Beliefs Change Your Brain, Part II

In the past, we’ve discussed how your beliefs can impact your brain—which in the case of constant stress will be damaging over time. There’s an upside to your belief system, though, and that includes rational thinking and making principled decisions.

Let’s take a moment to find out exactly where our beliefs and choices are made. The part of the brain where we reason, strategize and formulate complex plans is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC. Take your finger and touch the outer edge of your eyebrow. Now, move straight up your forehead until you reach your hair line; the DLPFC is underneath this point. Just below this location are two sources of the brain’s sites of conscience: the orbital frontal cortex, or OFC, right above your eye socket, and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex, or VMPFC, located just to the midline. These last two parts of the brain are also the locations for the sensations of guilt and where we recognize socially inappropriate behavior.

When you are faced with a dilemma, your reasoning center (DLPFC) will work in tandem with your brain’s conscience (OFC and VMPFC). Interestingly, research has revealed that when you engage in activities or make decisions that violate your straight-line principles (conscience), your reasoning will be clouded. In a nutshell, your ability to make precise decisions, accurately solve problems, and lead others will all be diminished when there is conflict between these parts of your brain.

So, how can you improve your decision-making based on this knowledge? To begin with, you must clarify what guiding principles you believe in. Consider what these guidelines really are; at LEADon, we call these your “North Star” or straight-line principles. Next, think about how you make daily decisions. Do you take time to compare what your principles (conscience) tell you to do as you process and make important choices? If not, work toward aligning what you believe is right with those guiding principles each day moving forward. By intentionally defining your belief system, you will literally alter your brain’s physiology, enhancing rational thinking in order to make great decisions, lead your team, and improve the bottom line.

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