3 ways to help your brain learn

3 ways to help your brain learn

Julia Sperling is a medical doctor with a background in neuroscience. She’s also a faculty member of McKinsey Leadership Development. Her work focuses on shifting mindsets and behaviors by highlighting beliefs and biases that constrain personal growth, learning, and job performance.

These include misconceptions about how the brain works, often popularized by bad journalism and now disproved by neuroscience. You may have heard that you’re either right- or left-brained. Wrong. Or that you only use 10% of the capacity of your brain. Nope.

In fact, the latest research suggests that the brain is infinitely more capable of learning in myriad ways, with positive reinforcement, focus, and a growth mindset.”

So let’s talk about positive reinforcement, focus, and a growth mindset in particular. When we hone in on these three learning methods in particular, we’ll find that we’re able to train our brain to perform at its best, and thereby we’ll improve our performance both in our professional lives and our personal lives.

 

Positive Reinforcement

At some point, you might have learned about the importance of creating a mission statement or a list of values for your organisation or company. In fact, it’s something we’ve discussed at length here on the blog.

Why is this important? Besides helping your employees feel a sense of unity and attributing significance to their daily contribution to the company, missions and values also serve another purpose: it gives them a ‘why’ for what they do. It gives them an understanding of why it’s important to learn the skills necessary for their job and why it’s important to continuously build upon those skills.

But to take it one step further, when you couple this learning with positive reinforcement (praise, recognition, positive feedback, etc.), you’ll create an environment where your employees enjoy learning and bettering themselves.

 

Focus

We live in a world where people are bent on multi-tasking. You might believe that when you multi-task, you’re getting more done. However, recent research actually proves the exact opposite. According to researchers at Stanford University, multi-tasking reduces your efficiency because your brain can only focus on one thing at once. When you focus on more than one thing, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

A University of London study found that multi-tasking can even lower your IQ, and according to researchers at Sussex University, it can have negative effects on your brain. More specifically, they found that multitaskers had less brain density in a region of the brain associated with empathy and cognitive control.

The moral of the story? Avoid multi-tasking at all costs. Instead, focus your brainpower and mental energy on one thing at a time. You’ll learn much more effectively and perform at your best.

 

Growth Mindset

Simply put, growth mindset is believing that you can learn. Earlier in this post, we discussed some common myths about learning: you can only use 10% of your brain, or that you’re either left or right-brained. Unfortunately, such myths often keep people from reaching their potential. In other words, we sell ourselves short because we accept the myth that we’re not able to learn in the way we want to learn.

So what can you do? It’s all about what you tell yourself. Julia Sperling asserts that mindfulness meditation, for instance, can significantly improve your readiness to take in new information. But mindset is just as important.

Stereotypes especially come into play here. If, before an exam, you tell a classroom of boys and girls that the males will perform better than their female counterparts, you may very well see the girls perform below average. If, however, female students are told that they can perform just as well as their male peers, they will believe it and will perform above average.

A growth mindset is all about believing in your ability to learn whatever’s put in front of you. When we believe we can…we often will!

 

Apart from the three strategies above, one of the most important strategies you can learn both in your personal and professional life is how to be resilient in the midst of change. That’s why I’m excited to announce my upcoming book:

The Resilient Employee:

The essential guide to coping with change and thriving in today’s workplace.

Available on 21 June for Kindle and in paperback

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After training hundreds of people in change, I’ve turned my popular course material into a book!

Do you want the chance to win a signed paperback copy AND my Thriving in Change online course (total value $69)?

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