything you do.  

And you’ll want to regularly review, revise, and refresh your mission statement to ensure it continues to reflect your deepest values and goals.

If you feel stuck or are struggling to define any of the steps above, it can help to flesh things out in conversation with a trusted mentor, teacher or coach. If you would like help to get started, to talk through any step where you may be stuck or need clearer vision, or want to revise a former mission statement, I’m here to help! Just contact me and we can discuss what best supports you on this very worthy endeavor.

 

Thinking Outside the Box: A New Paradigm

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The ability to think outside the box is more than just a skill—it’s a transformative power that can lead to greater productivity and innovation in our personal and professional lives. I’ve been reading up on this topic and have found several truly interesting  resources to share. Below are three different perspectives on thinking out of the box.  Drawing from these articles, let’s explore ways to dismantle the ‘walls’ of traditional thinking and kindle an environment where creativity and groundbreaking ideas can thrive.

The Walls of Conventional Thought

Traditional thinking can box us in with invisible walls. I found it helpful that a Forbes article took the tact of naming those walls after characteristics which limit our potential: blame, complaints, defensiveness, and closed-mindedness. It’s helpful to see each of these in the context of 4 walls to a box that you want to break free from. 

Recognize The Barriers

The first step is to recognize these barriers. The article defines each to help you do so. Then the work is to consciously strive to release those qualities.  You can do this by writing down just 2 or 3 simple changes you can make to get to the productivity and upliftment that await you beyond them. For example, they suggest these four practical starters. Look for how you can:

  • Transform blame into a sense of ownership. Owning it is actually good news, because you have the most power here to do something positive about it. 
  • Pivot from dwelling on problems to devising solutions. Looking for how to solve problems you’re in, with even the smallest positive steps forward, will feel incredibly freeing – and release a lot of energy you may not realize was keeping you down. 
  • Replace defensiveness with openness to accountability. Again, the best thing for progress is if the ball is in your court. You can gain respect for being accountable, and admiration for being willing to make something better. Defensiveness shuts doors to opportunity and connection.
  • Exchange closed-mindedness for a curiosity that welcomes new and diverse perspectives. Innovation relies on being open minded. Curiosity is a great way to test a concept or brainstorm… and it’s THE way great ideas happen. 

Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box.” Deepak Chopra

 

 

Imagination and Fractal Changes

Venturing outside the box also calls for a ‘radical imagination,’ a concept focused on in a Harvard Business Review article. It’s about challenging the status quo with ‘wonder questions’. Again, the benefits of getting curious. Try frequently asking “I wonder why…” 

They introduce fractal changes – the subtle yet impactful shifts in our approach and mindset that impact the big picture. It’s a new perspective that is both simple and radically out of the box!. The article suggests that by focusing on consciously making micro-changes in both our behavior and thought processes, we create a ripple effect that can reshape the larger systems in play.

Thinking outside the box isn’t just a cliché; it’s a vital edge strategy for today’s rapidly changing world. It involves breaking free from traditional patterns,  and embracing both radical imagination and impactful fractal changes. 

As covered in last month’s blog, the journey of innovative thinking starts with a single step beyond conventional boundaries. If you’re poised to embark on this transformative journey, let’s connect and explore the possibilities together.

Embracing Liminal Space: A Courageous Pathway to Growth

White walls and doorway between two rooms to illustrate the topic of liminal space

In our fast-paced world, we often seek clarity and direction, but what about those moments when we find ourselves in a state of transition – the in-between phases of life? This is what we call ‘liminal space’, a concept that, if embraced, can transform our lives and lead to significant personal growth.

Understanding Liminal Space

Liminal space refers to a time of transition, a season of waiting and not knowing. This term originates from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning ‘threshold’. It’s like standing at the doorway between two distinct areas, not fully in one place nor the other. These are the times when old structures or routines break down, and new ones have not yet formed.

Liminality can be unsettling because it challenges our sense of identity and certainty. It could be the time after graduation but before starting a career, the period following a relationship breakup, moving from one city to another or the phase when considering a significant life change.

Recognize You Are in a Liminal Space

Identifying you’re in a liminal space is the first step towards using it effectively. Signs include feelings of uncertainty, questioning life choices, or a sense of waiting for something to happen. You might feel disconnected from your old self but not yet connected to what’s next. It’s important to acknowledge these feelings without judgment- and to even welcome them. 

Using Liminal Space Productively

  • Embrace the Uncertainty
    • Liminal spaces offer unique opportunities for reflection and growth. Embrace the uncertainty and use this time to reassess your values, dreams, and goals. It’s a rare chance to ask yourself, “What do I really want from life?”
  • Practice Mindfulness and Patience
    • This period can teach patience and the art of living in the moment. Mindfulness practices like meditation can help you stay grounded and calm during times of transition.
  • Journaling and Creative Expression
    • Expressing your thoughts through journaling, art, or music can be therapeutic. It helps process emotions and can lead to surprising insights about your future path.
  • Explore New Possibilities
    • The fluidity of liminal space allows for exploration. Try new hobbies, travel, volunteer, or take short courses. These activities can provide clarity and may even open new doors.
  • Seek Support and Share Experiences
    • Talking with friends, joining support groups, or working with a coach can provide comfort and guidance. Sharing your experiences with others who are also in transitional phases can be incredibly validating and enlightening. Your Support Circles can really come into play here. 
  • Avoid Rushing to Fill the Void
    • While it’s tempting to rush into the next phase, remember that growth often happens in the waiting. Avoid making hasty decisions just to escape discomfort. See it instead as a time to mine riches – even if they may not be visible to you yet. Make it a practice in BELIEVING! 

The Courage to Grow

Liminal spaces require courage. They ask us to surrender control and embrace the unknown. However, these periods can be deeply rich in lessons and personal development. By recognizing and valuing these in-between times, we can transform our approach to life’s transitions, seeing them not as obstacles but as pathways to growth and self-discovery.

Liminal spaces are both challenging and enriching. They offer a unique perspective on life and an opportunity to realign with our true selves. Remember that this journey, though uncertain, can lead to profound growth and fulfillment.

If you’re navigating a liminal space and seeking guidance or support, let’s talk.  

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7 Ways to Regain Your Work Mojo After Time Off

Back to the office after a break but still feeling tired and unfocused? Here’s 7 ways to regain your work mojo after time off!

We’ve all been there: You’ve had a break from work – whether a vacation, lone weekend or a sabbatical, Your intent was to come back refreshed, yet upon your return, you don’t feel the energy or you hoped for. Here you’ll find 7 ways to regain your work mojo after time off. 

Whatever your reasons for feeling anywhere from uninspired to exhausted, don’t discount the deep burnout we have from our society’s habits and trends. We know it well: social media scrolling, blue light exposure, the endless news, continued effects from Covid, and even the pressure to do all the healthy stuff we know so much about now (eating paleo/whole 30/keto/macro, getting enough sleep, mushroom coffee SO MUCH), trying to be mindful and present all through. So even if we take a vacation we can end up not feeling quite rested and walk into work with trepidation. 

According to a recent Harris Poll conducted by Zapier, many leaders resonate with this sentiment, with 87% dreading aspects of returning to work. Topping the list? Settling back into routines, catching up on administrative tasks and team goals, and facing the sea of unread messages. 

As leaders—from team managers to top-tier executives—we don’t just bear the weight of our own tasks but also the expectations and effectiveness of those we lead. So, how can we navigate this return transition with grace and efficiency? Here are some actionable strategies:

  1. Prioritize Personal Well-being

Start your day a little early, giving that morning time solely to you and your own restoration. It could be a session of meditation, journaling, a refreshing workout, or simply savoring a cup of your favorite tea. When you prioritize self-care, you set a positive tone for the day ahead.

  1. Draft a Weekly To-Do List

As you plan your week, ease into your tasks. Differentiate between the immediate necessities and those that can wait. Set only three critical tasks for Day 1, diving into at least one before you tackle emails.  Repeat with your 3 top priorities as the only goal again for Day 2.  Done this way, by Wednesday the mountain you felt you were facing on Monday doesn’t look so high anymore.  Celebrate your progress, no matter how small.

  1. Designate Catch-up Time

Block off periods free from meetings and commitments to catch up undisturbed, especially the first hour or so in the mornings. Turn off notifications and zero in on what needs doing. Such focused time often yields higher productivity.  This is especially good to practice that can make a significant difference in how your day goes. Set your alarm to warn you 15 minutes before the time you blocked out ends so you can wrap up feeling you made solid progress.  

  1. Sync with Your Team

Once you feel grounded, organize a team or staff meeting to ensure everyone is aligned. Their support and/or knowing they are indeed on track, can provide a layer of ease and confidence you need.

  1. Cluster Tasks

Group similar tasks, such as answering emails or attending meetings, to make the most effective use of your time energy. Consider a color-coding system or other organizing methods to help you know what needs to be dealt with and what can definitely wait. When you accomplish a cluster, take a break before going back again fresh.

  1. Reschedule Where Possible

Examine your upcoming schedule – at least in the first week or so. Ask what can be responsibly postponed or canceled without inconveniencing someone else? Then do that. You’d be amazed how even freeing up one slot can offer the breathing space you crave.

  1. Evening Restoration

Dedicate time in the evening for relaxation as you assimilate. If life’s commitments seem too pressing, finding small ways to rejuvenate, even if it’s just a few minutes of mindful breathing in the coziest clothes, or a short evening walk, can be really effective and put you in a much better place for the next day.

Use this experience to prepare for future breaks by building in some buffer time before you return to the office. Creating a free day or two before diving back into work makes a huge difference in how grounded and prepared you feel when Monday comes around. It can be used to get your clothes or food together, or get a head start on sorting emails, planning, and setting priorities. If you don’t have this luxury each time, you can use time while waiting on line, on the plane, waiting to return a rental car, etc… using your Voice Memo or Notes app in your phone to jot down a to-do list, or begin establishing the top 3 priorities, decide what you will do first thing in the morning for YOU, and when you come home the first few nights… These will make a significant infusion of your work mojo upon your return.

In the ever-evolving dynamics of leadership, transitions, and returns can be daunting. But remember, with a blend of self-care, structured planning, and a dash of flexibility, you can find your footing more swiftly.

If these strategies resonate with you and you’re seeking guidance in creating a tailored plan for your transitions—or just need support navigating leadership challenges—reach out to me. Let’s transform your challenges into wins together.

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From Misstep to Mastery: Making the Most of Mistakes

Making the most of mistakes is a foreign concept to many. In our culture, we’re taught shame around mistakes, so they represent something to hide, and to equate with failure and the fear of judgement. 

Failure is not just inevitable; it’s necessary. It’s an integral aspect of the leadership landscape. How you respond to setbacks determines your influence and credibility in the professional realm. Often, our missteps arise from well-intentioned endeavors or sheer persistence. That’s important to remember.  So rather than viewing them as errors, it’s time to reframe our perspective: they are learning moments, packed with the potential to guide us towards better judgment, sharpened skills and more effective action. 

In October, I embark on my 26th year of coaching and consulting, on the heels of a transformative decade working as a lawyer. The journey, though fulfilling, hasn’t been devoid of pitfalls. I’ve stumbled here and there, and made my fair share of mistakes. But with each mishap I discovered an opportunity — a chance to grow, to evolve, and to fortify my toolkit with fresh insights. Each mistake has legitimate potential to make you better. 

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again; this time more intelligently. —Henry Ford

Mistakes: Lessons in Disguise

See every mistake you make not as a misstep but as an avenue from which to glean wisdom. This is life’s way of course correction, and not a single soul is exempt from it. Keeping a ‘Beginner’s Mind’, a Zen concept that implies looking at every situation with openness and eagerness without preconceptions, is the key to staying rejuvenated and receptive. The true beauty lies in the way you show up, especially when things don’t go as planned.

Learning from Missteps

The real challenge isn’t from making a mistake, but in acknowledging it with grace and honesty. Shed the temptation (or default) to go to shame, and instead, strive to understand what went astray. Such self-awareness, devoid of self-judgment (the key), paves the way for corrective measures. Taking accountability not only prevents recurrences but resonates with strength and dedication, ultimately reinforcing your credibility.

Rebuilding and Restoration

Genuine regret, appropriate to the situation, and an active effort to ameliorate the aftermath of a mistake can rebuild any challenged  bridges or confidence. It’s a testament to your respect for your colleagues and your unwavering commitment to the shared objectives of your clients,  team or organization.

Navigating the Path to Wisdom

The process of introspection – of really sitting down to assess what led to a mistake – is invaluable. Whether you pen down your thoughts or share them with a trusted confidant, this step is the real treasure trove. It helps refine your judgment, attention, and skills. Often, the fear of confronting our mistakes holds us back, but in embracing them, we find relief, clarity, and growth! 

Managing Others’ Mistakes

As leaders, the errors of our teams or clients can weigh us down. But leadership isn’t just about leading; it’s about lifting others when they falter. While it’s natural to feel fatigued by the continual need to address and rectify others’ mistakes, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced perspective. Remember, as a leader, your words, actions, and choices have a big impact.The way you handle others’ mistakes becomes a benchmark, influencing the organizational culture and dynamics.

Your approach to errors, whether yours or others’, creates a ripple effect. Owning up to mistakes, learning from them, and guiding others through theirs solidifies your influence and garners respect from both peers and superiors. More than your achievements, it’s your resilience, adaptability, and honesty in the face of adversity that truly underscores your leadership prowess.

Mistakes are not the antithesis of success but its foundation!. They offer rich insights, propel growth, and mold impeccable leaders. If this resonates with you and you’d like a partner with which to navigate your leadership journey with grace, resilience, and adaptability, don’t hesitate to contact me. Together, we can transform your mistakes into milestones.