Nine months ago today, I was punched in the gut, and the heart, and the brain. I received the results of my SPECT brain scan imaging from the Amen Clinic in San Francisco and my life changed in a heartbeat. As I looked at my scans for the first time with a semi untrained eye, I knew they were bad. Nothing like being told you have the brain of a senior citizen, when you are in your late forties!
Looking at me from the outside, I'm sure you'd disagree. I'm vibrant, confident, "put together" and present pretty well. Heck, I teach this stuff, so I should be an expert, right? But, my heart and my gut were telling a different story. Thank you intuition! Through the ability to know something without the involvement of conscious reasoning, I was able to create deeper awareness of the symptoms of anxiety, depression and general sluggishness I was experiencing and begin the process of adapting. I learned the condition of my brain was due to many factors, including stress, numbing behaviors, unbalanced diet, not enough exercise and fitful sleep. If I stayed on the same trajectory, I was putting my short term memory in jeopardy. The scan gave me visibility to the parts of my brain that were underperforming allowing me to get busy with the work of shoring these regions up!
I also credit my intuition for influencing me to take a closer look at the work of leadership expert and founder of the About My Brain Institute, Silvia Damiano. The i4 Neuroleader model she developed is a personal leadership model, supported by neuroscience with the brain at its core, made up of four key competencies – Performance, Collaboration, Innovation and Agility – desired outcomes I hear from my clients mouths every day. I originally became certified in the i4 Neuroleader model a couple of years prior, reminding me of the truth to the proverb “when the student is ready, the master will appear.”
The i4 Model features brain and body processes that have been relegated and in many cases forgotten when it comes to leadership and management practices. Abilities such as intuition, the importance of an integrated brain, inspiration and imagination and are the origins of the term 'i4'. These four abilities exist in our brains and bodies and what would you say if I said – anyone can learn how to develop them! By tapping into my inner core abilities I’ve re-learned how to lead and thrive in this ever-changing world.
Once the intuition had kicked in, it was time to get busy on integration – the effective functioning of the various components of the brain and body that result in a healthy system. To restore a sense of equilibrium or balance, I began focusing on mindfulness. Having said that, I’m convinced the term mindfulness gets a bad rap in a business world that considers such things to be “airy-fairy” or “woo-woo.” Therefore, I’m following notable authors and scholars in this space by referring to mindfulness as having the mental readiness to “pay attention!”
Next up – inspiration – the energy, enthusiasm and desire to act as a result of feeling mentally and emotionally stimulated. Along the way, I developed the courage to re-introduce my authentic and vulnerable self to the world. A critically acclaimed film calls the high stress, pressure filled world of high school advancement and college admissions the "Race to Nowhere." I now understand that title can work just as well to describe life, if we do not know and live as our true selves. Given that I make my living through communication, I had a built-in platform to share my story and the more that I did, the more that I found I was not alone. Now I spend my time benefitting from the generosity of others willing to join the conversation.
Over the past several months, I began to re-imagine my work – the faculty of mentally forming new concepts, ideas or patterns without involving the senses. My curiosity is at an all-time high and is being fed through reading and listening, my attitude is bolstered through daily affirmations and my drive through visualizing the effects of the i4 Neuroleader revolution! Today I engage with clients by sharing my story with executive, leadership and management teams as well as with groups of individual contributors interested in creating and working in brain friendly cultures. Through the use of a dynamic 360 feedback instrument, and customized coaching and development on how to optimize the brain, I’m privileged and humbled to be contributing to the creation of 21st century leaders.
As I conclude, rest assured that the news I received about my brain is not terminal. I do not have cancer, or a tumor, or some other horrible degenerative disease. The brain is "plastic" and my brain is repairing daily due to elegantly simple exercises that bolster my integration, intuition, inspiration and imagination that in turn have helped me become a better spouse, friend, family member, parent, colleague, manager, leader and person. It was inside me all along, I just needed to create the space and the stillness to pay attention. I invite you to discover how to harness the power of the head and the heart together and start experiencing your own miraculous results.