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Building an Empire Starts With Your Mindset

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What does it mean to “make up your own mind”? For most of us, this means that you have to make a decision or a choice between several options based on the information you currently have access to. It seems like a simple enough task, but it can often prove to be incredibly challenging. This is because the human brain moves back and forth between various states of consciousness and tends to prioritize some things more than others.

The task of making up your own mind becomes complicated when we realise that our brain is not always in complete harmony with itself. There are certain parts of our brains which get activated at different points of our day and throughout different parts of our life. It is in these moments that it  becomes difficult to make up your own mind about even the littlest thing.

We typically think of our brain as one, united organism, but the truth of the matter is that we are constantly under the influence from various forces within the brain. While this may be a huge oversimplification for people in the field of neuroscience or brain science, I like the description of three brain types outlined by Dan Priestly in his book Entrepreneur Revolution.

1. Lizard Brain

What is the lizard brain? The lizard brain is the part of the brain that is responsible for protection and self-interest. It is looking to store up as much energy as possible while working as little as possible to avoid risk or punishment of any kind. When our minds are being too strongly influenced by the lizard brain, we are more likely to look for ways to avoid conflict and hide from our responsibilities.

We look for self validation for our own actions while shying away from negative feedback. Just as cold-blooded lizards gain energy by lying in the sun, so too do people under the influence of the lizard brain require regular attention and positive reinforcement to do their jobs. And in just the same way, those influenced by the lizard brain are much less likely to do well in “cooler” environments where feedback is negative.

“Your mind is your greatest power. Use it well.” – Aneta Cruz

To counter the threat posed by the lizard brain, focus your energy on strengthening your sense of security and protection around work. We slip into the lizard brain mindset when we are unsure about our future or we are encountering a period of change. When we fear for our job or our livelihood, we are much more likely to slip into the defensive, lizard brain like state. Safety and security are the name of the game when you want to keep the lizard brain away.

2. Monkey Brain

So what about the monkey brain? The monkey brain is interested in chasing positive feelings and living in the moment. It wants to spend time with friends and experiences positive things without being challenged. The monkey brain seeks out these positive experiences by looking for the easy work or the job that will bring them passive income while they can sit on the beach eating coconuts and bananas.

Those influenced heavily by the monkey brain spend much of their days looking for ways to escape the rat race to spend time with their friends, but they don’t put in the effort necessary to achieve real success because they lack lofty goals. To train the monkey brain, you must start to look beyond your day to day routine to build habits which allow you to plan for longer term goals.

Training the monkey brain can be a challenge, because the monkey mindset is playful and is always looking for a good time. Unfortunately, in order to train the monkey brain you need to be your own parent. I’ll say that again, you must be your own parent if you want to get out of the monkey mindset. Many of us leave the house at or before the age of 18 to go to university.

After that, we rarely have direct contact with a parent or guardian figure. When we slip into the monkey brain state before that, our parents are often there to guide us in the right direction. Learn to be your own parent and you will be much better able to deal with the monkey in your head.

“Brain power improves by brain use, just as our bodily strength grows with exercise.” – A.N. Wilson

3. Empire Builder Brain

The empire builder brain is what many of us aspire to nurture and cultivate in our day-to-day lives. The empire builder brain looks outward and is interested in helping others as much as in helping itself. The mindset brought on by this part of the brain is one of growth and discovery, and it is integral to those who want to succeed in their personal, professional or spiritual lives. In the empire builder mindset, difficulties are not barriers to be slowed down by. Rather, they are challenges to overcome.

People that cultivate this train believe in lifelong learning and taking action on a daily basis. They also have a long term goal for their future that they keep coming back to day over day. And no, this goal doesn’t have to remain the same month after month, or year after year. Rather, that habit of thinking about your future goals must be formed, and those goals must be reviewed regularly and holistically.

Why brain type are you? Comment below!

McVal is the founder of We Write For Growth, a platform for businesses to connect with talented writers and researchers and growth hackers. He is also the author of How to Make $2,000 a Month Online and Start Up your Life: Why we don’t know what we want, and how to set goals that really matter. McVal writes about motivation, decision making, and strategic thinking. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in Spanish, and has since worked as a market researcher and business consultant in Washington D.C., New York City and London. You can reach him on Twitter @mcval or on IG @mcvaliant. 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Angelica

    Oct 16, 2018 at 11:00 am

    I feel that I have been one of each of these mindsets at different times in my life. I feel that I am a mix of the lizard and empire mindset now because I am focused on my career while also putting a a lot of work and energy toward my dream job of being a published author. Yes, I take my career seriously, but I truly want to be a bestselling writer and blogger, so I tend to feel lethargic on Sundays and numb at work sometimes. Also, I feel like everyone has the monkey mindset to a certain extent-we all want instant gratification and to be happy in an instant. That’s how we’re wired. I think what matters is what we do with that energy. Do we use it to become better or as an excuse because “life is too short?” I think we all possess these three ways of thinking but some people use it to their advantage and work with it (like drinking a healthy smoothie to satisfy their sweet tooth while losing weight) while others use it as an excuse (“tomorrow is not promised, so I’ll eat this candy today”). Overall, I love the article and you make a lot of good points.

  2. Harsh

    Oct 4, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Value add article – Thanks!

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3 Simple Hacks That Can Recharge Your Willpower and Help You Perform Better at Work

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How many times did you wake up feeling like you could conquer the world? You set ambitious goals for the day, you put on your best attire and walked out the door with a big smile on your face but eventually, life took over. Traffic, emails, work, family, and everything else you have around slowly but steadily started to drain your energy and made you feel exhausted.

You run out of battery, and the only solution that seemed viable was to rely on more caffeine. When that stopped working, all the temptations around you started to look much more appealing, and that sense of drive and commitment you had before slowly faded away. This is you running out of willpower.

Willpower: what is it? Why is it limited?

The American Psychology Association describes willpower as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.” In the book “The Willpower Instinct”, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, explains how every person’s willpower is limited, and slowly depletes throughout the day. The more “willpower challenges” you face, the quicker your reserve drains. Dr. McGonigal divided the different types of willpower challenges you might encounter in three categories:

  • I will: We face this type of challenge whenever we should do something, but we simply don’t feel like getting it done right now.
  • I won’t: We face this challenge when we try to resist temptation, or we try to keep cool in stressful situations.
  • I want: This is a particular type of challenge where we keep track of our long term goals, dreams, and desires. In this instance, we feel like we should take action right now to come one step closer to the goal. 

It’s easy to recognize it when you face a willpower challenge because you literally “feel it in your body.” Imagine being really hungry and walking in front of a bakery. The sight and the smell of pastries quickly triggers an “I won’t” type of challenge, and it takes a severe amount of effort and energy to walk away.

Every time you manage to win one of those challenges, a little bit of your willpower reserve gets used. The more challenges you face daily, the harder it will be to stay true to your goals.

Can you train or recharge your willpower?

A growing body of research suggests that willpower should be considered a muscle. To strengthen it, you should exercise it regularly, but you should not overwork it. Therefore, we shouldn’t try to “be good” at all times. Instead, we should learn how to relax and recharge our willpower.

The general advice on how to improve willpower involves sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. This broad and general recommendation is often not downright applicable by most, because it consists of changing various daily habits. Luckily, three very effective hacks have been discovered, that have an immediate effect on our willpower and take just a few minutes to apply.

Here are the 3 ways to refill your willpower reserves:

1. Focused breathing

Breathing, when done correctly, can stimulate the release of calming hormones while reducing the release of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines. To make this effective, you should deeply and slowly inhale through the nose for at least five seconds. Fill your belly with air first, then your chest, and when there’s no more space for air, still try to do tiny inhalations through the nose.

You should feel a pulling sensation around your neck and trapezius muscles. Once your lungs are full, try to hold the breath for five seconds, then slowly exhale through the mouth for at least five seconds. If you repeat this process ten to twenty times, you should feel dramatically more relaxed. Use this method several times a day, especially when you’re experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety.

2. Reward yourself when you accomplish a micro goal

According to a recent study, frequent instant rewards can boost motivation, and therefore, willpower. Creating your own reward system can help you to accomplish your to-do list, and also resist temptations. Since every individual has different tastes, you should come up with creative ideas about the small and frequent rewards you will give yourself upon winning any willpower challenge.

You can see this hack in practice in Apps like the popular Duolinguo, where after completing each lesson you get presented with a chance to open a treasure chest. This rewarding system seems to keep the users much more likely to keep learning new lessons.

3. Taking cold showers

Your body has an autonomic response to cold water. Getting into a cold shower is a difficult (but minor) willpower challenge on its own. As I previously mentioned, winning a willpower challenge strengthens your willpower muscle. Having a morning cold shower, on top of having multiple health benefits, will set you up for a positive winning streak of further challenges.

High performance is the sum of many small habits. Successful people don’t have an unlimited reserve of willpower, but they do have a set of daily rituals that made them succeed. These three hacks are some of the most effective techniques to develop willpower, but some of them may not fit every individual. You should try to find the perfect mix of daily practices that best fits your lifestyle and likes, so that you can strengthen your willpower muscle and perform better at work.

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