Reaching your potential in collaboration with your brain

Someone said “Everything is impossible until someone makes it possible”.

History confirms that this indeed is very much the case, there are numerous examples from businesses such as Google, to the achievements of the elite in sport from Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile to the extraordinary serving speed of the likes of Nadal.

Our well-loved smart-phones are phenomenally able and powerful yet typically the average person uses less than 10 per cent of this capability. It is not dissimilar to that most powerful of all computers which we all possess and have for free; our brain! Exploring and unleashing untapped, even latent potential which has perhaps lied dormant is a very exciting prospect, it may well also be just a little bit frightening because realising your potential could very well change your life.

In order to fulfil your potential you need to harness your brain, it is a remarkable servant to all your needs, however also like the smart-phone, it doesn’t have an instruction manual so we need to learn a little about the way it works.

One of the greatest discoveries in recent neuroscience is the process by which new neuronal cells are created, a phenomenon called neurogenesis. The significance of this discovery is that it sheds light on how the brain regenerates itself alongside our infinite capacity to learn, and this is where it gets interesting.

The more we give our brain in terms of new experiences, knowledge and data, the harder it has to work. The brain is constantly making connections and firing synapses so that when we learn something for the first time a new neural pathway is formed. The repetition of doing something ‘new’ reinforces those neural pathways correlated to the task, thought or activity, allowing for a new mindset or skill to be acquired. In other words the brain enables us to change and be more adaptive to changes in our world, and thereby work that muscle of potential.

One way to improve your brain-power is through hard cardio activity. If that statement fills you with dismay then admit it and move on, realizing that it’s time to start thinking like one who is going to realize their potential! Intense cardio vascular exercise encourages neurogenesis to take place in the hippocampus and this region of the brain plays a significant role in regards to memory and learning. Acknowledge the negative feelings about the challenges ahead and set out to conquer them energetically. If the energetic aspect is really making you quake, have a glass of water – being dehydrated can compromise our powers of recall by up to 40 per cent!

Secondly get comfortable with discomfort, it is a crucial skill to master, to set yourself the perfect foundation to achieve your potential. Consciously breaking out of your comfort zone into the world of possibilities, is achieved by creating the new habit of doing something new and different everyday, which may well give you discomfort. Incidentally, our genuine discomfort actually lies within our ‘comfort zone’, when we are thinking about something new it causes us a certain amount of anxiety. Yet once we recognize our discomfort as a welcome signal, which alerts us that the brain needs new information as a route into the exciting world of realising potential, we will be on the way to getting comfortable with discomfort. Notice the discomfort, crack on with a plan, and make a deliberate action.

And finally get disciplined with your thinking; the thinking about realising your potential and achieving your goals. To harness all that data, experience and knowledge in our brain, it is essential that we ask it the right questions. Statements are good – but chances are the brain will throw a statement back. Realising your potential maybe be something like’ I want to run my own company, make an acquisition, I am going to go for promotion, learn a new language, run the marathon, get fit, live overseas’ and so on.

Turn those bold plans into a series of small questions for the brain to start working at right away in the here and now, and you may have thought about something completely differently within the next few minutes. Asking a question in the here and now rather than one that involves referring to past or future events, will spark a new and dynamic way of thinking. If you are also somewhere new or different, the brain has the extra stimulus which will also require it to work harder.

Start collaborating with your brain today:

1. What can you do today that is new to you? Read a different paper, choose a different news feed, talk with someone that you wouldn’t ordinarily. Listen to new music. Eat something that you wouldn’t ordinarily for lunch or supper.
2. What have you told yourself to be impossible that might just be possible?
3. The following question may need some reflection and thinking time; what uncomfortable making scenario would you like to become more comfortable with?
4. If you truly believed that you had the potential to do anything (if anything were possible) what would you do? These thoughts will help you signpost your potential.
5. What is the thing that you’re not interested in? This is where there is often a hole in our knowledge and we’re blind to it. Try it and see, you never know where it might take you.

Reaching your potential is about being in a constant state of discomfort. The only reason that we feel uncomfortable is because it is new – nothing more, nothing less. When we realise and see glimpses of what might be possible through discipline, action and embracing the new, it is a very exciting place to be. Enjoy and remember; everything was impossible until someone made it possible. That someone might just be you!

Kate Tojeiro, is a leading executive coach and facilitator to senior executives in some of the world’s largest and most prestigious organizations. She is the founder of leadership development firm, X fusion and has built an impressive list of FTSE 100 and Fortune 100 clients over the last 15 years. She has formed a reputation for developing some of the world’s most successful leaders, as well as the next generation of rising stars. She is a regular fixture on BBC radio and a voice in the media. She is also the author of The Art of Possible, new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action.