The Biology of Successby Bob Arnot
This step-by-step program designed by Dr. Arnot enables readers to change undesirable habits and behavior and to create optimal conditions for succeeding, and, ultimately, to achieve their personal best. Includes information on diet, exercise, how to make simple changes to improve mood, and more. See more details below
This step-by-step program designed by Dr. Arnot enables readers to change undesirable habits and behavior and to create optimal conditions for succeeding, and, ultimately, to achieve their personal best. Includes information on diet, exercise, how to make simple changes to improve mood, and more.
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The Biology of Success
By Robert Arnot
Little Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2001 Robert Arnot
All right reserved.
Build Mental Capital
Mental energy is the basic foundation of success. Look at corporate titans such as Michael Eisner, Martha Stewart, and Jack Welch, or world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, and Margaret Thatcher, or super moms from Maria Von Trapp to Barbara Bush. High mental energy is what they all have or had in common. Mental energy is the brain's power supply the more power you have, the longer and harder you can work. Compare your work output the morning after taking a red-eye to that after a refreshing night's sleep. It's brain energy that makes the difference.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Success is in the genes.
THE BIOLOGY OF SUCCESS: Mental energy fuels success.
When you meet many successful people, it's not their actual brain energy that first strikes you, it's their affect. Affect is a more precise, medical term for mood. Most successful people have a high positive affect most of the time; not that they don't get cross, angry, and even down, but their predominant affect is positive.
A landmark paper published in 1985 by David Watson and Auke Tellegen concluded that most mood variations can be explained by just two factors: positive affect andnegative affect. Positive affect is associated with enthusiasm, activity, strength, and elation; it's the opposite of dull, sluggish, or sleepy. Negative affect is associated with feelings such as nervousness, fear, distress, scorn, and hostility; it's the opposite of being calm or relaxed. Positive affect encompasses feelings relating to energy; negative affect encompasses feelings relating to tension.
A highly positive affect acts as the energizer needed to super-charge our thought processes. Ed Diener, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, reports that it is positive affect that "motivates human sociability, exploration, and creativity." At work, you will be far more productive and much more likely to be helpful if you are in a positive mood. In short, good and bad moods deter-mine your pattern of thought. "A negative mood generates sadness, irritability, guilt, and a negative, self-critical, and pessimistic thought pattern," says Dr. Diener.
Understanding positive and negative affect is absolutely critical to goal-setting. If goals require a great deal of energy and you think about them while in a low-energy mood, you may get discouraged and feel you can't achieve them, and as a result you'll set lower goals for yourself than you should. Robert E. Thayer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, writes in his excellent book The Origin of Everday Moods, "Your current energy level is incorrectly influencing your judgments about your ability to muster enough energy and commitment for the future task." In other words, be aware that how you feel has a direct impact on your thinking processes. When we set standards for ourselves they seem objective, but standards and goal-setting are totally subjective and personal.
To be a success, you should set goals only when your mood and energy levels are elevated. Be aware, though, that if you set your goals at a one-time high (for example, when you just won the lottery), you may not be able to reach those goals because you'll not be able to find again the same high-energy and high-mood state. Using The Biology of Success, you will want to concentrate on bringing your overall affect and energy to a higher overall level before you set goals that dreams are made of . . . and then maintaining that energy to carry out your goals.
The Mood Thermostat
The brain's affect ranges from very low to very high. The right genes bless some of us with a high setting and a lifetime of happiness. Others among us are cursed with a low setting and years of bleak moods and dark thoughts. Although we talk about a wide range of emotions from happy and joyful to sad, angry, and outright hostile, for the purposes of thinking positively we are simply interested in whether our affect is positive or negative. The great good news is that you can create more mental energy, much like turning up a thermostat, only it is your brain energy levels that you are readjusting to a higher setting.
This "mood thermostat" is located deep within the brain in a structure called the amygdala. Using brain scans, scientists can now peer into the amygdala and see in three-dimensional color its degree of activity. The relationship to mood is inverse: the lower the activity of the amygdala, the higher your mood.
A note of caution: Be aware of what I call the stepladder effect. In modern-day America, our national mood is one of anxiety, even mild depression. This is protective. When bad things happen, there is not far to fall. As your mental energy and mood rise, however, you'll find that it is as if you are on an unsteady stepladder. Sure you feel terrific, but you're afraid of falling should bad things happen.
You may even start to look down in terror at how far you now have to fall. To build resilience against the stepladder effect, you need to immunize yourself with the spirit of optimism, which is discussed in the chapter "Be an Optimist" in Part Two. Life's biggest winners get knocked down again and again, but they fundamentally believe they can win; when adverse events plunge them into momentary despair or gloom, they just as quickly pull themselves back together and regain their positive affect and mental energy.
Where Is Your Thermostat Set?
Brain scanning is not routinely available for the diagnosis of low mood, but excellent self-tests are. The following self-test will help you determine where on the scale of sadness to happiness your mood "thermostat" is fixed. Once you complete the self-test, carefully read the "Diagnosis" section following it.
Devised by Robert L. Spitzer, M.D., Chief of Biometric Research at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the PRIME-MD? test can be completed without the help of a doctor. Dr. Spitzer has graciously allowed me to use his test in this book.
Question: Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following?
A. NOT AT ALL
B. SEVERAL DAYS
C. MORE THAN HALF THE DAYS
D. NEARLY EVERY DAY
If you're not certain, keep a calendar for the next two weeks and mark how many days you suffer from the following symptoms.
______ 1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things?
______ 2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?
______ 3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much?
______ 4. Feeling tired or having little energy?
______ 5. Poor appetite or overeating?
______ 6. Feeling bad about yourself that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down?
______ 7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the news-paper or watching television?
______ 8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed? Or the opposite being so fidgety or restless that you are moving around a lot more than usual?
______ 9. In the last two weeks, have you had thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way?
* If you answered yes to question 9, you should immediately seek the assistance of a highly skilled psychiatrist. The psychiatrist can examine you more thoroughly to determine if you are truly suicidal or homicidal.
* If you answered question 1 or 2 with NEARLY EVERY DAY and five or more of questions 2 through 8 with NEARLY EVERY DAY, you are probably suffering from a major depression. If you are surprised to find yourself suffering from a major depression, remember the American Medical Association reports that most people with clinical depression are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. In fact, 20 percent of the population now suffers from depression, and that number is likely to grow. Tragically, half of those who have been depressed for twenty or more years have never taken an anti-depressant. You will want to seek professional help and discuss with your doctor the benefits of talk therapy and drug therapy.
* If you answered SEVERAL DAYS to just two or more of the above questions, you suffer a low affect. In your current state, you'll have a hard time thinking positively without resetting your mood. John J. Ratey, M.D., Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has coined the phrase "shadow depression" to mean that you have fewer than the necessary criteria to have an actual clinical depression but may still find real difficulty meeting life's challenges and blame yourself for social, academic, and professional failures. Dr. Spitzer goes even further, saying that depression occurs along a spectrum, very much like an elevated cholesterol count or high blood pressure. Just because the elevation is mild does not mean it should not be treated.
* If you are not depressed but suffer from a low mood, you may still want to discuss drug or talk therapy with your doctor.
Whatever your test result, you'll find the guidelines in the following Steps of Part One quite helpful for raising your current mood state. If you're not clinically depressed, you can, without the help of drugs or a psychiatrist, start resetting your mood thermostat to a higher positive level. In Part One of this book, you'll learn how to increase positive mental energy with personal space, music, food, exercise, ritual, and other highly useful activities, all of which affect mental alertness.
Excerpted from The Biology of Success by Robert Arnot Copyright © 2001 by Robert Arnot. Excerpted by permission.
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