7 Ways to ReWire Your Brain and Become a Better Leader


Over the last few decades, studies in neuroscience have shown that you can literally physically rewire your brain. You can change the “default network” you were born with, the one that ensured the survival of our primitive ancestors who lived in a very different world.

Our “fight-flight” reaction and strong memory for painful experiences are hardwired from birth. Our brains detect negative information faster than positive information and are drawn to bad news. This hardwiring is further reinforced as we grow up because our negative experiences leave an indelible trace in our brain.  The brain continues to learn and change itself throughout our life.

The good news is we are capable of over-riding our primitive reactions that don’t serve us well, and creating new neural pathways that reduce stress and irritability and generate more happiness and wisdom in our lives.

These 7 practices create incremental, accumulative changes in the neural structure of your brain and can improve the effectiveness of your leadership and the quality of your life.

1. If someone on your team disappoints you or lets the team down, allow your feelings to dissipate before you say or do anything.

Pay attention to what you are feeling, without reacting further until it dissipates to limit the amount of epinephrine and cortisol stress hormones released by your brain. Acting out when you are upset creates a temporary discharge, but ultimately prolongs your stress because eventually you will need to deal with the fall-out from your behavior. Some people think the solution is to cut off their feelings. However, this is also only a temporary solution as your feelings go underground and continue to drive you unconsciously.

2. If you feel angry, hurt or annoyed, don’t overlay meaning onto it.

We don’t think rationally when feeling a strong negative emotion. Instead we draw conclusions that reinforce our negative views. Sweeping generalizations like “He can’t be trusted because he always let us down” or “She really doesn’’t really care about our team and our work” reinforce the current neural pathways.

Rational thought will be more quickly available if you allow yourself to stay with the feeling without making assumptions about what the event means. Wait until the feeling has passed before you analyze what it means or decide what you will do.

3. If you are in a tense meeting, check your breathing.

When feeling tense, notice if your breathing is shallow. Activate your calming parasympathetic nervous system by taking a few long breaths, inhaling deeply and slowly exhaling.

4. If you find yourself replaying an upsetting scenario in your mind, stop.

If reviewing a scenario does not bring insight or resolution, don’t keep replaying it in your mind. You are reinforcing negative neural pathways. Instead, create a new pathway by associating it with a positive memory. When the unpleasant memory arises, recall a similar experience where you experienced success or recall an experience with someone who appreciated you. This will gradually infuse the disturbing memory with a positive feeling. The memory won’t go away, but the strong bite will.

5. Choose words and actions that benefit others.

The more you consciously choose actions and words that benefit others, the further your prefrontal cortex develops. This is the part of your brain that sets goals, makes plans, shapes emotions and that enables you to over-ride your primitive instincts. Compassion for others, and for yourself, is the motivating force that drives the desire to benefit others. When you are having difficulty feeling compassionate, remember someone for whom you do feel compassion, perhaps a child or someone you love. This memory will increase your ocytocin (associated with blissful closeness and love) and your ability to access compassion more fully.

6. Savor your positive experiences.

Positive things are happening all the time, but our brain is wired to focus on the negative. We notice something positive and then our attention quickly shifts away. Counteract that by consciously paying attention to the small things like the smile of someone who passes you, the taste of your breakfast, or the beauty of a sunset. Extending your attention on pleasant experiences increases your level of the neurotransmitter dopamine and your ability to control your attention.

7. Focus your attention on what is happening in the present moment.

Your brain learns from what you attend to. The best way to shape new neural circuits is to stay present with whatever is arising in your awareness. It is only in the present moment that we experience real happiness, love and wisdom.


* For more information on neuroscience studies and the application of neuroscience to daily life and leadership, I recommend the book Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and Outsmart Your Brain by Marcia Reynolds.


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74 comments to 7 Ways to ReWire Your Brain and Become a Better Leader

  • Many of your suggestions fall into the emotional intelligence pool. It’s vital to keep our underling emotions and thoughts in check. After all, they’re just thoughts.

    As feelings and thoughts pop up, say to yourself, “Isn’t that interesting, I’m getting upset” for example. Akin to watching yourself in a movie. Let the scene play out before reacting.

    Then ask yourself what scene you’d like to see next.

    • Thanks for the excellent suggestion, Steve – to watch your experience with curiosity instead of judgement. It helps create the distance that keeps you from being taken over by your emotions. It’s interesting to see how things we consider psychological, like emotional intelligence, have a physiological basis.

  • Thanks Jesse. I have always been fascinated by how people like to focus on the negative. I thought it was more of what we choose to consume, I did not realise we tend to be wired that way. Your advise is great in that one should not be in denial as to how one feels, but the response has to be constructive as opposed to looking for disproportional retaliation.

    • I was fascinated also when I discovered that. But it makes sense as it was a dangerous world for our primitive ancestors and those who were most alert to negativity were most likely to survive. However, in today’s world, a hyper-focus on negativity no longer ensures our survival and in fact is associated with a number of health issues such as heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, as well as chronic anxiety and depression.

  • Jesse,
    Love the post, it is right down my lane of thinking. From Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain that Changes Itself” to Patt Lind-Kyle’s book “Heal your mind rewire your brain” this type of thinking and better understanding of the things that we are capable of is so important to getting the best from yourself and those that are on your team.

    Neuroscience I feel will be more and more spoken about as the century unfolds and leadership starts to grasp the true enormity and capability of the human mind and the affects of knowing who you are.

    To understand the strength that you hold within has to start from self, it is a journey that all can undertake and one that can bring amazing results.

    Thanks for all the great reminders.

  • Great read Jesse as you are raising so many unspoken issues that impact most workplaces. You are raising issues that impact multiple intelligences — since these develop well when a workplace fosters the zip people need to learn and risk making a few mistakes to grow.

    Your post also builds a good case for taming the amygdala by stepping back and reflecting on any response before speaking. Often that’s easier said than done, as your post (and life) indicates:-)

    Enjoyed your reminder that: “Your brain learns from what you attend to. The best way to shape new neural circuits is to stay present with whatever is arising in your awareness. It is only in the present moment that we experience real happiness, love and wisdom.”

    Thanks for the delightful challenges here Jesse!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts and expertise here, Ellen. As I mentioned at the bottom of my post, I appreciate your work on this subject. Glad to hear you think it’s on target. I appreciate your raising the point of the importance of workplaces that foster learning and risk-taking. I agree stepping back and reflecting before responding can be one of the most challenging and important practices. Rather than expecting to change immediately, it can helpful to take it one step at a time because each small success is accumulative and makes a difference in the long run.

  • I absolutely love this post today, Jesse. I’ve been fascinated with this area of study for awhile now although in less of a professional capacity since I stepped away from nursing. My interests of it has revolved around how to rewire neural pathways in people who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorders; a man who returns from a war and can’t help but jump into a ditch when surprised by a firecracker going off on the 4th of July, or women and children who have been raped, or have experienced some other form of extreme trauma. etc.

    How some reactions occur can be very tricky to handle in the moment simply because of the intricacies of how the mind, emotions, and body are all tied together. I recently shared with someone based on a personal experience I had with a family member. In the past, (years ago) the relationship had a great deal of dysfunction and abuse. Since those events (childhood) the person has sincerely tried to remedy our relationship. In the present, there are occasions where although I’ve forgiven the past, if something is said that even remotely resembles a negative linked to this person from what was said/done in the past, I feel an automatic reaction in my body. It ‘seems’ to bypass my present mind of ‘forgiveness’. And a heart that feels mercy and compassion. The body seems to have a longer memory. Hence, the physical reaction. It definitely takes a bit longer to ‘recover’ and get a conscious handle on it then it does in more ‘regular’ circumstances with people where there is no history of negative (hard-wired) experiences.

    I realize that’s a rather personal revelation, yet I want to share it as I know that there is a great deal of dysfunction in families in our culture, which also gets brought in to the workplace and impacts everything we do all across the board. The more we can learn about these things, perhaps this well help us in fostering better environments in organizations. (and in our homes)

    Again, love this post. I could share more on nearly every point you made but that would make my comment too long so I better stop now! :)

    • Thank you so much, Samantha. Your personal story really demonstrates how strong our body memories are. I know the field of psychology and other areas have been developing ways to support doing work that can release the bite of those memories. And you are so right that it is not uncommon and that it spills over into our relationships at home and in the workplace. I think the most important thing is to become aware of our reactivity and to approach it and ourselves with loving kindness, compassion and patience.

  • Boy do I love this! It’s a book’s worth of value condensed into a single page.

    Access these brain-changing practices through the door labeled “Mindfulness – pause here then enter.” We are then able to discern what’s so within us and who we need to be in order to respond most effectively. When a negative or resistant thought, memory, or belief arises, pivot to one that’s more positive and affirming.

    Isn’t it fascinating how ancient Buddhism and today’s neuroscience share such similar practices and conclusions?

    Thank you once again, Jesse, for another wisdom-packed, powerful, and clear process to follow.

    • The intersect is fascinating, Lowell. I believe the early MRI studies that identified changes in neural pathways were of practiced Buddhist meditators. It also intersects with the study of psychology. Fun with disciplines converge. I’m reminded of The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse, a futuristic story published in the 1940’s, where multiple disciplines have been translated into a common language.

  • Marye Gail Harrison

    This blog goes into my save file!! I have read Hanson’s book. Your summary is amazing in it’s usefulness.
    Thanks, Jesse

  • Excellent post. These are great tips for maintaining your perspective and avoiding instinctive/impulsive reactions. Many of our natural responses are great if we’re trying to defend ourselves but detrimental in leadership situations.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Scott, Great point that defensiveness is detrimental to leadership. You remind me of the wise words of Woodrow Wilson, who understood what neuroscience is now supporting: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.”

  • Rachel Peterson

    Jesse, I love this post – thank you! I have had a fascination with NeuroLeadership for sometimes and am a fan of Dr. David Rock – and Dr. Dan Siegel, famous for “Mindsight” and “The Mindful Brain” – insightful and accessible!

    One of the best blogs out there about neuroleadership (in this case) as it relates to coaching is by Ann Betz, a master coach and thought leader in the field of neuroleadership coaching: http://www.beaboveleadership.com/blog/ ~ there is some great and insightful work on this blog as well!

    Again, thank you for this post – I have printed it and hung it outside my office on my “board of knowledge and inspiration” – you never know who will read something that changes their his/her life forever!

    warm regards, Rachel

  • Mighty | Transformational Leadership

    Focus your attention on what is happening in the present moment.

    This is becoming more of a challenge these days because we are so wired, so connected with all the gadgets and devices we carry. But if leaders don’t focus, they easily miss small things and minor details that matter.

  • Alex Dail

    Hi Jesse,

    Along with giving our emotions “breathing space” it is important to look at the underlying perceptions that drive the beliefs that lead to the feelings, and, hence, influence our behaviors.

    • I agree Alex. A helpful way to begin is just to question whether something you are assuming is really true. Maintaining an attitude of curiosity works wonders and can help us stop creating self-fulfilling prophecies that reinforce our negative neural pathways.

  • Great job Jesse!

    I believe that “thoughts became things”, this way, we attract for us, everything that we want. It is so important to know how we are to get control our actions. To be in the self command.

    Your tips are an important contribution to the leadership studies, because they show good practices and concepts.

    Best regards.


    • Interestingly, neuroscience findings support your viewpoint. The bottom line is we unconsciously create our own reality, so why not start doing it consciously?. I appreciate your kind feedback on my post, Rodrigo.

  • Christo van Zyl

    Hi Jesse.

    Once more a stunning article, with practical, implementable tips. Without our heads we are fairly useless. The mind (mental) and the brain (physical) are still a miracle of life. They impact practically everything we do. It can run our lives or ruin it. So learning how to control or steer our thoughts have a significant impact on the quality of our lives.

    Thanks again!!
    Best regards,

  • Such a relevant article and practical for success in so many areas of life. Will definitely share with my team. Thanks for your wisdom!

  • fay kandarian

    I appreciate how you keep expanding our thoughts about what is relevant to leadership.

  • Thankyou for this beautiful set of ‘braining’ tips, it’s amazing the places our mind will take us if we let it, and even more amazing where it will take us if we ‘tell it”. I need to post this on the wall just inside my head and work on this every day. I know all of these tips work well, I also know I forget to use them on a regular basis I will check out the. Buddhas Brain. Thank you again for a reminder that will always be timely and relevant. Richard

    • Hi Richard, I love your comment, “I’s amazing the places our mind will take us if we let it, and even more amazing where it will take us if we ‘tell it.” So many of these recommendations are common sense, but it’s interesting to see how they are grounded in neuroscience, and it reinforces their importance. I find posting reminders helps.

      • Thanks Jesse I really appreciate the acknowledgement. I have seen you over on leadershipfreak and it since to finally see what you are up to. I love it and am deeply enriched by it. Best, Richard

        • THanks for your kind words, Richard. I love the way people use leadershipfreak blog to engage in conversation with each other and am delighted when it happens here. Thank you for opening that door in your response to others.

  • Ah, two of my favorite brainy authors in this thread! Jesse, and Ellen Weber!

    This is a topic that I enjoy working with myself. In fact, in both my own life, and from what I observe in my clients, no single factor is more important to success (if you consider success apart from happiness, which I don’t) and happiness than guiding our thoughts and self-talk with conscious awareness. it can determine everything from how we feel, to every twitch of every muscle, to our overall attitude. No skill or amount of determination can make up for consistently self-defeating inner dialog.

    And if I may, I’d like to zoom in on your #6 above: “…your brain is wired to focus on the negative…”

    May I suggest that it is wired to NOTICE the negative, and then the focus is our choice? We are also wired to move TOWARD happiness. I believe that we NOTICE the negative because we want the opportunity for ever increasing wellbeing and happiness, and OUR REACTION to anything that chances to stand between us and that, whether it is a predator, or a hang-nail, or a dismissive look from someone, is our opportunity to learn how to “tune” our consciousness and learn to more deftly steer back to center.

    Seeing things from this perspective, there are no negative emotions: there are only signals. An uncomfortable emotion is no more negative in essence than a stop sign is—it is only information for us to either skillfully use in our growth, or unskillfully repress, ignore, or inappropriately express.

    And from there I’ll segue to mentioning how I love that practically everything you put down here contributes to a growth mindset. I find that on the way to more fun, I can’t help but grow, because what ever is standing between me and the fun, I’m going to figure my way through or around. LOL.

    • Nice add Mark, and as for ‘segue’ that has to the best blogging word of all time:) , cheers richard

      • LOL, Richard… and thank you for the affirmation. And in your post, you hit on something that is an essential part of growing in this area: practice! The consensus reality and habit of action is not the most healthy (for the individual) in all respects, and I find that it takes mindfulness and regular conscious forming of new habits for me to sail in the strong wind and current, and appreciate it for what it is, while steering my own course. :)

    • Thanks so much for your insightful comments, Mark and for extending the conversation. You’ve raised many excellent points and I especially appreciate your point that there are no negative emotions only signals. We cause our suffering by resisting our feelings and the meaning we overlay onto them.

      • Hi Jesse,

        Thank you, and what I wrote wouldn’t even make any sense, had you not begun a dialog challenging common and even reflexive practice with some refreshing, healthy choices of direction—the value of which are all supported by the “new” neuroscience.

        As far as the “negative” emotion thing… your point about “resisting our feelings” is well taken. it is surprising how often we can practice some very positive choices, while not recognizing an underlying assumption we hold that is working against those choices.

        Attempting to feel positive by resisting uncomfortable emotions, or believing these emotions are indicative of something wrong with us, or that we “shouldn’t feel the way we feel,” is like continuing to hand-pump a tire that has a leak: a exhausting proposition doomed to eventual failure.

        Fun “talking” with you, as always.


        • I’m so glad you added so much to the dialog, Mark.

          For me personally, one of those most important and freeing ideas that I learned was that our feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are. That they are simply messengers(referencing negative emotions) that indicate that something outside of us or inside of us is out of alignment for our highest good. Or basically, our happiness.

          So many of us have literally been conditioned from a very young age that if we are sad, we need to hide it with a smile. If we are angry, it’s not appropriate to show it. If something is wrong, we have to ‘pretend’ that everything is alright. No wonder we don’t know how to handle our feelings as a society! We weren’t given permission to! :)

          This is why I’m so happy science and studies are helping provide us with relevant information that can help us learn how handle our emotions is the way they were designed. As neutral signals.

          Your second paragraph directly above; the part about resisting our feelings and essentially the attempt to cover them up with positive. In my opinion, this is such an IMPORTANT point to consider in current times. If I’m understanding you correctly.

          It ‘seems’ that over the past couple of decades (or perhaps even longer) popular positive psychology (or what I tend to refer is popular ‘pop’ psychology) attempts to pile positive affirmations directly on top of the root unconscious beliefs & resulting emotions. This does NOT work! In fact, I’d say it has only served to perpetuate ‘denial’. If that makes sense.

          It’s only when I actually VALIDATE exactly what I’m feeling in the moment; whether that is a positive or negative emotion, call I truly be AWARE enough to take action on it.

          If we are pushed to just immediately jump into ‘positive’ mode while denying the existing negative emotion, it doesn’t get dealt with. It’s simply more denial.

          ‘Nothing changes until ‘it’ becomes what it is.’ Can’t remember who wrote that! :)

          Thanks again for sharing all of your insights. And thanks to Jessy for prompting the discussion with such a wonderful and relevant post!

          • Hi Samantha,

            Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Clearly you have some experience and insight in this area.

            It appears that we share an appreciation for emotions as guidance, and an opinion that consensus reality is fraught with teachings that seem to point away from healthy emotional understanding and regulation—part of what I call a personal
            “emotional strategy”
            . In an ideal world, I believe we’d all have an emotional understanding that would help us to accept and respect our own emotional natures more, allowing us to express in appropriate ways, and thus would allow us to better understand (and not fear) the honest emotional expression of others.

            Personally, I find that it’s not simply about expression, though. Sometimes not expressing to others is in our highest interest over time, and will actually help us feel better over time. We agree that emotions are signals. We notice and honor the signals, and then we can take the next steps. Sometimes those next steps might include journaling a difficult emotion to work with later, rather than expressing it. We make an agreement with self, that we need some time to puzzle through what’s going on with us. So instead of expressing in the moment, we come back later, and we work on the beliefs, or habitual thoughts, that generated the feeling in the first place—and then we move forward with a new clarity.

            As far as positive psychology is concerned, I have more questions for how some interpret it, than I have for the movement itself. My understanding of it is that it is not at all about repression, or diversion from work that would enhance our self-awareness, but is more about tuning our habitual thoughts and attitude so that our overall focus and perspective better serve us. In my practice, I call this tuning of the alliance of inner and outer lives “Life Alignment.” It’s a tricky business at first, this art of maintaining positive self-talk and guiding our thoughts to better feeling places, while still acknowledging our constrictive feelings (when they come up) and the guidance they can bring us. What I like about positive psychology is that it doesn’t continually beat the drum of “what’s wrong,” but instead says, let’s acknowledge this difficulty, and let’s also move forward with a growth mindset, bringing focus to what’s working, and seeing our selves as capable and powerful even through our challenges—from there, we can bring new clarity back to solving for our current trials.

            As an aside, but perhaps worth mentioning here: personality type can have a lot to do with how we reflexively handle emotions. For example, average Enneagram 7s might naturally tend toward avoiding needed acknowledgement of difficult feelings, while average Enneagram 4s might actually nurture “dark” feelings for the intensity of “feeling alive” and intensified “reality” they bring to him or her. In both cases, with increased self-awareness and psychological health, the 7 becomes more willing to process the difficulty to move to a more real elevated, but centered mood, and the 4 is much more likely to want to do the same, rather than intensifying the emotional pain.

            Last but not least, when it comes to change, I like to bring it home to me, so I tell my clients, “Everything changes when WE do!” :)

            I’ve enjoyed our interaction here!


          • Hi Mark,

            Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply! I’m not sure if you remember or not, but we had an exchange over on Dan’s Leadership Freak blog on the topic of anger. I was looking at it from more of a mass society/global angle of how we deal with anger in the face of injustice. Or more pointedly, the lack of injustice. And how left unchecked, this leads to repeating generational abuse in families and in countries, leads to war. I may not have worded it this succinctly at the time, however, that was what I was addressing in a nutshell! :)

            Thanks for sharing your link on emotional strategy. It looks as though you are really providing a helpful service in this much needed area.

            As for the expression of our emotions, I agree. Trying to keep my comments relatively brief is a challenge so many things get left out. haha So to be clear, until new data comes out revealing something different, I’m currently of the belief that it is predominantly our belief systems, perceptions, and thoughts that activate our emotions on a conscious level. For the most part. Of course, there is also the unconscious and intuitive ‘feelings’ that can be considered as well but for the sake of time, I won’t go there today! :)

            So for the readers out there, I would definitely agree. Sometimes it is best NOT expressing to others is in our highest good at the time. An example of this could be either when we are very angry and expressing it at the time might be too aggressive that we violate the boundaries of another and become abusive. Another time not to express to others is in the face of another violent person. I’m thinking along the lines of a domestic abuse issue where silence would be the best option and leaving the scene if at all possible would be the safest. Processing the experience and emotions would definitely come later.

            And most definitely, I’d have to say that in many cases, our processing at least initially doesn’t happen on the spot, but later on when we do our own work with another and in journaling so that we can get to the heart of our beliefs and what is driving us to react or remain stuck, etc. Doing this can also help us create a plan for how to handle a facet of life when something similar comes up ‘next time’. I’ve had to do things like this when it comes to boundaries. i.e. Where are my boundaries consistently being violated? What beliefs/thoughts are preventing me from setting limits in this particular area?, etc.

            As for positive psychology, thanks for expanding on that topic. What you described is a very healthy approach. My reference to it was touching on the more unprofessional side of the house and in the hands of the ‘wrong’ people…although they can MEAN well, does more harm then good. Because they may be lacking in attunement skills, may be using people as guinea pigs and following something read out of a book without taking the whole person into consideration. And try to deal with people in a one size fits all approach. I have specific situations in mind although I don’t wish to elaborate the details in a public setting. And also to save time! :)

            That said, one of the things I have found with what we can call positive psychology (more in the mainstream and not referencing a professional setting) is a phenomenon where people who are very uncomfortable with either their own negative emotions and/or the negative emotions of others…the tendency to use ‘positive’ psychology in order to CONTROL people. So they themselves do not have to experience anything ‘negative’. This is what I was mainly referring to. And I hope that makes sense. When people do this, it’s very invalidating to the reality and experience people may be going through in life. And this is what tends to foster some of the denial. The ‘lets all bury our heads in the sand and deny reality’ approach. Far different from the validating an experience…now let’s see if we can reframe it…etc.

            For clarification, my reference to ‘Nothing changes until ‘it’ becomes what it is’ was only referring to the emotions. i.e. If I’m feeling angry about something but try to cover it up with something else, the anger doesn’t resolve. It’s not until I consciously recognize the anger without any attempts to mask it or cover it up, can I finally become presently aware enough to then pay attention to what thoughts/beliefs/perceptions I am having that are causing me to feel angry. Hope that makes more sense!

            And I agree. Everything changes when WE do!

            Thanks again for such an insightful response! I really love digging into these things.


          • And I have an oops! 1st paragraph: I mean lack of JUSTICE not injustice. :)

          • Samantha, well said… I like that you called out that bit about “controlling others.” There is also the “need to add value” bit that can come into play. It’s another way that “positive thinking” approaches don’t help. LOL.

            I was guilty of this when I was in my twenties—wanting to add value and come in with a solution before even acknowledging where a person was coming from—not very emotionally intelligent!

            In said case, at the time, I thought I was being positive, but the deeper motivation was either to make a difference so I could feel more valuable, or because I was so in love with my own idea, I wasn’t reallyseeingthe person in front of me. Make sense?

            I wonder what I’ll think thirty years from NOW, when I’m certain to look back on the me that is now and make new self-assessments about my growth from now to then. 😉

          • It totally makes sense and I have been guilty of that too in my life…one or twice…(grins) Re: adding value

            And hey, when we are in our twenties, don’t we ALL think we know everything?! haha

            I’m sure 30 years from now, we may have changed our minds about many, many things and perhaps even look back saying, ‘I wish I knew THEN what I know NOW!’ :)

            So fairly safe to presume that we don’t know everything right now! haha However, as long as we remain open-hearted and willing to keep learning, hopefully that will serve us well over the long haul in life.

            I love Melodie Beattie’s acronym: H.O.W. Honesty. Openness. Willing to try.

            Loved the dialog Mark. Thank you!

  • BTW, for the sake of clarity, my idea of fun includes inner life fun. A partial list…

    Dissolving a communication difficulty with a friend or colleague feels great: fun.
    Making a connection with someone when working on a challenging project together: fun.
    Having a creative breakthrough: fun.
    Having a personal breakthrough: fun.
    Reclaiming my authority from where I’ve given it away: fun.
    As my ego becomes more transparent: fun.
    Sensing a my truth in a given situation/connection/relationship: fun.
    Enhancing my range of sensitivity, perception, understanding: fun.


  • Hi Jesse, thanks for writing a blog to challenge other leaders to rewire their reactions in adverse circumstances. By being mindful and taking time to decide on an action that benefits you and others you literally change outcomes. To add to your thoughtful practices that “improve the effectiveness of your leadership and the quality of your life,” I would add, “Ask yourself ‘what if’ questions lead to good outcomes.” Asking what the possibilities are for a good result have changed my leadership over time. Overcoming habits formed over years is a lifetime process. So don’t be hard on yourself if you fall back at times.

    I very much subscribe to what Mark Petruzzi advocates by having fun, too. When work becomes more like play it changes the nature of everything.

    Thanks so much for honoring the brain based leadership that Ellen Weber and I facilitate.

    • Hi Robyn, I was hoping that others might share some additional suggestions. I appreciate yours: ask “what if” questions and what the possibilities are for a good result. It does take time to overcome habits formed over years. Incremental steps will add up if we can hang in there and have self-compassion for our mistakes. Thanks for sharing your knowledge here.

    • Robin,

      Thanks for the nod. :) Too often folks associate “fun” with “lightweight” or not earnest. We even throw around the word “serious” as if it is a compliment, as in, “She has a serious job.”

      There are certainly times when humor and/or a lighthearted approach simply don’t feel appropriate, but my sense is that there are a lot of folks who are suffering from, well, a serious need of lightening up a bit, and looking for more fun, and how they can make it fun, or where there is relief, on the way to fun, in more situations—especially in work. 😉 Certainly neuroscience supports this argument!

      All the best…

  • Rola

    Love the article.

  • Such wonderful suggestions. The workplace is a a huge source of stress. As leaders, people need to learn how to manage it and act appropriately. Acting without the benefit of rational thinking can cause more problems than help.

    • Part of my mission is to create workplaces where people can feel good about themselves, each other and their contribution. It makes a big difference to co-create a shared vision and values. However, there will always be people who project their anger or are insensitive to others. One of my most important life lessons has been that others are not the source of my suffering – my stress and suffering comes from my own reactivity to their actions.

  • I found your suggestions to be so helpful. I think people wonder all the time whether they can actually change, and while challenging to do so, your recommendations are great ones to help someone on that path. I look forward to exploring the additional resources on the topic, too. Thank you!

  • Jesse, I love the post, the discussion it engendered and the Woodrow Wilson quote: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.”

    In my workshops I distinguish this process as the difference between “Thoughting” and “Thinking.” Thoughting occurs automatically because of our wiring – it includes emotions, physical responses and the running commentary of our thoughts. Thinking occurs intentionally because we do it with purpose to solve a problem or take purposeful action to produce an intended outcome. Whether we succeed or fail to produce it is another conversation.

    Thank YOU!

    • Love your terms “thoughting” and “thinking” – there’s a big difference and important to distinguish them. Thanks for sharing joining the conversations and sharing your own “thinking” here, Susan :-)

  • Neuroscience definition of
    Mind – the embodied (in your brain) relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information.

    Amazing definition when you think of where your mind can take you.

  • Stephen Kiger

    Thanks for these very helpful reminders – I used them just today in dealing with an employee situation.

  • Gurmeet Singh Pawar

    Hi Jesse, This is an interesting post(alongwith equally interesting comments), lot of great tech. stuff…will take time to digest it.
    ‘Farther we go, farther we are…but who knows, what and why?’

    Have a happy new year :-)

  • Great stuff Jesse. Point 1 is key to keeping those working relationships healthy. I know when I speak or reply to an email when I am frustrated, I usually overstage and am less understanding. I find taking a few hours to think and a change on environment can help put things into perpective.

  • What great insights. I think all these points come down to the fact that great leaders are humble servants.

  • My favourite line is the one that comes at the end: It is only in the present moment that we experience real happiness, love and wisdom. Great Point.

  • Sundar Kasturirangan

    Interesting article. It explains the power of positive thinking and being optimistic in life.

  • Great article Jesse. Could you also suggest some behavioural practices that we can practice which can help in this rewiring?

    Also, i would like to host you on my podcast “pushing beyond the obvious” and explore this topic in a little more depth. Pls let me know if you could spend about an hour with me on a google hangout or skype.

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