psychologyofsuccess

Archive for the ‘Brain’ Category

Which You, Which Intelligence?

In 22703638, Brain, Daniel Goleman, Intelligence, Psychology, Psychology of Success, Success, TED Conference on August 5, 2009 at 6:31 pm

multiple-intelligences

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Intelligence: a) ability to learn or understand from experience: ability to acquire and retain knowledge; mental ability  b) the ability to respond quickly and successfully to a new situation; use of the faculty of reason in solving problems, directing conduct c) measured success in using these abilities to perform certain tasks —- Webster’s New World Dictionary


From the title it seems as if I will be talking about probable universes or alternate realities. But I’m not. Instead I will be talking about an issue that is dear to us all. That is, what are our talents and how can we benefit from them?

Sir Ken Robinson, in an very entertaining address to the TED conference, stated that “schools kill creativity.” His main argument was that educators focus so much on reading, writing and arithmetic that other talents children have are left underdeveloped or completely ignored. This is an argument that has gained more weight with the increased shift to standardized testing from 2001 to 2008 in the United States.

Yet, not every child has an interest or motivation to excel in reading, writing and mathematics. Their interests lie elsewhere. This is where intelligence comes into the discussion. There are many academics who have argued that there are more than one type. Psychologist Daniel Goleman is one of them and has made a career of his promotion of social and emotional intelligence and how important they are to overall success in careers and relationships. Another is Howard Gardener whose promotion of multiple intelligences (MI) has helped create a movement of educators pushing for a more well rounded system of education that addresses the different ways in which people can express their intelligence.

Gardner, in an article in the Scientific American,  A Multiplicity of Intelligences, describes 8 major intelligences. They are:

1. Linguistic (Linguist, Writer, Comedian)

2. Logical – Mathematical (Scientist, Engineer)

3. Musical (Musician, Songwriter, Singer)

4. Spatial (Architect, Interior Decorator)

5. Bodily-Kinesthetic (Wrestler, Tennis Player, Coach)

6. Interpersonal (Facilitator, Counselor, Educators)

7. Intrapersonal (Therapists, Psychologists, Communication Experts) and

8. Naturalist (Birdwatcher, Conservationists)

As readers well know, although most schools focus heavily on Linguistic and Logical-Mathematical Intelligences, many people make their living using the other six listed. In fact, many professions or jobs require a combination of two or more types of intelligence.

Academics such as Robinson, Goleman, Gardener and others argue that ignoring our intelligence in different areas is detrimental to our development. My own argument is that our world is enriched by our ability to enjoy sports and recreational pursuits; our ability to converse with others; and to create art, music and beautiful structures for us to enjoy.

Are you ignoring an intelligence that could impact our world and could bring you success?

What are your thoughts?

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Beat the Competition: Practice when you Sleep!

In Brain, Goal Setting, Neurons, Psychology, Psychology of Success, Sports Psychology, Success on July 12, 2009 at 6:48 pm

piano-girl

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

Let’s say there are two piano players, Jim and Bob. In their individual lessons their instructor, Leslie, tells them a position is opening up in their city’s orchestra. Who gets it will be based on 5 songs they must play before judges. She gives them the sheet music for the competition and sends them on their way.

At this moment they are equal in skill and ability and neither Jim nor Bob has ever practiced the songs they are given. They dive with equal fervor into their preparation. Unknowingly, both adopt the same training regimen and practice an equal amount of time. However, this is where their similarities end. Jim and Bob are two very different people in one key area. Jim has always been very disciplined about going to bed early and insuring that he gets 8 hrs of sleep. Bob is a night owl and stays up late watching TV and reading books.  He usually gets 5 hrs of sleep each night.

However, if Jim and Bob’s training methods and length of training are exactly the same why is it more likely that Jim would perform better at the competition than Bob?

According to, “Your Brain: The Missing Manual,” Bob is missing out on a precious benefit gained during sleep that would boost his piano playing ability.  That precious gift is the brain reviewing the previous day’s activities and increasing the ability for Bob to perform those actions better the next time he tries them.

As we practice any activity neural pathways are created that help the brain to remember how to perform the action at a later date. Each time we perform a particular task the pathways become a stronger series of networks that can help us get the job done.  This apparently happens even when we’re sleeping.

So by sleeping three more hours Bob would perform just as well as Jim?

Most likely.

But there’s a catch to improving performance by sleeping. It has to occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep. That is one of four stages of sleep we cycle through throughout the night. It is also the deepest level of sleep. If Bob does not cycle through the REM stages then he can’t reap the benefits.

The author of “Your Brain,’ Matthew MacDonald, cites two studies, one involving rats and the other humans that demonstrate the effectiveness of REM sleep in improving our ability to conduct tasks we perform during the day. In a study (2001), rats who had “electrodes implanted” in their brains were sent through a series of mazes. Their neuronal activity was “recorded.” When the rats later fell into REM sleep those same neurons fired in the same way as if they were running the mazes.

Another experiment, conducted by Robert Strickgold (Harvard Medical School) in 2000, was where human subjects were asked to play Tetris for 7 hours a day. Participants were observed while sleeping and awakened during their REM cycles. Many of the test subjects were indeed dreaming of playing Tetris (17 of 27). MacDonald goes on to say that in these types of studies, subjects who are prevented from going into REM sleep do not perform as well as others who are allowed REM sleep when learning “new tasks.”

Sometimes succeeding in something boils down to small advantages. We can only practice for so long or in so many ways. If I can gain an edge through a relaxing deep sleep, someone please, hand me a pillow.

Find out 101 more ways you can ‘beat the competition’ 🙂 in Dr. Akil’s groundbreaking new book SUPER YOU! 101 Ways to Maximize your Potential on Amazon or Lulu. You can also download a free chapter on your Kindle or iPhone at Amazon.

How Navy Seals Increased Passing Rates and My Random Army Experience

In Brain, Goal Setting, Psychology, Psychology of Success, Self talk, Sports Psychology, Success, Visualization on July 7, 2009 at 6:25 am
Navy Seal Training

Navy Seal Training

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

It was 10 PM, pitch black and I was in the middle of the woods in North Carolina. My job was simple. I had to erect a 30 foot antennae that would be used to gather radio transmissions so our artillery platoon could conduct fire missions. I had been dropped off by a Humvee along with another soldier in another platoon.  We were all alone. He had the same mission but had to set up his antennae about 100 yards from mine.

It was the beginning of many such missions my unit conducted as ‘practice’ in the Army. In the snow, in the rain, in the summer heat we practiced the science of artillery. At least half of the year, every year, we spent in the woods in 3 to 7 day chunks. I thought my stint as a Cannon Fire Direction Specialist  (13-E) would be indoors in a command center like the one in the 1980s classic, War Games, starring Matthew Broderick. At least that is what my recruiter told me.

Not!

I was mere yards from the gun line, had to dig foxholes, pull guard duty, man the M-60 and listen to the artillery rounds fired up close and personal throughout the day and night. Luckily, I never had to go to war. I served during a relative time of peace (1993-95).

So,– why did we spend so much time living in the woods, firing live rounds, going through the motions? Why were 2 twenty year olds trusted to set up communications for 2 platoons (100 men) and to guide them into their new base in the woods for the next few days?

Well, we had to do this under as realistic conditions as possible so if we were called to war we would be able to perform our jobs with confidence and without thinking about it. Many of my fellow soldiers had served in the first Iraq War and they continuously relayed how serious warfare was and how we needed to be prepared. Our training reflected that mentality. But the ‘practice makes perfect’  approach isn’t always enough.

Which brings me to the Navy Seals. I will admit that training to become a combat soldier is tough. But becoming an elite soldier such as a Navy Seal or Ranger is even tougher. These guys are not only regular soldiers they also go through further training to become masters of terrain and conditions and to handle situations in hostile territories as a small group or on their own. Their training has to be super intense in order to have soldiers who can actually carry out their missions.

Hence, they had an extremely low passing rate for trainees. According to  The Brain, a show featured on The History Channel, out of 140 recruits (average/each cycle) only 36 would make it. However, they noticed that they were losing a number of good recruits not because they couldn’t phsyically hack it, but because they had a mental block. It was in one key area; the water. The Navy Seals have a drill in a pool where recruits have to remain under water for 20 minutes. They are equipped with oxygen tanks for air. All they have to do is stay under water without coming up. Seems simple enough.

Well there’s a catch. The recruits are constantly harassed by their instructors who rip off their masks, tie their (air) lines in knots and conduct other general forms of harrassment. The recruit’s job is to not panic; wait until the attack is over; calmly fix the problem while remaining under water and then wait for the next attack. At the end of the 20 minutes the recruit will be required to kiss the floor of the pool and then will be brought up by the drill instructor.

But the opposite often happens. Soldiers do panic and even with 4 chances to pass (at different times in the program) many never make it. So the Navy Seals turned to psychology. Using a four step process they increased the passage rates in their program. What did they do? They emphasized what psychologists and communication academics have been advocating for years:

Goal Setting    –    Mental Rehearsal    –    Self Talk    –    Arousal Control

With goal setting the recruits were taught to set goals in extremely short chunks. For instance, one former Navy Seal discussed how he set goals such as making it to lunch, then dinner. With mental rehearsal they were taught to visualize themselves succeeding in their activities and going through the motions. As far as self talk is concerned, the experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute.  By speaking positively to themselves the soldiers could “override fears coming from the amygdala, a part of the brain that helps us deal with fear.  And finally, with arousal control the recruits were taught how to breathe to help mitigate the crippling emotions and fears that some of their tasks encouraged.

This simple four step process increased their passing rates from 25 percent to 33 percent, which is excellent in a rigorous program as theirs. This just demonstrates that achieving success doesn’t always have to be a difficult process. A few minor changes and tweaks may be all that is needed.

For an outstanding number of ways to increase performance, check out Dr. Akil’s exciting new book SUPER YOU! 101 Ways to Maximize your Potential on Amazon or Lulu. You can also download a free chapter on your Kindle or iPhone at Amazon.

Rewire your Brain

In Brain, Neurons, Psychology of Success, Success, Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 at 3:05 pm

 

By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D. 

 

Understanding the brain can provide another approach to how we can achieve success. In the book, “Brain Rules,” John Medina, a molecular biologist, provides fascinating explanations detailing how our brains work. He discusses the way we learn, how what we learn is processed and how that process leads to us becoming very unique individuals.

 

According to Medina, when we perform an activity we have neurons in our brain that pass along information through synaptic clefts (imagine a waterway) to other neurons. As we continue to do the same type of activities these connections become stronger. These neurons split at the ends and form new connections and each time you repeat an activity it becomes easier the next time you try. The brain creates neural pathways to assist you in your tasks.

 

Whether it is a motor skill or memory recall, repetition is the key. It leads to a more complete and thorough brain wiring. Therefore, if we want to be excellent at something, we have to do a few key things for our brains to cooperate. Those things are:

 

Perform the action properly

Perform it many times; and

Perform the action regularly

 

We can literally wire our brains for success. When looking at achievement in this way, excelling becomes a matter of learning something right the first time, practicing religiously and keeping it up after a level of excellence is achieved. 

 

Need a playbook for success, a game changer? Then purchase Dr. Akil’s new book SUPER YOU! 101 Ways to Maximize your Potential on Amazon or Lulu. You can also download a free chapter on your Kindle or iPhone at Amazon.