Inspiration and lessons for your leadership journey!
“Happiness and success in life do not depend on our circumstances, but on ourselves.”
Texting. Email. Meetings. Phone calls. Conference calls. Webinars. To-Do List. LinkedIn. Facebook. Twitter.
Are you constantly going from one thing to the next and/or find yourself trying to multitask? Then do yourself and those you lead a favor – take a break!
Researchers from the University of Southern California and MIT report on some of the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and education that have profound impact for leaders, educators, project coordinators, and development specialists.
Taking time for what they call ‘strategic abstraction’ – a break – can positively affect your memory and cognitive abilities, your ability to imagine the future, your moral judgment, and dealing with how social situations impact others around you – all key components of effective leadership.
They discovered that we have two alternating systems in the functional architecture of our brains. One system is responsible for our active involvement in tasks, the environment and stimuli around us, and evaluating how important all that is to us. They call it the “looking out” system.
The other system is more reflective and is considered the ‘default mode’ of the brain. This system is in use when we allow our minds to wander in a dynamic stream of loose associations, memories, hypothetical ‘what-ifs,’ future plans, and social imaginings or during contemplation, and meditation. It’s also what we call daydreaming. Functional MRIs reveal our minds are actually quite active during periods of so-called ‘rest.’ They named this system the “looking in” system.
I spoke of taking time-outs and setting a daily contemplation time in A Travel Guide to Leadership:
“Taking time out to re-center and re-focus is a crucial part of effective leadership. As I mentioned before, I contemplate my guiding principles and values every morning and every night on a continual and routine basis. If I get stressed or busy, I take time-outs to reconnect to purpose, mission, and vision and guiding principles and values. Only then am I ready to focus on the goals and objectives that manifest them into reality.”
The two systems complement each other. The better you are at strategic abstraction – the “looking in” system – the better you are at focusing on tasks and the environment – the “looking out” system. People with higher functioning “looking in” systems tend to have higher IQs, better reading and memory abilities, and higher performance on attention-demanding cognitive tasks.
However, overuse of the “looking out” system has detrimental effects. There is evidence that overuse could predispose us toward focusing on the concrete, physical, and immediate aspects of situations and self, with less inclination toward considering the abstract, longer term, moral, and emotional implications of ours and others’ actions.
So as this busy week unfolds, remember to take time for a strategic abstraction from time to time. It is during moments like these that we often discover the solution to problems, have creative insights, and organize possibilities into better plans.
It’s okay to take a break from the mayhem from time to time – it’s good for you and those you lead. So take some strategic abstraction time today and remember that rest is not idleness.
Have an amazing journey today!
This Week's Affirmations
(Repeat these quietly to yourself multiple times throughout the day.)
I start my day with “looking in” time.
It’s okay to take a break and recharge.
I make the time to take strategic breaks throughout my day.
My strategic breaks help me to be better at what I do.
Alan Mikolaj is a a professional, experienced, positive, and passionate speaker, leadership and organizational development consultant, change agent, author, and coach. He holds his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Sam Houston State University. He is a certified graduate coach from Coaching Out of the Box and holds his ACC and membership with the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
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In his third book, A Travel Guide to Leadership, Alan offers you simple, fundamental, and powerful lessons that have the power to transform you, your relationships, and your career.