5 ways to make sure your brain works with you, not against you, according to science

Elle Kaplan, Contributor
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Human beings have an amazing capacity to analyze, process information and solve problems. Your brain is the ultimate tool for productivity. On the other hand, it can just as easily work against you, sabotaging your plans and pulling you further from what you truly want.

The brain is Commander-in-Chief of all your actions. So, if you fail to control its inner workings, your entire being will feel the impact. Some of the most difficult times in your life will have been a result of your brain resisting your true intent.

To keep your brain on track, foster holistic growth, so that every part of your being is in sync. You can make this happen by working on mindfulness.

Here are some practices that will help you stay on track by taking full control of how your brain works:

Quit looking back

Many people are mentally paralyzed by fear and doubt. If you are preoccupied with the past, you will have a lot of difficulty moving forward. Availability heuristic is a phenomenon that can be defined as the brain's tendency to overvalue its first association when encountering a new thought or decision. Inevitably, you return to recurrent habits and memories, and therefore miss out on new ideas and approaches.

Stop your brain from dwelling on what you have left behind and free yourself from entrenched fears by establishing a solid and specific set of goals. This will empower you to release your baggage as you refocus your energy toward a brighter future. Your goals will allow you to become the person you'd like to be.

"Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe." –Oprah Winfrey

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Fix your sleeping

It's common for busy people to extend work hours and stay up late to complete tasks. This kind of routine compromises several aspects of your life and drains your overall well-being. When you trade sleep or rest for work, you are losing out on health. According to many studies, your cognitive function, attention span, and capacity to learn and think creatively all suffer.

To avoid late work nights, aim to start your work day as early as possible. Follow the lead of countless ultra-successful people, including Richard Branson, Tim Cook, and Howard Schultz, and take advantage of your mornings, so that you won't have to cram your way through the rest of the day.

Maintain a flow of positive energy

If you associate yourself with negative people, you are likely to absorb thinking that is counterproductive to your goals. Modern psychology calls this phenomenon emotional contagion, the transfer of feelings and behaviors from one person to another. This can happen non-verbally and often goes unnoticed by both parties.

Block negativity from entering your system (particularly your brain) by surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Hang out with go-getters and highly successful people to attract the positive energy that is needed to fuel your drive. According to LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, spending time with people who you admire is one of the most effective ways to improve yourself, as you will adapt their behavior, thinking, and lifestyle.

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Keep stress to a minimum

Neuroscientists have discovered that chronic stress damages a person's brain. Since your brain is vital to all the work you do, it is unwise to endanger it. However, many would agree that it is impossible to completely eliminate stress from a person's system.

You don't have to run away from stress — just stay on top of it. Take precautionary measures so that your health and work performance don't suffer from stress. Find an activity that will calm your mind and relax you, even for a short while. Among mega-successful individuals, stress-busting habits vary greatly. Sheryl Sandberg keeps her phone off at night, Jeff Bezos values laughter and Warren Buffett plays the ukulele.

Stop multitasking

Your brain's initial reaction to a heavy work load will be to try do it all at once. Your brain assumes that, in doing so, you will save time and still be efficient. Contrary to common belief, multitasking sacrifices accuracy. Research shows that whenever a task is interrupted, it can take up to 40 percent longer to complete it.

Teach your brain to understand your priorities before you even begin work. Warren Buffett's rule is to limit yourself to five top tasks. According to him, the rest of your list should wait until you have addressed those priorities.


We tend to overuse our brains and believe that it is for our own good, while remaining unaware of the brain's pitfalls and limitations. If you don't understand how to take care of your brain and work around its tendencies, it will remain an obstacle between you and your fullest potential. Change is important, even if it begins with something as ordinary as your sleeping habits or a relaxing hobby.

Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the chief investment officer and founder of LexION Alpha.

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