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Keeping your mind fresh and flexible

When was the last time you travelled home from work on a different route to normal?

In my coaching work I often encourage people, especially those who are maybe a little stuck or who want to up their game, to go and seek out variety and unpredictability.

This is important because so much of what we do, what we say and how we think, is driven by habit. Habit is useful, because it’s ‘expensive’ from a brain-power point of view to have to stop and think about things before we do them. Being on autopilot is efficient. And yet, if habit is all that drives us, how do we develop, learn and grow?

I’ve long argued that the extra brain-expense of doing things like driving home on a different route every now and then, is a good investment, because it helps our brains make new connections and be more pliable. Those connections and that pliability are extremely useful for increased problem-solving and mental and sensory acuity – the ability to spot information and recognise patterns.

So it was interesting reading Steven Kotler’s book “The Rise of Superman – decoding the science of ultimate human performance,” in which Kotler cites unpredictability and novelty as being essential steps towards achieving what athletes call flow state.

“[things like] brushing your teeth with the wrong hand,” says Kotler, “…increases novelty and unpredictability, demanding focus and pattern recognition.”

I’m still only half-way through that book and undecided about just how useful it might be, but it’s nice to see others also emphasising these points. Kotler also goes on to quote renowned neuroscientist James Olds as saying that new routines in our daily lives produce dopamine and norepinephrine, the feel-good chemicals that our brains use to amplify focus and enhance performance. In fact, I got really excited, because Kotler then says that James Olds practices what he preaches by driving home from work a different route every night!! Unfortunately, even though this would be a great way to justify what I’ve been telling people to do for years, I don’t think it’s entirely accurate – read for yourself what Olds did actually say in one interview by clicking here.

Regardless of that possible slip up, I’m interested in how you keep things fresh and your brain nice and flexible? How do you make sure that not everything you do is driven by habit or routine?

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach.


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Un-F*** Your People’s Minds to Help Them Change

If your business needs to make changes, first you need to Un-F*** your people’s minds – here’s why and how.

There’s a really powerful part of our brains that operates mostly unconsciously in the background. It runs the autonomous parts of our bodies: breathing, heart-rate and muscle-state and triggers the production of stress-hormones such as adrenaline. Recent research also shows that it tends to take most of our daily decisions for us, without us being consciously aware of the process. AND – it’s constantly on the look out for any threats to our physical or emotional safety.

There’s also evidence to suggest that, when an environmental trigger activates this part of our brain it actually shuts down our higher cognitive functions. This is thought to be another evolutionary factor; trying to think our way out of danger is just too slow for nature!

This lizard or primal brain structure, as its been called, is in charge of…

The six F’s:  Fight, Flight, Fear, Freezing-up, Feeding and Fornication

… all the stuff that humans need to do to make sure we survive individually and as a species.

With all this going on, literally in the back of people’s heads, is it any wonder that introducing a change at work is so fraught!?


What you want to do is to get people on board with the change, and to start using their higher cognitive functions to understand and make the most of what it’s about. But you can’t do that when this really powerful evolutionary mechanism is hijacking their heads.

First, you’ve got to Un-F*** their minds.

You’ve got to take each of those Six-F’s and see them from your people’s point of view. Anytime you want to introduce a change at work, either in the way things are done or structured, or in anything that might have an impact, its essential to consider each of the Six-F’s.

In other words, you’ll need to Un-F people’s minds!

Only by being prepared to allay people’s concerns on all of these levels can you hope to avoid major resistance (which is largely unconscious, don’t forget). Make some breathing space for people to consciously understand what your change is really about and how they can positively and actively be part of it, by addressing each of these:

  1. What is there in your proposed changes that people would Fight against?
  2. What might have them Flying out the door rather than see your changes through?
  3. From their point of view, what is there to Fear in your proposed changes?
  4. What in your change is so complicated, fraught or difficult that instead of getting stuck into it, people just Freeze?
  5. How will it affect their ability to Feed themselves and their families?
  6. And I’ll leave this last one for you to ponder – how will your changes impact people’s Fornication!!?

Please let me know in the comments below if they’re still open, or by tweeting me @nickrobcoach, what you’re finding out about introducing change at work and how (or whether) you need to deal with the 6-F’s.


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