Maslow was yesterday — Here’s what really leads the brain to peak performance!

Academy reflection on the Neuroscience of Leadership by Friederike Fabritius and on how many times you should tell your partner you love them…

Powerful Friederike Fabritius rules out the well-known Maslow Pyramid right in the beginning of her talk to reconstruct a new one based on scientific knowledge. For those of you who don’t remember what it looked like, here’s the old version:

Social needs are the ground of the new pyramid Friederike draws on the flip chart: People live longer when they have strong relationships. “That’s why we are constantly checking people’s reactions on us”.

Kids’ ability to wait and delay gratification was tested with marshmallows. Results showed that kids who were able to wait for their sweet treat were more successful in life. This also correlates with having a better developed prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for the way we work and live.

“Of course the genetic component meets the environment — you can train your prefrontal cortex”. Mindfulness training for example can help to train your brain.

The limbic system is brought up on screen, as Friederike introduces more brain parts. This is the part responsible for emotion and motivation. There are dopamine bursts after you ate chocolate or other positive experiences, who function as a reward system but fades out after a while. That is also why you need to tell people you love them more than once.

“When you think of rewards think of it as a drug-like substance. We get used to positive things very quickly. Rewards don’t last forever. Last year’s bonus is not going to make you happy this year.”

Cortisol is the negative stress hormone and dopamine’s counterpart. The amygdala becomes active in the brain. Socially stressful situations make us suffer. “Our brain processes negative situations 9 times more than positive ones.” But why do we pay so much attention to negative things? 
“Your ancestors were attentive to treats. Now, when you cheat on your partner once, it lasts. People work better if they are in a good mood, whereas in a threatened state you can’t come up with creative solutions.”

Friederike’s key message for us: To get to a state of peak performance , we need fun, focus and a bit of fear! Basically the flow state, similar to what babies have when they play, is what to aim for. 
Certain genetic dispositions need certain kinds of challenges at work. 
Under-arousal or over-arousal can lead to burnouts and depression. You need to understand the genetic disposition of the people you are working with. 
Know where you are, get a feeling of where you stand and as a second step, try to move into the right environment! Once you understand yourself, start with mental training.
Dopamine junkies or sensation seekers excel in extreme situations and become brokers, journalists or extreme athletes. In fact, testosterone pushes you to be career-orientated path, whereas a higher estrogen and serotonin level makes us more detail-orientated.
So the aim is to create a workplace for all different kinds of people, since it’s highly individual how we achieve peak performance. So to make those good experiences count, tell your partner you love them as much as you can…

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