As a Mindful Leader it’s essential that you become aware of your patterns, the patterns of the people around you, and how they interact to make up this thing we call reality.
I know when I first started down the path of mindfulness I was having difficulty understanding this idea of full-awareness.
To answer this question I’m going to explain a few brain rules that I’ve discovered that have helped me to make sense of it all.
Brain Rule #1 – Everything is a pattern.
There is a pattern to all human behaviour.
Elite athletes have a pattern of extraordinary performance.
Good parents have a pattern of good mothers and fathers.
Mindful leaders have a pattern of great leadership.
Patterns are the building blocks of our reality. They are our thoughts, habits, behaviours, rules, beliefs, stories and strategies that enable us to move through and engage with the world.
As a Mindful Leader it’s essential that we become aware of which of our pattens are useful and which ones need to be replaced with new and improved versions.
How do we become aware of patterns?
It’s easy, because we are all have the equipment built in.
Brain Rule #2 – Your brain is pattern recognition, execution, and creation machine.
The following 3 parts make up the system we call the brain:
1) The Brain Stem and Cerebellum
This is the oldest part of our brain. It is what connects our spinal cord to our brain. Often referred to the lizard brain. This is the part of our brain that controls all of our internal functions like heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. The patterns of the brain steam are designed to keep you alive.
2) The Limbic System
The limbic system is your survival system. Often referred to as the monkey mind (or the elephant). The limbic system is the home of your anxiety, sadness and fear (and other emotions) via the amygdala; short term memory via the hippocampus; and sensory information via the thalamus. The patterns of the limbic system are designed to keep you safe.
3) The Cortex
The cortex is in charge of basically everything. This is the wrinkly outer-layer of the brain. It is the newest part of our brain and it processes what you see, hear, and feel, along with language, movement, thinking, planning, and personality. The patterns of cortex are design to help you thrive.
The entire purpose of your 3 part brain system is to recognize, create and execute patterns. Each part performs it’s function by recognizing patterns in the world and responding to what we recognize by either executing an existing pattern or by creating a ones.
So what does our brain do with all of these patterns?
It creates our reality.
Brain Rule #3 – We hold an internal representation of ourselves, the world and our place in it.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “What fires together, wires together”.
This is a simple way of describing the process that your neurons (brain cells) use to communicate with one another.
When one brain cell wants to communicate with another it releases a chemical (neurotransmitter) that the next brain cell absorbs.
All of these patterns are stored inside your brain via this firing of connected neurons (neuronal firing).
Every one of yours thoughts, habits, behaviours, rules, beliefs, stories and strategies exist within your brain as a chain of connected neurons.
And all of these pattens of connected neurons work together to make up your internal matrix of reality.
This is what I mean when I say that we hold an internal representation of ourselves, the world, and our place in it.
How did we create our internal matrix?
We’ve been building it since we were born.
Brain Rule #4 – We’ve been creating our internal matrix since the moment of our existence.
When we were a newborn, we learned the pattern of crying to get food.
As a toddler we learned the pattern of walking so that we could explore the world.
As we grew older, our worldview continued to evolve as we established beliefs and more subtle ways to influence others to get what we want (crying can only get you so far).
From the moment of our existence we’ve been learning patterns to survive.
As we ran these same patterns over and again, this repeated firing of our neurons made the neural pathways stronger and stronger.
And as our neural pathways become stronger, these patterns become our preferred (and automatic) habits and behaviours.
I’ve often used the term, “stuck in a rut”, to describe the default behaviours that I’ve seen within myself and others.
Up until a few decades ago we used to believe that, once these patterns were formed in our early years, they were fixed and could not be changed.
We now know that our brains can changes even as adults.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.
This means we can no longer use the excuse, “I’m to old to change”.
So how do we change?
We need to unplug from the matrix.
Brain Rule #5 – To change your life, change your patterns.
You may have heard the saying, “The map is not the territory”.
This saying by Alfred Korzybski, explains the differences between belief and reality.
Our internal matrix of the world is really just a map of the reality we have coded within our neural patterns.
Once we realize that our internal matrix is just a representation of reality (a map), we can step back and begin to see all the patterns in play.
You can notice your automatic responses to external triggers.
You can challenge the beliefs that are keeping you stuck in a rut.
You can become intentional about what you feed your brain to help it create new and enabling patterns.
You can unplug from the matrix.
If you would like to learn more about the brain rules and mindful leadership, simply head over to www.learn2lead.co and sign-up for my free online training called The 31 Lessons of Mindful Leadership.