By: Marcel Daane, MSc – Neuroscience of Leadership
Even though humans have been on this planet for only an evolutionary blink of an eye, our amazing adaptibility to enviornmental change enabled us to not only survive the harshest of changes, but to thrive in the process. Where other species went extinct, we humans continued to evolve in the face of adversity to eventually become the most dominant species on this planet.
During those early days, our brains and bodies were intricately linked to perform as a single unit, where the brain would strategize, plan, create solutions, and learn to communicate with other humans, and the body would function as a highly effective transportation vehicle, working tool, and even as a weapon for survival. What this means is that the brain and body developed an evolutionary advantage by being perfectly synced to function together.
Fast forwarding 100,000 years or so, the human race has not only learned to thrive in their environment. We have shaped our envirnment to such an extent that physical movement is no longer a daily requirement, our nutritional habist have changed for the worse, we spend much less time with our loved-ones, and we do not allow ourselves the recovery time necessary to recoup from the stresses of life.
With that, we have created a disconnect between our brains and bodies, which in turn is harming that one attribute that made us so successful as an evolving species, our adaptibility to change. Overwhelming research is showing that brain capacity diminishes dramatically when we don’t take care of ourselves effectively.
Research and experience is teaching us that the areas of the brain affected most by a lack of health behaviors are those same brain-regions necessary to manage stress, process memories, inhibit impulsive decision making, problem solving, empathy, teamwork, and innovation.
At an individual as well as organizational level, remaining competive and relevant in today’s dynamic business markets are essential for sustained financial success. As on one side, performance demands rise, while on the other side, opportunities for health behaviors decline, executives find themselves struggling to keep up resulting in a drastic rise of chronic fatigue, accelerated aging, depression, and burnout.
In my own research, in 2013, I measured physical health and brain-performance age of 108 executives in Singapore across four different industries. What I discovered is that my subjects had an average chronological age of in their forties, but their average physical health as well as brain performance capacity was far below the norms of people in their age-groups.
In fact brain-performance was comparable to that of people far in retirment age. What we know from research in neuroscience is that our brains become increasingly more resistant to change as our brains get older.
What this means is that an organization full of rapidly aging brains is likely to be much more resistant to change and substandtially less adaptive than an organization full of younger brains.
If organizations, and executives, wish to remain relevant and competivie in today’s dynamically evolving business climate, they will need to recognize that something does not add up in the way they are trying to cope with today’s pressures while completely ignoring the improtance of a health and fit brain.
Fortunately, this billion dollar problem does not need a billion dollar solution. Recent research is showing that brain performance improves significantly after just one bout of 8 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity and remains elevated for hours before gradually dropping to baseline.
In fact, exercise that makes us huff and puff pretty hard has been shown to produce proteins in the brain that stimulte brain cell regeneration in those areas of the brain necessary for performance success.
Nutrition too, has a significant impact on how our brain performs. Choosing whole foods, from nature, such as vegetables and fruit, as well as foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and cold-water fish do not only improve brain performance, but also help regenerate neurons in the brain enabling our brains to actually become younger again.
What this means is that, through inspiring our executives to eat healthier and exercise regularly, and find some balance in their lives, they don’t only improve brain performance, which is good for business, they also regenerate their brains resulting in greater resilience and staying power, and most importantly, greatly improve adaptibility to change so we can continue to thrive in today’s dynamic business world.
About the Author:
Marcel Daane is the author of Headstrong Performance: Improve Your Mental Performance with Nutrition, Exercise, and Neuroscience. He is considered a pioneer in integrating health and neuroscience to improve performance in executives. As the CEO of Headstrong Performance, a Singapore-based, globally operating boutique consulting firm, Daane helps organizations, leadership teams, and executives transcend their current performance plateaus, manage stress, improve focus, ignite creativity, and drive change.
The son of a celebrated political activist, Daane is a former member of an elite naval intelligence unit with advanced degrees in neuroscience of leadership and complementary medicine. He has over 20 years of coaching experience across business, sports, health, and cognitive performance. When not coaching, writing, or speaking, Daane likes to spend time traveling with his wife, Ursula, and daughter, Kilani.
To learn more, visit www.marceldaane.com and www.headstrongperformance.net, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Book:
Headstrong Performance: Improve Your Mental Performance with Nutrition, Exercise, and Neuroscience (Marcel Daane, 2015, ISBN: 978-981-09-3098-1, $29.95, www.headstrongperformance.net) is available at www.headstrongperformance.net and Amazon.com.
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