Emma-Kate Swann and Bob Rosen have written a potentially life-altering book, CONSCIOUS: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life, with a major premise that we should go farther than mindfulness to become more conscious about ourselves and what might be holding us back from achieving personal and business success. This book will touch a raw nerve in the sense that it encourages all of us to took an introspective look into our own lives to better understand what blocks us from not only achieving success but from attaining more meaning and fulfillment. As a pioneer in the field of neuroleadership (applying emerging knowledge of the brain to leading ourselves and others), I encourage everyone to read this book and take action. Many of us, including those in the corporate world, have overcome our reluctance to incorporate mindfulness into our daily personal and business lives. It used to be a ‘no-no’ to discuss meditation in the workplace but it is clear that mindfulness has had an extraordinary impact on managers and employees in business – the research overwhelmingly supports this.

However, Swann and Rosen suggest that being mindful is not enough. They make a convincing case that simply being mindful is insufficient – that we must go beyond mindfulness and explore our brains to better understand what blocks us from attaining our goals in life. The author calls this exploration becoming “conscious” – with the end result driving concrete changes in our behaviors that bring enhanced success in our personal and business lives. It is clear that we fear exploring our inner selves as we are unaware of and afraid of the output that might come out. Indeed, this could be a painful exercise for some. Thus, we decide to avoid any exercise in self-reflection. Unfortunately, while we might avoid short term pain, we create far greater longer term issues for ourselves by keeping emotions pent up in our subconscious brains. Here’s some of the things that the field of neuroleadership teaches us:

  • The major purpose of the brain is survival.
  • There are two major modes of processing in the brain: unconscious and conscious.
  • Emotions are processed unconsciously and yet drive our behavior.
  • Thus, we are unaware of inner thoughts that drive our behavior.
  • We rely on our rational brain (residing in the neocortex) to drive our behavior in our personal and business lives when it is really the emotional part of our brain (residing in the limbic system) that drive our behavior.
  • It is only through a process of self-examination that we can unlock the emotional parts of our brains and better understand our inner motivations that drive behavior.
  • The field of neuroscience offers us exciting new tools that help us better understand ourselves in a non-threatening manner. For example, we know that the use of visual storytelling is incredibly powerful in helping tell our personal stories in a fun, non-threatening and revealing manner. This process does not involve any psychological deep dives.

We must overcome our fear of self-exploration because the long term benefits far exceed short term pain. Telling your life story from both  rational and emotional perspectives is actually very liberating. Much of the emotional baggage we have unconsciously stored in our brains is really not our fault because they have been there since childhood. You had no control over the circumstances under which you were born and lived in your baby and toddler years. You had no control over your physical form, choice of parents and siblings, your living conditions and economic circumstances, etc.

The human brain’s major development years are between the ages of two to seven. During these years, the brain is in survival mode and deploys survival behaviors to overcome threatening situations. Thus, having screaming parents during your childhood years could result in you using short term survival techniques (such as hiding under the bed, always trying to please your parents, bullying others, etc.) that become encoded in your brain – resulting in negative behaviors in adulthood (in the workplace, home life and other spheres of life). It was not your fault that you were born under these circumstances and yet they drive your behavior in your adult life. A process of telling your personal story and becoming more conscious of your hidden emotions frees you from the maladaptive behaviors that inevitably result later on in life. The use of visual storytelling also helps you understand unconscious emotions resulting form your adolescent (another major growth phase of the brain) and adult years.

I highly recommend reading CONSCIOUS: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life. I totally agree that it is important for you to overcome your fears of examining your life – of becoming conscious of what motivates you and drives your behavior. It will be the most important activity you ever do. Contact Robert Paris for more information of how neuroleadership is positively changing coaching and team building techniques.