We’ve all heard the expressions: “She lost her nerve;” “She doesn’t have the stomach for it;” “No guts.”
“As it turns out, those expressions are anatomically accurate,” says Dr. Stephen Josephs. “The nerve that you lose when you’re afraid is the vagus nerve, which runs from the belly to the brain. It transmits messages about whether the world is a safe or dangerous place. What we now know about the functioning of this nerve has direct applications making leaders more effective and all of us happier and more courageous.”
So, the old adages about nerves and courage really were filled with proverbial wisdom. Who knew?
Improving Leadership With Nerve (Literally)
Josephs, author of the new book Dragons at Work, teaches executives how to reliably create states of optimal performance by achieving control of the vagus nerve.
When making decisions about resources, leading teams or talking with the board of directors, courage and poise in the face of rapidly changing business environments are essential for a leader.
But the advantages of controlling the vagus nerve aren’t limited to big business executives, they will also serve you well as moms, entrepreneurs and household CEOs:
“Rather than losing your nerve, you can strengthen it. Courage is a skill you can learn and a capacity you can systematically build. The vagus nerve has been linked to everything from digestion issues to stress and depression,” Dr. Josephs explains.
The perks of vagus nerve control aren’t limited to you, the individual–the entire climate of your household and your business can shift for the better:
“A benefit of inner body balance includes the projection of true poise; authentic confidence from a leader is what can create a business culture that breeds financial success because employees and clients trust the person in charge to make important decisions from a stable perspective.”
As a mogul mom, you may not work with employees, but your kids, your customers, and even your affiliates will feel the difference.
Using specific techniques from martial arts, meditation and other mind-body disciplines, Dr. Josephs guides executives to build resourcefulness and courage as a habitual response to challenge.
3 Tips for Business Executives (that means YOU, household CEO’s!)
We all know stress management is important, especially when on a solo mission to simultaneously run a business and a household.
Dr. Joseph offers 3 actionable tips and a specific breathing exercise to promote a healthy, vagus nerve-friendly environment:
1. When angry or afraid, take a high quality breath
People might tell an agitated person to “take a breath,” but it’s the quality of the breath that makes all the difference. Someone who has practiced breathing has developed an automatic relaxation response, so one breath immediately begins to calm them.
To practice do this when you’re not under stress: As you inhale, relax your belly and the muscles of your torso. In fact, during the inhale attempt to soften all of your muscles.
On the exhale become still. Widen your peripheral vision – take in more of the room, and rest in a more wide open awareness.
At this point, your vagus nerve will be sending you messages that the world is a safe place and your ability to respond intelligently will be greatly enhanced.
2. Move forward with a relaxed vagus nerve
Now, in a calmer, more resourceful and masterful state, you can apply a saner perspective to a variety of tasks. Stay connected to your broader entrepreneurial vision.
Adjust with greater ease to the daily curveballs that come with running a business and being a mom. Let good ideas emerge from a focused, relaxed mind.
Create a business environment that nurtures growth, cooperation, and an exchange of ideas and thereby optimize your relationships with customers, clients, affiliates and vendors. Acknowledge what’s already working well both in your home and your business, freeing up mental space to work on those aspects that need more work.
And remember to acknowledge the value of the contributions of those you work with. Not only will their sense of being appreciated compel them to do better work, it will also serve as a reminder that our work isn’t accomplished alone, even if we’re in a sole venture.
This realization can bolster your sense of well-being and of healthy interdependence within your business community. Enjoy your business, knowing that whatever emerges, you can handle it.
3. Get over thyself and lighten up
See how much you can accomplish with the least amount of force. And drop self-importance. Remember, unless you’re Donald Trump or Miss Piggy and self-aggrandizement is part of your brand identity, it’s bad for business. It introduces unnecessary noise into the system and distorts communication.
Drop self-importance and you’ll hear critical bad news faster, and people will trust that you can handle it.
Have you felt lately as if you’ve “lost your nerve”? Think a tune-in to your vagus nerve will improve things in your home or business? Tell us about it in the comments.
About the Author:
With more than 30 years experience as an executive coach and consultant, Stephen Josephs, Ed. D, helps leaders build vitality and focus to make their companies profitable – and great places to work. His doctorate at the University of Massachusetts focused on Aesthetics in Education: how to teach anything through art, music, drama and movement. Josephs is particularly interested in the intersection of business performance, psychology and mind/body disciplines. His new novel, “Dragons at Work,” tells the story of a tightly wound executive – a fictionalized case study of coaching that produces fundamental changes in a leader. Josephs has also co-authored “Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery in Anticipating and Initiating Change” (Jossey-Bass, 2006) with Bill Joiner, which shows how certain stages of psychological development affect leadership.