Education & Career Trends: 15 Things Your Brain Needs for Success

5 min read

Edition: March 13, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS


Allow your brain to build on the positive aspects of your career and see future possibilities. (Image Credit: Canva)

If you identify with most career climbers, you too, might not be well aware of the working of your brain. Yet, your brain is who you are. It is known to be the size of an individual’s fist and weighs about three pounds. It controls your mind and body, governs your work performance, and determines how far you will progress in your career.

Modern imaging techniques have enabled neuroscientists to advance our understanding of the brain and its working.

It also gives an insight into what might be needed for optimal job performance.

Here are 15 things that go into keeping one’s brain happy and healthy, maximising career success:

1. Blood Flow 

  • Blood flow is good medicine for the brain to remain viable and creative.
  • Regular exercise and movement amp up blood flow to the brain and even slow the onset of memory loss and dementia.
  • You can provide your brain the excess blood it needs through aerobics, walking and stretching and toning your body to keep it crisp, engaging and in shape.

2. Microbreaks

  • Working continuously without breaks is counterproductive.
  • Take short breaks throughout your workday — five minutes or less of stretching, walking, gazing out a window or having a snack.
  • It enhances energy and resets your brain.
  • Microbreaks mitigate decision fatigue.

3. Self-Talk

  • Talking to yourself allows you to develop a working relationship with your own brain.
  • First-name self-talk — the way you speak to someone else referring to yourself by name instead of as “I” — is a self-regulatory mechanism that creates psychological distance from job frustrations and disappointments.
  • Engaging this way in dialogue with work stressors makes you feel calmer and more clear-minded.

4. Smiling

  • When you smile, you can trick your brain into happiness, simply by how you move your facial muscles.
  • Our facial expressions not just reflect how we feel, but also contribute to how we feel.
  • When you feign a smile, it stimulates the amygdala—the emotional brain centre, which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state.

5. Mood-Boosting Foods

  • Healthy brain foods boost your mood, health and endurance.
  • Check out the food on your plate and ask if it promotes overall brain health.
  • Proteins stabilise blood sugar and give your brain the amino acids it needs to create neurotransmitter pathways.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids put your brain in a good mood.
  • Vitamin B is essential for brain wellness and vitamin D is an important mood stabilizer.

6. Ample Sleep

  • Sleep deprivation hampers your ability to deal with job stress or see the positive aspects of your career.
  • Lack of sleep causes your brain to move slower, clouds thinking and leads to forgetfulness, interfering with memory and learning.
  • Ample sleep restores clarity and performance by actively refining cortical plasticity.

7. Meditation

  • Mindfulness, meditation and conscious deep breathing keep your brain sharp and focused on work tasks. 
  • Meditation reduces cortisol levels by 25% and alters brain activity so you’re less error prone after just 20 minutes of practice.
  • Over time you can train your brain to stay calm even under turbulent workplace circumstances.

8. Novelty

  • Your brain’s ability to adapt to novel situations is essential for optimal career creativity.
  • The brain’s exposure to new experiences dampens established thought patterns in order to consolidate new information.
  • Novelty promotes adaptive learning and enhances your ability to update new ideas into existing frameworks.

9. Social Support 

  • Having someone around — empathetic manager, coworker or someone in HR — who you can talk to is tied to brain health and resilience. 
  • People who volunteer, attend classes, get together with friends at least once a week have healthier brains and less cognitive decline.
  • The key is to avoid social isolation and cultivate safe ways to maintain social interactions.
  • It enhances the brain’s gray matter and amps up career creativity and stamina.

10. Focus

  • At some point, you might have to perform more than one activity at a time, but multitasking can backfire if it becomes a pattern.
  • When you bounce between several job tasks at once, you force your brain to keep refocusing which reduces productivity.
  • Multitasking neutralises efficiency, overwhelms your brain, causes lack of concentration and leads to decision fatigue.

11. Optimism

  • Optimists scale the career ladder faster and farther than pessimists.
  • Chronic pessimism damages your attitude and your telomeres — the protective tips at the end of chromosomes.
  • Telomeres affected by negative thoughts are associated with declining health, a truncated career and premature demise.
  • Enthusiastic and cheerful professionals are less likely to have memory decline as they age.

12. Broad Perspective

  • A broad perspective allows your brain to build on the positive aspects of your career and see future possibilities.
  • Avoid blowing disappointments out of proportion.
  • Look for the upside of a downside situation, underscore positive feedback, focus solutions instead of problems.

13. Time in Nature

  • People who spend time outdoors have a stronger ability to think clearly and self-regulate.
  • Research participants who spent 120 minutes per week in nature had better health and higher psychological well-being than those who did not.

14. Music

  • Repeated listening to meaningful music cultivates beneficial brain plasticity, improving memory and performance.
  • Listening to your favorite music while working can enhance engagement and productivity.

15. Safety

  • Fear and uncertainty undermines workplace performance and well-being.
  • Fear causes the human brain to focus on avoiding the threat instead of engaging with it — blocking potential for success.
  • Work cultures of psychological safety enhance brain engagement and productivity, yielding greater long-term company profits.


Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Education Trends: Creating a Culture of Valuable Learning


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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