Category Archives: Neuroscience

How to Lead Employees with ADHD to Success

ADHD in the workplace is a big deal. According to a report done by the World Health Organization in 2006, approximately 8 million adults have ADHD (4-6% of the adult population). These 8 million individuals are 18-times more likely to be disciplined for a behavioral issue, on average have 22 days of lost productivity each year (to the tune of up to a cost of $266 billion to the U.S. economy) , and are 60% more likely to lose their job. What’s more, of this population, 85-90% don’t know they have ADHD!

Yikes! What is a manager to do? Unless someone self-identifies, how do you know if someone is wrangling with ADHD? What can you do to help those people succeed?

A pile of papers and unfinished tasks

So, what does ADHD look like in the workplace? Frankly, it can manifest differently for everyone – they’re not all going to look like Dennis the Menace. And it may present differently in women than in men (girls are far less likely to be diagnosed in childhood because more often than not females have inattentive ADHD). If you’ve looked into ADHD at all, you know there is a laundry list of symptoms. To make things simple, here are the five most common manifestations that sap productivity.

Disorganization/Details. Have an employee with stacks of papers and files on their desk? Maybe they’re apt to lose or misplace things? Paperwork is sloppy and incomplete? Those with ADHD are notoriously disorganized, especially those who haven’t been diagnosed.

Distraction/Inattention/Boredom. Do you catch your employee daydreaming? Giving half-hearted effort on certain tasks? These will be common outcomes if someone with ADHD is assigned work duties that tend to be monotonous and highly systematized. ADHD is fed by novelty and deep interest.

Procrastination/Time Management. Is your employee constantly showing up late for work? Missing deadlines or scrambling to get things done consistently? An ADHD coach once said that it takes someone with ADHD twice as long to get things done versus a “normie”. Strange as it might sound, this rule is true almost 100% of the time. Time management is definitely an issue.

Managing Complex/Long-Term Projects. There are a lot of details to manage and keep straight within a long-term project. There is plenty of opportunity to combine disorganization, procrastination, and forgetfulness. Not a good recipe.

Impulsivity/Emotionalism. Impulsivity is a key characteristic of ADHD that is fueled by emotion. Generally, people with ADHD are prone to unedited outbursts, become frustrated easily, and otherwise speaking bluntly in a way that can create division and hurt feelings.

Certainly an employee can display one of these behaviors and not have ADHD – but, most ADHDers will display a combination of these (and others). While it is not your job to diagnose, being aware of how ADHD presents and connecting the dots can help you turn a person who is an unproductive liability into a star performer.

What can you do? Be aware and strategic!

So, here’s the truth – an employee with ADHD will challenge you. If you want your employee to succeed you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone. If you make that decision, you’ll be glad you did. While a person with ADHD presents many difficulties, they also are capable of amazing accomplishment.

Studies have shown that people with ADHD tend to be highly intelligent and highly creative (White and Shah, University of Memphis). With business titans  like Sir Richard Branson, Ingvar Kamprad (Ikea founder), and David Neeleman (Jet Blue founder) all having ADHD or Dyslexia (related to ADHD), researchers are studying the linkages between ADHD and entrepreneurship. For good measure, throw in journalist Lisa Ling, and entertainers like Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine, you can see that ADHD doesn’t have to be a detriment – but can be an essential ingredient to success.

Imagine, the same trait that would make someone a really lousy administrative assistant, is also the same trait that could make them a billionaire creator of businesses. Isn’t that something you, as a manager, would want to harness? You’d be negligent if you didn’t!

So, if you can identify (through your observations or the employee self-identification) an employee with ADHD, here are some ways you can help them be all they can be (and produce great results for you).

Align their duties with their strengths and interests.  What you don’t want is an employee with ADHD super-powers to become bored. ADHDers thrive on novelty – and will be relentless in pursuing to the nth degree the details of subjects for which they have passion.

 

Working together, set realistic, attainable goals with clear expectations. The more specific the goal, the better. Tangibility is important – and concrete goals your employee can “see” will create a better results. Set a few boundaries – expectations that you both can agree upon. This gives you leverage if you need to modify their behavior

Keep their To-Do list short. The best strategy to undertake to help an ADHDer stay on target is to break their goal-path into smaller objectives. Not doing so could become overwhelming. Keep the To-Do list to no more than 3-4 items. Also, ADHDers will get distracted by shiny objects. Keeping the list short reduces the chances of being distracted and running down rabbit trails to nowhere.

Pair them with a non-ADHDer who is highly organized. Free the ADHDer from as much administrative detail as possible. Quite often teaming them with someone who is a linear thinker and doer will yield great results. You’ll receive the benefit of more creative, innovative output – and have someone who’ll keep your speeding bullet moving straight ahead (and have the paperwork done correctly)!

Do not micro-manage! If the employee feels your leash, they’ll lay down. ADHDers value freedom and, to a certain degree, autonomy (keep in mind that many ADHDers are resistant to authority – so, be their partner not the “boss”). If you get too much into their details you’ll stifle productivity. If you’ve paired them with the right person you won’t need to go micro.

Check in weekly. So, you are the boss. Have weekly team meetings to monitor progress, discuss challenges, give insights, etc. This creates accountability and provides necessary direction.

Celebrate success. Think about this: throughout their lives, a person with ADHD typically did not get great grades, may have faced disciplinary issues growing up, was labeled as being lazy and/or stupid. Typically their self-esteem will be lower than others (even those who are far less talented than themselves). Celebrating their success in small and large ways is like providing sunshine to a flower – they’ll bloom brighter the more they receive.

Yep, it’s a little more work. And worth it. Think about this – if you have a team of 10 people, 1 or 2 of them will have ADHD. If you don’t invest in them, chances are they may disrupt the rest of your team. But, if you take the time to set them up for success, you’ll make the entire team successful.

That’s a big deal.

Is Neurofeedback an Effective Intervention for ADHD?

Is neurofeedback an effective non-pharmacological treatment for ADHD? According to Dr. Russell Barkley it doesn’t measure-up.

“Neurofeedback does not have convincing evidence of effectiveness for treating ADHD when appropriate and rigorous scientific methods are used.” He wrote this as a means of reflecting a comprehensive review and meta-analysis of research that had been published in The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Research.

The results reported on 13 trials. The evidence from well-controlled trials with “probably blinded outcomes currently fails to support neurofeedback as an effective treatment for ADHD.”

Huh…well, that’s interesting.

While I am a proponent of rigorous scientific inquiry, I’m also a firm believer in personal experience. And my experience is different from the results presented in this article.

Six years ago I was desperate. Two years earlier I had been diagnosed with ADHD.  I started out taking meds, but I didn’t like the side-effects. All things being equal I kind of wanted to go natural. I did supplements, inconsistent exercise and a lot of hoping. Of course that didn’t work.

And then, two years later, at the behest of my wide, I tried neurofeedback. At first I didn’t have much hope. I stuck with it and, after about six months of treatment, there was actually a difference that I could see, feel and experience.

My Doc, Erik Olesen, explained that neurofeedback was an effective treatment for repairing the flow of neurotransmitters, especially for people that had experienced brain trauma of some type. I came to understand that brain trauma could either cause ADHD-like symptoms, or could exacerbate existing symptoms of ADHD.

I had suffered a traumatic brain injury during my freshman year in college while playing baseball. While pitching in one of the final games of the year I took a line drive going 120 mph off my temple. I took the full force, broke the zygomatic arch, and spent a week in the hospital. They had to wait four days for the swelling to go down before they could repair my broken bone.

Prior to that I had experienced a number of “mini traumas” while playing high school football and from taking the back-swing from a baseball bat to the side of my head when I was in elementary school.

With each blow my brain would take a mild shock and careen into the side of my skull. The line drive to my temple was more like a sledgehammer that forced my gray matter to curl into a Mavericks sized wave that came crashing.

According to Erik the neurofeedback treatment could likely repair the damage these events had had on my brain.

Connecting nodes to my forehead and temples, he would lead me through a series of exercises. I could actually watch my brain waves working on the screen of a specialized PC – and after a few months I could see the improvement.

More to the point, I experienced subtle differences in my behavior. My concentration and focus improved. My emotions were more in check. I was feeling less depressed. I was happier.

Now, was the neurofeedback reducing the effects of the brain trauma, which in turn was lessening the negative impact of ADHD? Was it repairing my ADHD directly? Frankly, I didn’t care.

If brain trauma had exacerbated the effects of ADHD and neurofeedback was reducing this effect, then, in my book, the process was an effective treatment of ADHD.

Had I never had a brain trauma, would the treatment be as effective? I’ll never know. I just know that for my situation it was effective – at least I could experience an improvement overall.

Isn’t that what really matters? My belief is that I was born with different wiring in my head, and only God can actually “cure” ADHD. All any treatment can do is help to minimize the effects of ADHD.

Can neurofeedack help you or a loved one that has ADHD? Maybe it will. I think it depends on the context of your situation. Is it worth a try? I think so – but I’m not a doctor. I can only go on my experience.

Sometimes, Having ADHD Really Sucks

There are times when having ADHD really is a blessing. For whatever reason, when we were born our wiring was different. The advantages of this wiring is that we tend to exhibit a higher degree of creativity and dimensional thinking, among other traits.

workshop-984022_1920

I like to think that mankind would never have progressed without people whose wiring was different. ADHDers are risk takers, adventurers, explorers, inventors, creators. We will walk into the unknown places and dive into the world of shadows.

While this insatiable hunger for novelty has led to incredible cultural progress, the dark secret is that we must walk into the line of fire because our brains need the stimuli.

Let’s face it, boredom feels like a kind of slow and torturous death. Routine, structure, linear systems and thinking…these are the bane of existence for an ADHDer. And yet, to make our way in this world, we need to manufacture a way to build structure.

This process is maddening. For most normies keeping a calendar or mowing through a list of priorities, balancing a checkbook, remembering to walk the dog, or keeping a closet orderly are fairly simple and easy tasks. Not for the ADHDer. Activities like these are as difficult as crossing the Pacific Ocean in a row boat.

Undiagnosed and unmanaged ADHD is really messy. And, it really sucks. The longer it goes unrecognized and not addressed, the worse it gets, the crazier we feel, the weirder people think we are.

We screw up relationships, lose jobs, isolate, get depressed, live a life of not so quiet desperation.  Statistically we know that these things are true. If we continue to be round pegs trying to fit into square holes the frustration and dissatisfaction will continue to grow.

So what can we do? How can we put this mad life to an end and begin living a life that we love? I think there are four important things we have to do to set the stage for living a satisfying, soul quenching life.

Don’t fear a diagnosis. Embrace it. The moment you accept that you have a neuro-biological medical disorder called ADHD, the better off you will be. There is a reason why you act impulsively, forget stuff, and have difficulty keeping your desk organized. Embracing the diagnosis brings relief and clarity, opening the door to a new possibility for a satisfying, authentic life.

Take care of your brain. That is, do what you can do to improve brain function. Take your meds, vitamins and supplements. Eat healthy foods and cut the junk.  Exercise. Meditate, Take breaks, especially after a period of intense mental activity. Reduce bad stress. Quit worrying. Seek forgiveness.

Practice spirituality. A spiritual connection is essential. This connection helps us to get out of our heads, focus on a purpose bigger than ourselves, see to the needs of others, fill the emptiness inside of us, provide  sustenance to our souls.  Whatever your spiritual connection might be, practice it daily. The spiritual connection can help bring sanity to what might seem a crazy life, can create grace and mercy where there was once admonishment and self-destructive negativity, cover us in love rather than blame.

Take directed action daily. Have a goal and work toward it. Do at least one thing each day that brings you closer to this goal. Something you may have to do is take a look at what you are doing. Are you in a job that takes best advantage of your skills and natural talents? Are you in a mutually supportive relationship? Take a look at the life you’re currently living – is it authentic? What doesn’t fit? Will you make the changes you need to have the life you love? Directed action every day will take you deeper into what strengths you need to nurture, and what things you need to let fall away.

None of these things are easy, but, you are an amazing creation of God. You have everything you need right now to succeed. Get real and get help. Having ADHD doesn’t have to suck.

The Responsibility is Mine

Ever have a time in your life when everything – I mean everything – seems to be going in the wrong way? You and your S/O bicker about every little thing. Maybe you’re asked a direct question and you give a vague, non-committal answer, or, your social editor goes on hiatus and you blurt an answer that you wish you could immediately take back?

While that’s happening at home, stuff at work is mounting, too. You fall behind on a project, you forget to do daily, routine tasks. You miss deadlines, show up late to an important meeting, say something inappropriate to your boss or to a customer. Voila! You are the proverbial frog in a vat of water that is slowly coming to a boil. Pretty soon you will be fried.

The bank calls. Your rent check bounced. Your daughter calls. You were supposed to pick her up at the airport an hour ago. You’re standing in the middle of a grocery store, staring dumbly at the different brands of coffee – you’ve forgotten what you needed to pick up.

Things can go to hell pretty quickly when you have ADHD.

We’re lucky. It’s real easy to blame everything on having ADHD! Woo hoo! We have the perfect, built-in excuse! Isn’t that exciting!?

Yep, ADHD is a built-in excuse, an explanation for our sometimes erratic, seemingly irresponsible behavior. In fact, it really is not an excuse at all – stuff does happen (or not happen) because we do have ADHD. This neurological/biological disorder is very real and can create real problems.

That being said, our behavior affects others – and sometimes at the worst possible moment. That inappropriate thing said to our S/O? It could literally cause a hurt heart for years. Forgetting to do mundane tasks at work? Welcome to the unemployment line. Bounce the rent check because you handle money about as well as a teenage girl on a shopping spree with Dad’s credit card…you get the picture.

We never mean to do the odd stuff that we do. Typically our hearts are in the right place but, for whatever reason – impulsivity, bad timing, lack of an internal editor – our social ticker is off a few beats. Nevertheless, spouses, girlfriends, friends, bosses will at some point feel the effects of our unique talents for getting in trouble.

So, what can you do?

First, stop making excuses. Own whatever it was that happened. Take absolute responsibility.

Second, make amends. Make sure that whoever was affected by what you have done understands fully that you are responsible, and that you’ll do whatever is necessary to make things right – and do whatever is possible to not let whatever happened occur again.

Next, become a keen observer of your behavioral patterns. Essentially, step outside of yourself and notice the types of stuff you do that is outside the norm. What leads to doing these things? Is there a trigger? Numerous triggers? What are your feelings? Take note of what is going on that initiates this behavioral pattern.

After that, do your best to be mindful of those feelings, triggers, and situations that precipitate the behavior. Awareness can allow you to disrupt the pattern.

For example, let’s say you have a pattern of interrupting people during intense conversations. The trigger might be a feeling of being threatened or accused or confronted. Your brain gets over-stimulated through a flood of adrenaline and you must defend, respond, interrupt.

When you feel this happening, you’re mindful that you are about to open your mouth at exactly the wrong moment, take a deep breath, close your mouth, and listen. Just listen. Take as many deep breaths as you need to take whenever you feel the words scrambling to the tip of your tongue. Breathe. Just breathe.

It will be difficult at first. But, the more mindful you become, the more often you practice this, the easier it will become. You’ll find that you’re developing a new pattern, a healthier response that is more socially connective.  Guess what? You’re absolutely responsible for this behavior, too.

The more you do this, the more patterns you disrupt, the better life will be. You won’t disrupt everything. You won’t catch every behavior. That’s okay. Roll with it. Take responsibility. Forgive yourself.

The more you do this the more graceful you will be with yourself and with others, and the more grace you will receive.

And it begins with owning it all. No excuses. You are responsible. Joyfully responsible for all that you do.

Chasing Disasters – An ADHD Symptom

My friend Tom is a disaster chaser.

You’ve probably seen these guys on the Weather Channel – storm chasers. They sit in Midwestern cornfields watching  Doppler radar on their laptops like therapists observing an embattled couple practice relational Aikido in a closed room.

They are in absolute rapture when they see purple blobs suddenly emerge  on a screen of deep green.

Tom is kind of like that.

Tom is a pastor. More to the point, a replacement pastor for a major denomination. When a regular pastor leaves his or her position in a church, Tom is assigned to fill-in until a new, permanent pastor is placed. This suits him fine.

He’s okay with this arrangement because he is also a spiritual team leader for an elite group of professionals who are first responders when an a cataclysmic disaster occurs somewhere in the world.

He was part of a team that was first-in when Hurricane Katrina had hit. He also stood amid the rubble in Haiti after that horrible earthquake destroyed Port Au Prince and took the lives of thousands.

The way Tom tells it, he absolutely lives for these disasters. Admitting that it’s a somewhat odd position for a pastor to take, he also says he feels most alive when he’s suddenly thrust into these devastating circumstances. It’s a rush.

Tom has ADHD. He takes his adderall faithfully. When he walks into the theater of pain, suffering and destruction, he takes charge and makes a difference.

He also can’t balance his checkbook to save his life. He won’t become a permanent pastor because either he’ll get horribly bored by the routine, or he’ll screw up the administrative duties (or both).

He is living proof that we with ADHD are disaster chasers. All too often we create our own disasters (to our ultimate detriment) in order to feel alive. The adrenaline begins to rush when we say something unedited to our spouse or boss. We manufacture chaos when we can’t get the report right or we forget to pick-up a child from school. We drive significant others to madness when we suddenly begin dialing up Google to look up movie times while in the middle of an intense conversation. We’re really good at creating disaster.

And we can take a lesson from Tom.

He learned early on that his lack of focus and attention would be a detriment in serving the routine needs of congregants. He tried it, and it felt like a slow and torturous death.  However, while he may have lacked the ability to sustain focus, he didn’t lack the deep, compassionate heart a pastor must possess.

So, he applied his innate skills, love of God, sense of purpose and mission to taking on some of the most devastating natural disasters mankind could face. Tom’s skills are at their best in the midst of mass suffering. He feels most alive when rubble and rabble surround him. He is stimulated and challenged while serving a greater cause. It is admirable how he positioned his life to be of service.

He doesn’t beat himself up for his inability to keep track of expenses or appointments. He laughs about it. Of course, it took his wife a while longer to appreciate the humor, but she did catch on, and now happily provides the support he needs to be successful.

Yes, we are disaster chasers – and we can all take a lesson from Tom in how to be successful in chasing down our storms.

The ADD Death Spiral (Interrupted), Part Two

The ADD Death Spiral is a dark place for a blazing mind.

It’s a place that creeps up like a prowling jaguar, ready to pounce and devour. If you have ADD you understand what I’m saying here. No doubt you’ve experienced it. You understand that when you are there it can be really difficult to escape it’s cold embrace.

There is a way out, though. There is a way to avoid it altogether. It’s not easy (but, nothing is really easy with ADD – that’s why we have an extra gear), but you can free yourself from the Death Spiral.

background-1042664_1280

What follows is part of a blueprint. It’s not a magic prescription for wealth, fame and happiness. There’s no guarantee that you won’t feel frustration, even depression.  That’s normal. After all, chances are you will still make your share of mistakes, experience social flubs, and have difficulties doing certain things.  It will happen.

And that’s okay.

If you follow the blueprint you’ll be able to manage the tough stuff. Difficult situations will become easier. Not perfect, just easier.  It’s not a system or a program. It’s an attitude. A way of being.

And it works. How do I know? I use it. Imperfectly at times, but I have used every principle presented here (plus some). I know of others who have used these or similar tactics. They work. And, if you even implement just a few, your life will feel more comfortable. Promise.

Accept ADD. It’s kind of funny. There are many with the blessing who simply won’t accept it. At least not all of it. They think floating down a river in Egypt is okay. But, denial won’t make life better. It just prolongs the problems.

Accept All of it. Yes, that means accepting you simply can’t keep up with normies when it comes to managing stuff, organizing things, and making excuses when your internal editor decides to take a break.  Recognize those behaviors that are caused by ADD. Take responsibility. Own your stuff. This is the beginning of sanity.

Take your meds. Granted, not every person with ADD uses prescription medication. But, if you have ADD there is something you ingest that makes thinking a little better. For example, I need protein in the morning, so it’s not uncommon for me to eat meat before 10am. Whatever it is that works for you, don’t forget.

Meditate. I cannot underscore enough how powerful meditation can be in managing ADD. The act of relaxation and quieting the mind is transformative.  For me, the combination of guided meditation and simple mind relaxation work wonders. The guided meditation helps me focus my subconscious on specific things which creates stronger neuropathways. Quieting my mind during difficult times helps to relieve stress – which is a must in avoiding the Death Spiral.

Have concrete goals. Use the SMART goalsetting system. Have concrete, attainable goals. Having specific objectives you want to achieve will help you set your internal compass. When you begin to get lost, rabbit-trail, or otherwise become distracted, return to your goals and hit the re-set button. Thois will help get you back on track and avoid the spiral.

Make lists. Keep a list of all the stuff you need to get done. Your lists need to include everything from next-steps in attaining your goals, to picking up the dry cleaning, to remembering to take your vitamins. Take nothing for granted. Write it down. And, as you accomplish things, cross them off your list! In fact, do a couple of easy things first every day so you can cross something off as early in the day as possible. This way you will see that you have accomplished something and will motivate you to do more.

Keep the list in a place that you can easily see. So important. Most people with ADD are visual. We need to see things. Use color coding if need be, but make sure you can see your list at all times. With someone with ADD, out of sight is absolutely out of mind – so keep the list in clear sight.

Exercise. You need to do something – take a walk or run 10 miles – everyday. If you have a somewhat sedentary life, take time a couple of times per day to leave your seat and just walk. You need to get blood moving through your brain. You’ll feel better, and your mind will have more sharpness.

Trust your support person. First of all, you need to have a support person. Could be your spouse, business partner, friend, or an assistant. Whoever that person is, make sure you have clear and consistent communication with them everyday. That person can help keep you on track, stay accountable, and take on those tasks that you aren’t suited to take on.

Laugh. Let’s face it, you’re going to do some boneheaded stuff. We all do. Learn to laugh about it. Share your experience with others. Now, it may take them a while to join your laughter, but if you demonstrate a good attitude, own your stuff, and take honest responsibility, they will learn to laugh with you.

Demonstrate gratitude.  Make sure you communicate how grateful you are to your support person. Never, ever take them for granted. They are performing an absolutely necessary role in your life. Also speak gratitude for those things that are in your life. Basics like food and clothing; having people who you love and love you back; for the skills, knowledge and talents you possess; for having opportunities to display and use these talents. If you haven’t yet been able to use your talents fully, give thanks that you are working toward that goal. Simply give thanks for being alive. If you are breathing, then there is a plan for your life. Your life is meaningful, and you have the opportunity to be of benefit to others.

So, these are the basics for avoiding the Death Spiral. Obviously there is a lot more we could add to this list in managing the nuances of  how ADD shows up in our lives. We’ll get to those at some point. But, for now, practice these things and you’ll avoid the devastating effects of the Spiral.

The ADD Death Spiral, Part One

My belief is that having ADD is a blessing.

For whatever reason, the configuration of my brain has unique wiring. My neurotransmitters fire differently. Certain executive functions are challenging. Focus. Organization. Follow through. Sustained attention. You know, the stuff that teachers, employers and other authority figures value.  These things are tough for me – and for most with the blessing.

Blazing Mind will be filled with all the positive things that ADD contributes – creativity, agile thinking, humor, passion.

This article isn’t about those things. Like so many things in life, there is a dark side to this blessing. Well, this dark side has many, many shades of gray. This one I call The ADD Death Spiral.

storm-106426_1920

Like soil erosion, it happens gradually. We begin with clarity, feeling positive. Maybe we’ve started a new job or a new project, a new romance. Life feels good. We feel validated. Endorphines are pumping, our mind blazes bright and fast.

Then one day we forget a deadline…forget to take our meds…don’t study…blurt an unedited thought that doesn’t land properly. Discord occurs. The brightness dims.

Maybe we were forgiven, even given a pass. After all, our natural talents or winning personality are still attractive. Then it happens again. This time we don’t show up for a meeting, say something really thoughtless, leave a mundane task half done.

Trust is lost. Resentment starts to build. The shine others once saw in us begins to dull. And we know it.

That’s when the death spiral can really kick-in. We came into whatever situation we’re in with a nod toward low self-esteem…and yet we are optimistic and positive that we will overcome this time. We’ll get it right! This time, breakthrough!

Our attention begins to wander. More tasks are begun and never completed. We forget simple things, like feeding the dog or returning a call. The mundane stuff builds up. Boredom sets in. Our optimism is replaced by a low-grade depression. “Here we go again,” you might say. Or, my favorite, “Damn, I thought I was doing better.”

One of the basic truths of ADD sets up solid as we attempt to summon more energy: The harder we try, the worse it gets. You hear Yoda’s wizened voice, “With ADD there is no try.”

We spiral.

The depression gets a little thicker, clouds mounting, pregnant with cold rain. We want to be anywhere than here, because staying here is just a reminder of how much we truly do suck. “I can’t do anything right…why bother? Move on…I didn’t want this jobrelationshipsituation anyways!”

The bottom hits. It comes differently for each of us, but it does come. Maybe it’s just more disconnection from someone we love. Maybe we get reprimanded at work, maybe even let go. A pile of incomplete projects get higher, like twisted rusted metal in a junk yard.  It feels hopeless. The spiral has brought death to yet another dream, job, relationship.

The spiral tightens and maybe we shake our fist at God, “Why did you do this to me?”

The answer is always the same. And we don’t want to hear it.

We can’t bear hearing it again because…heavy sigh, maybe two…being responsible isn’t our strong suit.

No one did this to us. God didn’t curse our existence. He gave us challenges because it was pre-determined that we had the wherewithal and gumption to overcome them. What we must face would cause week-knee’d normies to quiver and faint.

There is a formula to fending off the death spiral. I’ll present that in Part Two.

 

Need a Brain Change? Meditate!

If you want to change your life, change your brain. This wisdom is ancient. Usually, when we quote ancient wisdom during the 21st Century, it means there’s something to it.

Every spiritual tradition embraces the precept of getting still, quieting the mind, fear not. Meditate.

There has been much research done that has identified the beIlluminationnefits of meditation. Mental clarity. Lowered blood pressure. Reduced anxiety. Heightened creativity. There’s good reason for this. Meditation creates physiological changes, increasing brain density and boosting connections between neurons.

Researchers at UCLA have found that meditation has a profound effect on the cerebral cortex. With regular meditation our ability to process information, make decisions, and increase mindfulness – among many other benefits – increase.

So…want to change your brain? Meditate.

So, what exactly is meditation? For me it is an opportunity to regenerate, relax and let go. My mind quiets and my focus gently sharpens – but without trying. There is no work to it. It is a rest stop during a busy day, a way station where I get to recharge.

But, what if you have never attempted meditation before? Or, maybe you have, but it just didn’t resonate? As a rational person you know that meditation can help you – after all, the science is there. You know there is a profound neurological benefit.

I recommend that you try the 9-Day Meditation Experience by Deep Origins (see my recommendation). You’ll receive, at no cost, nine guided meditations that cover a variety of functional areas (prosperity, abundance, healing, etc.) and you are taught how to meditate. Each meditation ranges between 6 and 20 minutes. By the end of the nine day experience you’ll really get why this practice works – you’ll want to continue. It very well may become the best part of your day.

And you’ll change your brain.

Conceive it, See it, Be it.

In the vast field of neuroscience, one of the most interesting things to me is the act of re-training the mind through visualization.

What is visualization, you ask? It is the deliberate act of first quieting the mind, and then imagining what you want in vivid detail. And, do so in a way that is unattached to an outcome.

Sounds hard, doesn’t it? It really isn’t.

We get hung up on the outcome part, I think. When I was 7 years old I began playing baseball. From the moment my father put a glove on my hand I was hooked. When I wasn’t on the field or playing in the streets with my friends, I was throwing a rubber ball against the garage wall.

I would imagine myself being Don Sutton or Steve Carlton pitching against the likes of Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. For hours upon hours my imagination ran wild with diamond success as I toed the rubber against the greatest players on earth.

By the time I got to college and pitched for my school’s team, During the grind of training in which I’d run 3-5 miles each night, I would offset the tedium by pitching a game in my mind as I ran. These long periods of intense visualization would prepare me for my time on the mound.

During the game I would trigger my imagination into quick visualizations before each pitch, imagining that my arm angle was correct, that the ball would go where I wanted. Often it did.

What I learned is that I needed to focus only on what I could control. I wouldn’t imagine a swing and miss, but just putting the ball into the desired location. That’s all I could control.

This technique of visualization can be transferred into any area of life. It’s a process of training the imagination, directing it, breathing life into whatever it is we are doing. At first you may have to concentrate a focus a little – but after a while it comes naturally and quickly.

I find the best time to practice is during times of meditation. As a writer I begin to see words on the page. The story comes together. I allow myself to experience the emotions associated with the piece.

When it comes time to write the words generally flow easily from my mind to the page.

The key is being focused on the process rather than the outcome. With some things outcome is intertwined with the process – and that’s okay. Just don’t get too attached. The more you focus on process – of becoming a craftsman at whatever you are doing – the better your outcomes will be – without being attached to them.

Why be unattached to outcomes? Because they lead to expectation, perfectionism, and ultimately disappointment.

However, the simple act of seeing yourself doing a thing, and then manifesting the actions through repetition (action), you’ll master the process and you’ll experience success.

Simple. See it. Be it.

The Power of Prayer in a Postmodern World

The rash covered her body. She was burning up with fever. She felt like she was going to die. Debbie, 39, did two things immediately: she called her doctor – who didn’t even need to see her: she had scarlet fever, a childhood disease that is pure misery, and would likely put her on her back for at least two weeks.

Her doc prescribed the needed antibiotics and told her to rest, She’d see her in two weeks when the rash finally went away.

The second thing she did was call her girlfriend, Molly. Immediately Molly activated the prayer network at their church. The congregation was small, maybe 50 people, but they all began to pray for God to heal Debbie.

By Sunday the rash had gone away, as had the fever. On Monday Debbie felt as if nothing at all had happened. Her scarlet fever was gone.

Before you say, “whoa there, Cowboy…the antibiotics must have kicked into overdrive”, consider Veronica.

She had a strange, painful growth on her skin near the clavicle. She saw a specialist who did a biopsy. Sure enough it was chock full of cancer.

She belonged to a prayer group that, or course, went to work.

Veronica was scheduled to have the growth, and likely a pound of flesh surrounding the growth, removed about a week later. When she went to see her surgeon, there was no sign of the growth, certainly no evidence of cancer.

“I can’t operate on something that isn’t there,” he said, and sent her on her way.

The moral to these stories: prayer works. Of course, we’ve known that for about 5,000 years. But, during the modern age of medicine many (if not most) doctors, researchers and otherwise rational people cast aside prayer as superstition or as a benign, harmless activity that made people feel better. A spiritual placebo.

However, about 10 years ago a new movement, neurotheology, was born. Neurotheology (aka the neuroscience of spirituality) takes a long hard scientific look at spiritual practices and how they affect the brain – which leads to how they affect quality of life. What they have found is that those engaged in meaningful, intense prayer and other spiritual practices experienced significant changes in their brain.

Many more studies have been done. One study (captured in a story done by NPR in 2009) followed the research being done by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist, Richard Davidson. He wondered if the brain could change for people who weren’t prayer warriors for hours each day – but led normal lives. Participants spent 30 minutes per day in prayer/meditation during the study.

Lo and behold, through a process called neuroplasicity, their brains began to change within two-weeks. For example, those who focused on being more forgiving actually saw changes in the parts of the brain that produce compassion. (I’ll be writing more about neuroplasicity in other posts.)

So…that’s the physical effects  of prayer. But, what about the results? Isn’t that what really is meaningful to us?

Let’s face it, not every prayer is answered. Maybe that has more to do with how we pray, than the efficacy of prayer itself.

In research done by Larry Dossey, MD (a pioneer in the neurotheology field), certain types of prayers tend to be more effective than others.

For example, if I were to pray: “God, please let me win the lottery!” Chances are that my prayer being answered is directly proportional to the odds of winning the lottery.

However, what if I prayed: “God, I believe in your provision, and I pray that you will provide so that the best possible outcome is experienced by all involved – and I am thankful and grateful for whatever that outcome happens to be.”

I cannot even tell you the number of times I, or friends of mine, have prayed something similar to this and a check finds its way into my mailbox the next day…or my friend finds a $20 bill in old coat pocket…or another friend lands a contract they didn’t expect.

I think it’s not about what we pray for – but the attitude from which we offer the prayer. Being thankful and grateful. Accepting. Not being attached to outcomes. Living in the moment, doing the next indicated things on the journey. Proceeding with confidence and faith. And trust.

The research that’s being done will verify what we know in our hearts. Prayer works. Just ask Debbie and Veronica. They’ll stake their health on it.