The Big Idea
So confession time: Back to the Future is probably one of our favourite films of all time. Now this probably says a lot about our age. As science geeks we have been speaking about what if we could time travel – and then it hit us when talking to a colleague and therapist Mark Evans that we already have all the equipment we need(ish) in our own brains.
This all started for us this week from a study back in 2014 associated with Harvard Business School (HBS) which showed that people who were given the opportunity to reflect at the end of a working day showed 20+% boost in efficacy (efficiency in performance) in subsequent days at work. Not only that but as HBS professor Francesca Gino says those people felt “more confident that they can achieve things. As a result, they put more effort into what they’re doing and what they learn.”
As executive and performance coaches we have found that some sort of reflection at the end of the day by thinking, especially if combined with recording their reflections and insights in some way, say by journalling, massively improves the success, happiness and drive of our clients to achieve, and in achieving, their goals. Also life seems to happen more because of or by such clients them rather than despite or to them. This is incredibly empowering and leads to so many more wellbeing benefits.
So what’s going on? And is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Got it…What’s the Science
Our brains are busy building versions of our life all the time. We have been speaking for weeks of how our brains are habit and pattern ‘machines’, so whether you are aware of it or not you are constantly telling yourself a stories of who you are and what is important to you. These form our ‘frames of reference’ or as Stephen Covey calls them paradigms – the lenses we see and experience the World.
Now like any good story this includes time. As humans we, along with some animals with more developed brains like dolphins and chimps, have a sense of ‘self’ and ‘physical space’ in context with events (memories). These memories are fickle in themselves as our brains are busy filtering, sifting and presenting the salient (what’s subjectively deemed important) information based on the paradigms and habits it is ‘running’ in the background. This means that different people can witness the same event but have very different memories and recall of this same event. As fantastic as our brains are they are not digital multimedia recorders – they are in fact better than that by being analogue (bring back vinyl records). BUT this also leads to some problems when it comes to things like police witness statements – they can be very problematic.
This is could be seen as a problem, which it can BUT it can also be used for our own good.
By being deliberately intentional about the information and experiences we have and want to continue to, we help to make these more of the behaviours that we want to do more of and helps train our brains to what to look for. Reflecting at the end of a day – time travelling BACK, like journalling, reinforces pathways (neural connections) in the brain that have stood out to us (as salient) in the PRESENT. Those experiences and actions we took, or would have preferred to take, are then practised in your brain – wiring them together more strongly (Hebb’s Postulate: ‘neurones that fire together wire together’). By externalising memories from the PAST allows you brain capacity to relatively filter or ‘reframe’ in the PRESENT negative components into the more positive ‘mission’ or ‘vision’ you have for yourself for the FUTURE. The more we do this the more we are training our brains to notice what’s really important and to focus on these – which frees up mental bandwidth by helping us to have more capacity to process and manipulate new ‘data’ / experiences / work we are asking our brains to do. Combined we can have more intent on what’s happening on the FUTURE by our PRESENT processing of the PAST. The basis of this approach is also used by use coaches and therapists as a tool to help clients to deal with trauma, imposterism and much more.
Some key word here then include: intent – control and self direction.
Like all our top tips the key is do be doing this a bit is better than not doing it all. So if you just start by reflecting (time travelling) a bit each week, even month that will bring you benefits and of course the more you can incorporate it into a daily routine, then the more this is going to give you back in terms of return on the invested time you give it.
This tip is very similar to #Tip 3 Grateful Thoughts but the subtle difference really provides the strategic advantage this gives you. Again these tips / habits can be combined – a habit on a habit: the habit stacking we have been talking about.
Watch our #Tip9 on the Instagram Live Recording….
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey
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