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Is mind over matter a real thing?

Are our brains really capable of pushing us to do things that we didn’t think that we’re capable of, like running a marathon or learning a language? In this episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People we talk to neuroscientist Tara Swart to understand the power of the brain.

Is mind over matter a real thing?
[Photo: DGLimages/iStock]

We spend most of our lives “in our heads,” processing the world and other people though our own beliefs and biases. Yet, most of us understand very little about how our brains really work, and what they are actually capable of. On this week’s episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People, Fast Company assistant editor Anisa Purbasari Horton explains how she used the power of her mind to face the pain of running a marathon, and how she became fluent in a different language within a year of moving to a new country.

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To understand exactly what our brains are capable of and how to build new neuro-pathways in our brains, we got expert advice from neuroscientist, medical doctor, leadership coach, and Fast Company contributor Tara Swart. She also dispelled a few “neuro-myths,” like the persistent belief that we only use 10% of our brains.

Here are three things you can do to harness the power of your brain to do things that you might not think you’re capable of.

1. Focus on enjoying the process.
In an updated edition of Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain, art teacher Betty Edwards wrote that most people can get better at drawing if they are willing to study the techniques. Edwards said, for example, the skill that most people lack is actually seeing and perceiving things like edges and shadows, rather than the drawing itself. Of course, this requires patience, and one way to cultivate it is to try and detach yourself from the outcome and focus on the process.

2. Practice in low-stakes situations.
Obviously, you wouldn’t run a competitive race without training–you work up to it until you get comfortable. You can do this when you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone, like public speaking.

3. Give yourself no choice but to do it.
Sometimes, it is a matter of just exposing yourself as often as you can. You won’t get good at networking if you don’t force yourself to talk to strangers every now and again. And your language skills aren’t going to get better if you don’t force yourself to have conversations, even when you think that you might sound stupid.

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You can find the episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts. Have you ever used the power of your brain to do something that seemed impossible? Tell us about it with the hashtag #FCMostProductive and click here to subscribe to Secrets of the Most Productive People so you don’t miss an episode.

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About the author

Kathleen Davis is Deputy Editor at FastCompany.com, she also manages the leadership and work-life section. Previously, she has worked as an editor at Entrepreneur.com, WomansDay.com and Popular Photography magazine.

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