It's All In Your Head: Grooming a "Winner's Brain"

by Cathy Vandewater | May 02, 2011

  • My Vault

You keep your resume current, your suit pressed, and your hair trimmed—but is your brain in top form?

Jeff Brown doubts it.

The Harvard Medical School psychologist and co-author of The Winner's Brain is appalled by how we treat our noodles. "People don't take care of their brains--they don't prioritize them," he says. "They think about their weight, muscles, everything you can think of about appearance. But they don't prioritize the brain."

The Winner's Brain

Brown, who studied the thinking patterns of successful people from Kerri Strug to Whoopi Goldberg for The Winner's Brain, believes that anyone can be successful—as defined by the presence of the eight "win factors" defined in the book: Self-Awareness, Motivation, Focus, Emotional Balance, Memory, Resilience, Adaptability, and Brain Care.

Though the others take a while (read the full scoop on the book here), "Brain Care" is pretty straightforward—and Brown believes it pays major dividends. "That's the number one thing that people who want to be successful need to do-- feed and take care of their brains," he says, "because that's where the success is coming from."

Ready to win? Here are a few quick tips from Brown for boosting your brain power:

1. Take care of it

"It's kind of like buying a new car but never taking it to the car wash; it's like taking brand new shoes and wearing them in the rain and mud," Brown says of our brains. He reminds us that to function properly, a noggin needs leafy greens, Omega 3s and 6s (that's why fish is called brain food!), rest, and exercise. Bonus tip: light exercise while doing a mental activity like listening to a book on tape or studying flash cards may help you remember and retain new information—the extra oxygen in the brain improves its function.

2. Expose yourself to new things

Do something different! Your brain is constantly storing the fresh information, and you never know when it will come in handy. "You want to introduce unique and novel experiences into your life so you can navigate them when similar situations surface," Brown advises. "It's what people who are using their brains and having a winner's brain are doing: exposing themselves to a variety of experiences that they can draw on in the future." Small changes like walking different routes to work or trying a new food a few times a week are excellent brain fodder.

3. Practice delayed gratification

"Our culture says you can have what you want when you want it, how you want it, and that's just not true," Brown says. "Anybody that we spoke to that has been successful, it's something that they had put their time into." Though slogging through "all stick and no carrot" tasks may not seem fun, you'll build better discipline—and you may be surprised by how addictive the buzz of achievement is. But, to get the emotional reward, Brown reminds us, "You have to see it through." Practice finishing what you start.

Read Vault's Full Interview with Jeff Brown Here

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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