How to Reprogram Your Brain with Neuro-Hacker, Iris Polit

Neuro-Hacker Iris Polit Explains How to Reprogram Your Brain

Hi everyone, it’s Jenn DeWall, and on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, I sat down with Iris Polit to talk about how to reprogram your brain. Iris Polit is an award-winning author, speaker, and career and personal branding strategist. She is an advocate of brain hacking to enable human flourishing and believes that our work life plays a big role in our sense of fulfillment. Her mission is to help professionals and entrepreneurs get unstuck, take ownership of their success, and to live to their fullest potential.

Iris leverages her training as an applied positive psychology practitioner and over two decades of experience in corporate and non-profit environments to empower professionals and entrepreneurs to navigate career transitions effectively. She has been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, and is a co-author of the bestselling books, Mastering the Art of Success and How to Be Crazy Amazing During Difficult Times. And I hope you enjoy this conversation with neuro-hacker Iris Polit as we discuss how to reprogram your brain.

Full Transcript Below

Jenn DeWall:  Hi everyone. I’m so excited to be joined by Iris Polit today. Iris, thank you so much for joining us on the Leadership Podcast.

Iris Polit:  Thank, Thank you so much for having me!

Jenn DeWall:  I love the enthusiasm. It’s my over-enthusiasm because we’re talking about a topic that I don’t know if it’s just that, you know, understanding our own, how our brain works is becoming, I feel like something that’s so much more talked about in the last 20 years or so, but I am here for it. Let’s talk about and have a great conversation on how to reprogram your brain. That’s what you are in store for Leadership Habit.

So I’m gonna put it back over to you, Iris. Thank you so much for coming on the show, and I always love a great origin story. So if you could just start out by telling us a little bit about yourself or how you came to be, how the heck did you even become interested in understanding how our brain works? I mean, that’s one question in and of itself. But I I turn it over to you now, Iris.

Meet Iris Polit, Neuro-Hacker, Author and Career & Personal Branding Strategist

Iris Polit:  Thanks so much, Jenn, and thanks for inviting me to the podcast. I’m super excited to talk about one of my, my favorite topics, which is neuro hacking. I am flabbergasted that we’re able to operate in our modern world with the caveman brain that, that we’ve been provided. So a little bit of an origin story. I had no interest in anything psychological. I mean, I was a polis sci major for, for goodness sake! I was going to be the first Secretary of State, but Madeline Albright got that job before me. She did great <laugh>. So I went down a different route.

I went down the root of marketing and looked at marketing through the lens of what resonates with your target audience. There’s a lot of psychology involved. So I got certified and applied positive psychology and really got into neuro hacking and neuroscience. It is, as you said, relatively new. Because previously, we didn’t have the technology to really see how our brain operates, right? Like in the past, people would like cut-up cadavers– and at that point, the brain is dead, so you can’t really see what’s going on. But modern technology, and especially imaging, has allowed us to see which part of our brains light up when certain things happen, and it really makes it a lot easier to understand the brain a lot better.

So I’m super excited to be talking about neuro-hacking. I’m also the founder of Your Success Ace, which is a boutique coaching agency that focuses on career transition and career growth and personal branding and thriving in the workplace. So this is a big, big part of that, and I’m looking forward to chatting with you about it.

What Are the Myths We Have About Training Our Brain?

Jenn DeWall:  Oh my gosh, absolutely. Well, we need that, right? Understanding our brain because either it’s working towards our success or it’s taking us further away, or maybe motivating us to make choices that might be or make choices that are pushing us away from our dream. So let’s dive in. How to reprogram your brain, or I love the phrase that you use neuro-hacking. What do you think are the challenges or the issues that people have or even the myths that people have around retraining your brain?

Iris Polit:  So I think that that old myth of, oh, we only use 10% of our brain. We’ve all seen like the movies where the people take a pill and can access a hundred percent of the brain and it becomes amazing and ends in disaster. That is not actually true. We use a lot more than 10% of our brain. We also use different hemispheres of our brain at the same time. And it really, it allows us to, to function and move through the world.

I mean, our brain, the best way to look at it is like a mega computer. And that’s why I use terms like reprogramming, right? And hacking. And we’re gonna talk about that. We’re gonna talk a little bit about hacking and rewiring and upgrading our brain today. It’s because if you were to take a computer that actually does the same thing that our brain does, you would be flabbergasted because it would have to have about 3,500 terabytes of memory, which is huge. You know, how excited we get over one terabyte of like external storage, like imagine 3,500, right?

We Use Much More than 10% of Our Brain— Just Not All at Once

Iris Polit:  And also it would have to perform 38,000 trillion operations per second. So that’s, that’s the power of our brain, but that is also the downfall of our brain. Because there’s so many things that come at us and in today’s day and age, we live in a very noisy world and our brain works a lot harder as a filter. And that’s another part we’re gonna talk about resilience, why resilience is, is so important because our brain is tired! There’s way too much stuff coming at it right now, you know? So I think the 10% myth is probably one of the biggest ones.

The challenges perspective is, so there’s two, there’s a lot of biases that come along with this fabulous brain of ours, right? As I mentioned, we are walking through a modern world with a cave person’s brain. Our brain was designed to protect us. Our brain is always like, Oh my god, where’s danger coming from? Who’s gonna attack me? How do I keep my little human safe? Right? So there’s a lot of biases that are programmed and hardwired into our brain that, that we need to overcome such as, you know, negativity bias, confirmation bias and we’re gonna get into all of that today.

Jenn DeWall:  I am excited. I mean, negativity bias is one that I think people don’t realize that all of us have and that it impacts, you know, how we feel. And it also shows that so many of our thoughts or how our brain communicates are actually repetitive. I mean, I just think that that’s bananas when we get into that. I’m looking forward to it. <Laugh>,

I think most people don’t realize that if you don’t like something that’s happening in your life, so much of it starts with your brain and how, or the information that you’re using to program it. So is it even true from your perspective that you can reprogram your brain? Because I know, that’s one that people sometimes think, or maybe it’s easier to get into that belief that things are happening to you, that you don’t have the control like is it even true that you can reprogram your brain.

Yes, You Can Reprogram Your Brain

Iris Polit:  It is a hundred percent true. There’s an amazing concept called neuroplasticity. And neuroplasticity is basically the way our brain continues to operate through disease, through brain trauma. And so in our brain, we have all these little neurons, right? There are neuro cells and they connect to each other and communicate with each other through synopsis. We’re gonna keep this super, super simple, right?

Neuroplasticity basically allows us to rewire the neurons in the way they communicate in case there’s, you know, brain trauma or injury or disease. But it’s also what allows us to quote-unquote change our mind and realize once we have the awareness that we could get rid of negativity loops you that, for example, that you mentioned, those negative thoughts, you know, and, and tweak it to make sure that those pathways go along in, in the ways that really make us more effective, more successful, more positive in the way we move through the world.

Jenn DeWall:  I mean, I love thinking about the brain as someone that has <laugh>. No, I mean, as someone that has multiple sclerosis, right? I have a neurologist that helps me look at my brain and understand it. I have a dad that suffered a stroke about 10 years ago. And so we’re talking about, you know, the impact in behavior and mobility as a result of that. And then I also have a parent who– my mom, has the diagnosis of a schizophrenic, which also impacts our brain. So I love all things brain because our brain is something that I think people can’t even begin to understand what goes on up here and what that actually looks like. You know, I think it’s so much more sophisticated than what we ever actually give it credit for. Yeah. <Laugh> like, so let’s dive into it. What, like, how do you, So I love that talking about neuroplasticity. And then I think you had also mentioned something, and this was on our pre-call about the growth mindset. Yes. Tell me more.

Reprogram Your Brain with a Growth Mindset

Iris Polit:  <Laugh>. Absolutely. So neuroplasticity is obviously one, right? So that’s, if, if we’re thinking of, of our current like neural mapping, they’re all like six-lane highways, and we are going to decide that we’re gonna hack at the bushes over here and create a new exit off this highway and build a new highway, right? So that’s how we create new neural pathways growth mindset is something that came to the forefront by Dr. Carol Dweck, who I’m a huge fan of. And it talks about the way we approach learning. It’s the way we approach criticism, the way we approach other people’s success. So there’s a growth mindset, and there’s a fixed mindset, and in different areas in our life, we could rotate between the two of them. I mean, yes, there are some people that have a fixed mindset across everything. We all know one of ’em.

And there’s also people that have a growth mindset when it comes to everything. But the main differences is how do we approach our capabilities? And I, and I think it really outlines well with neuroplasticity as well, because if we have a growth mindset, we’re able to say, I don’t know this yet. And we’re aware of our ability to learn something new instead of coming into the world with like this fixed set of talents. You know, I was born with this talents and this is all I know, so don’t ask me to learn anything new. Right? And in the same vein, it also has to do with criticism.

People with growth mindsets are more open to criticism because they view it as an opportunity to learn. Whereas people with fixed mindsets are like, why is this person criticizing you? What do they know? Blah, blah, blah. You know? And my favorite is when you look at it through the point of view of success, right? When we see other successful people. Are we like, Oh my god, yay them. And what can I learn from them to be successful? Are we like, eh, whatevs? You know? And when we’re not able to celebrate somebody else’s success. So yeah, growing mindset is, is absolutely fantastic.

And the more we’re aware of it, the more we realize, how do we show up and just being honest with ourselves. Like, Oh, did this thing trigger me? Why did this trigger me? Is this like, am I having a fixed mindset in this particular occasion?

Fixed Mindset Vs. Growth Mindset

Jenn DeWall:  Well, maybe let’s talk about some examples of what a fixed mindset might look like to, for someone that might not be aware. Am I someone that has the fixed mindset? In your experience with working with coaches, what are some examples of what a fixed mindset sounds like?

Iris Polit:  It sounds like– that’s a really good question. It sounds like, why is my, you know, boss or if your running a business, your business partner, why are they asking me to do this thing that is out of my comfort zone? Like, don’t they know that I don’t know this stuff? Instead of sitting back and saying, Oh, this is a really interesting opportunity for me to grow in this other area and learn something new. Right?

And as I mentioned the example with, with success, I think that’s the one that is most prevalent. If you are in an environment where somebody is celebrating a success in something, are you sort of like sitting back and being like, ah, whatever. Or are you like super excited for them and super excited, the opportunity to be like, Oh, can I like reverse engineer what they just did to like be successful as well, right?

Jenn DeWall:  I mean, I feel like I’m that person, but then before I get there, I’m typically like, Ah, Jenn, like, why can’t you do anything, right? Why can’t you figure this stuff out? Like, I go down the self-judgment, self-doubt rabbit hole. I can look at someone else’s success and say like, Well, you’re never gonna get there because they have “it,” and you don’t have “it.” And so that’s how I feel like I experience the fixed mindset. It starts with comparison. Then I somehow tell myself I’m not enough. And on the days that I don’t have my confidence, I believe it <laugh>.

Iris Polit:  I think, and I think that’s the challenge, right? It’s how are we, first of all, who are we comparing ourselves to? Are we comparing ourselves to others or are we comparing ourselves to ourselves? Like, how am I today compared to the way I was yesterday or a month ago or a year ago, right? Because honestly, the only way to truly gauge your momentum is comparing yourself to yourself, right? So that’s, that’s super important.

Reprogram Your Brain with the word “Yet.”

Iris Polit:  The other recommendation I would give you is to use that little word— yet. It is absolutely magic when you are like, Oh, how come I’m not blah, blah, blah. Just add the word yet to it and it will totally reprogram the way you’re looking at the situation. The other thing to keep in mind is that with growth mindset, you want to just stay open, right? So it’s not that the judgment that you brought up is, is such a dangerous, dangerous path to take.

There’s actually a great little positive psychology chart called the judge’s path and the learner’s path, which I love. It has this cute little drawing attached to it. And it basically shows a person that walks through life, right? And it’s like, what questions are we asking ourselves? Are we asking judge-y questions like, oh, like how come they did that? Or How come they’re so dumb?

The more of those questions you ask, the more you end up in what is called the judge’s pit. And it’s full of tar and you get stuck in it and it’s really difficult to get out. But if you allow yourself again, that that little exit off that highway to basically say, Okay, what question can I ask myself that would be productive, right? Like, what can I learn from this situation? Then you’re taking the learner’s path and through curiosity you’re able to create an upward spiral instead of a downward spiral that takes you into that judge’s pit.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. Oh my gosh. I mean, and I share that because <laugh>, oh, I just experience it as much as like even on the outside people might be like, You’ve got it all figured out. I’m like, really? I do. Who says?

Iris Polit:  You bet. You’re like all smooth above the water and under the water you’re paddling those little feet like a mad person.

Jenn DeWall:  And I think there’s so many people that we don’t realize are faking it, right? Like that we just aren’t maybe as comfortable or it’s not appropriate to share it and we suffer in silence.

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Strategies to Reprogram Your Brain

Jenn DeWall:  You know, if you find that maybe any of these examples related with you and that you are wanting to change to our Leadership Habit audience, this is where Iris is coming in with the strategies. So let’s do it. How do we reprogram the brain?

Cultivating Focus

Iris Polit:  So three strategies and all of them have like little sub-strategies within them. The first one is to hack, right? Because we can’t change something that we’re not aware of. So how are we cultivating our focus? How are we really paying attention to what we’re paying attention to, right? Which I think is really, really important. Our brain is such an amazing filter because if it actually had to process all the different, different stimuli that are coming at us every day, it would explode like literally like combustion.

So what are we focusing on? And I think that’s where it’s really important that as you know, as we set our goals, as we plan our days, that we are very careful with what we’re focusing on and, and making sure that what we’re focusing on is truly what is gonna get us to that, that next level in life.

Jenn DeWall:  Are we thinking about it from the difference between understanding what’s in our conscious mind versus our unconscious mind? Or are we thinking about it from the perspective of or perspective of like what keeps you up at night or what’s draining your confidence? What’s maybe the context if I was trying to build that awareness? How would I start that?

Iris Polit:  So all of the above, just not at the same time, right? So there are things that are part of our consciousness and if with that, I always say, look at where the pain is. If you have a pain that is repeating time, after time, after time, something that is triggering you time, after time, after time, examine it and ask yourself like, what, why is this painful to me? Why is this triggering me? And try to unpack it.

Because it’s that pain that is gonna allow us to dig a little deeper into our subconscious. And there’s a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of hard wiring and programming that is under the surface that we’re not even aware of. I tell my clients all the time that you know, whether it be childhood trauma or something that happened when we were younger because when we’re younger, our brain is like a sponge.

Like our prefrontal cortex is not fully developed yet. So our ability to question isn’t there yet. So we absorb everything as truth, right? So if we grew up in a family, for example, where, you know, the parents were like, Oh, money is the root of all evil. You could be a very successful person that is able to build abundance but not hold onto it, right? So I always tell my clients, don’t let your six-year-old self drive the Ferrari, because you’re like a well-oiled machine. You are kicking butt in life. But the more you become aware of what’s going on under the surface, the more you’re able to unpack it and, and it takes time. You know,

Jenn DeWall:  I love don’t let the six year old drive the Ferrari. Yeah. Because I can still think of messages that, you know, I’m, I’m going to, I have a big milestone birthday this year, 40, and I can still think of messages that were yeah, woo woo. I’m grateful for every day above ground. And just really thinking about even some of the messages that I know aren’t true. Like, I know once I was told that I could never be a lawyer, even that’s all I wanted to do. And then before I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a newscaster. And someone said, No one would ever take you seriously. And I mean, heck, I even still get feedback too. Like, Jenn, you’re not dynamic, you’re not blank. And it’s easy to take that feedback on and be like, Is that, is that the truth? Just from this one person’s feedback to me, do I have to all of a sudden take that on, own it and believe it to be true and drive that Ferrari? No!

Build Awareness of Your Own Programming

Iris Polit:  Well that’s, that’s where that awareness of our programming is so important, right? And that’s where, you know, you mentioned like negative thoughts, right? It’s those we need to like hack and debug those negativity loops. So when we sit down and we’re like, again, looking at the pain, looking at the trigger, what is that message that keeps on playing in the background? And then we need to ask ourselves, is this really true? Like, where did this come from? Right? Because as I mentioned before, prefrontal cortex doesn’t get developed until our teens, through our early twenties. That’s why we’re such jerks at that age. Because we start questioning everything, you know, question, be curious, be like, where is this coming from? So you’re able to unpack it and then debug, you know, just like you would do with any other good piece of software.

Jenn DeWall:  <Laugh>. Oh my gosh. And so I know that I cut you off in my question of like where to start. And so the first piece being, you know, understanding, what was the second piece of that? That I think the debug piece. Did we, is that the second one that I cut you off on? Yes. Ok.

Iris Polit:  So the first one is cultivating focus, and the second piece is awareness of our actual programming. So you’re able to unpack it, right?

Jenn DeWall:  Oh, great, go ahead!

Iris Polit:  Oh no, I was gonna say that’s where we get into like the second strategy of rewiring, which is like the active fun part. But if you have another question, I’m happy to answer it. Well,

Jenn DeWall:  I love, anytime we get into the topic of self-awareness, I’m always intrigued by that because I think that there are many different ways to build it. Yeah. There are also many different people that think they’re self-aware and aren’t. And so I love asking the question, when we start talking about self-awareness from your work with your clients, what are some ways that you help them develop that self-awareness?

Use Self-Assessments to Become More Self-Aware

Iris Polit:  Assessments, assessments, assessments. I am obsessed with assessments. Whether it be a fun one like Gretchen Rubins, like Four Tendencies to more, you know, research-based ones like the VIA Character Strengths, there are so many assessments out there that I, I’d be happy to share with your audience that help you become more aware of your values, of your strengths and, and unpack so much of that. And then you could leverage all of that too in your personal branding too, and in the way you market yourself in the world.

So I believe assessments are such a powerful tool because yeah, some of them are more fun, some of them are more serious, but you’ll see such consistency the more of ’em you take. And, and I think where there is consistency, there is truth, right? And that’s what what we need to unpack. Its being honest with ourselves regarding what’s holding us back and also being honest with ourselves regarding what we want and what we need. It’s not that we are inherently dishonest. It’s that sometimes I think we make commitments in life that we’re afraid that if we’re honest about what we actually want and need in order to be successful, that it goes against like those commitments that we already made. You.

Jenn DeWall:  I preach, Hi, my name is Jenn DeWall, I am a people pleaser. That means that I’m constantly reevaluating myself in the to-do list and saying, Oh, I don’t really wanna do this, but I’ll feel bad or I want to make sure you’re better. I mean, I’m sure people can relate to that or I mean, you know, the perfectionist trap, right? Like, Oh, I just have to make sure I do everything perfect by anyone’s standards even though I have no idea about these arbitrary standards that I’ve set. But somehow, I mean, this is, I know you might think I’m bananas that I try to say this stuff.

Iris Polit:  I’m sending you all of the assessments after this recording so you can take all of them. We’re gonna unpack this! <Laugh>.

Jenn DeWall:  All right, let’s let, I mean, hey, and you’re normal because again, we should actually talk for a minute quick if we aren’t gonna get into it with the rewiring. But negativity bias was something that I think I was made aware of in the last like few years. Yeah. It was something that I was totally not even aware of that happened. And so let’s talk about what that bias is. Yes.

Iris Polit:  So negativity bias, and it’s funny that you should mention it because it is part of strategy too, which is rewiring.

Strategies for Reprogramming the Mind to Overcome Negativity Bias

Jenn DeWall:  Okay, perfect. So then we’re going into the rewiring strategy. Okay!

Iris Polit:  We, but let’s talk a little bit about negativity bias, right? So again, caveman, modern world, right? So we were meant to walk through this earth with our brains protecting us from dangers, right? Dangers that no longer exist in today’s day and age. So when that negativity bias pops up, like, Oh my God, I’m catastrophizing because there’s a sabretooth tiger coming to get me. You need to sit back and be like, Thank you, brain for trying to protect me, but there’s no sabretooth tiger coming to get me. And I think that’s where rewiring comes in, because you can’t turn off those negative thoughts, but you could shift them.

So we’re not talking about mind control here. We’re talking about mind training, right? So when that negative thought pops up or that icky emotion pops up, you can’t like just be like, knock it off, you know, butch up, stop doing this stuff, right? Because it just doesn’t work. So we need to pay attention to how it shows up in our bodies. So for example, like let’s say we have a big presentation or we were talking earlier about like public speaking, right? And we are so nervous, right? And we’re like sweating and we’re like, we can’t do this. The closest emotion to nerves is excitement.

Excitement and nervousness shows up exactly the same way in our body. So if tell, if we tell our brain, Oh, I’m super excited about this opportunity, your brain does a little scan and it’s like yes, this, this is, this is showing up as true. It, your body feels like it’s excited right now, so ok, let’s go with that. Right? And that’s where the rewiring comes in. It’s kinda like messing with your head but you use that powerful good instead of evil.

Jenn DeWall:  I mean, are there people that are in the thought of like, but I’m lying to myself, I am not feeling excited. I am actually terrified of what I’m about to do. Or nervous, extremely nervous. I mean, what would you say to someone that’s like, but that’s lying to myself,

Iris Polit:  <Laugh>, but is, but are you using it for the greater good, Right? Yeah. Cause again, if it’s something that that shows up in your body and it helps you like get to that next level, then it’s not truly lying to yourself. It’s just helping yourself be your best self in the moment, right? Yeah. And it’s, you’re looking at it as in like, what is the best possible future? That’s like another exercise. So there’s like two ways of going at it, right?

When you’re like super catastrophizing, the first thing you need to do is let yourself go down that rabbits hole, right? And you’re like, okay, worst case scenario, like, I don’t do a good job in this presentation and my boss is gonna hate me and I’m gonna get laid off and I’m gonna lose my house and I’m gonna end up living under a bridge, Right?

You take it to like the most ridiculous down the rabbit hole that you can, to the point where you start laughing and that triggers a different part of your brain that is like, okay, now you’re being completely silly. So what is an actual outcome that could come here? And then let’s try to shift it above neutral and be like, what is the best positive outcome that could come as well, right? Yeah. So it’s still messing with your brain and you could choose to call it lying to yourself. I choose to call it neuro-hacking, Potato potato, you know?

Jenn DeWall:  No, and I have to say it because in my work with clients, too, it’s the same thing. Like, what do you mean? Like, I don’t think that <laugh>, right? There’s that initial trepidation of I don’t understand it. Like I think it’s easier for us to probably see that, but that’s typically some of the resistance that you get with people earlier on. That feels like I’m not being honest, but it is the way of working with your brain. Or even going back to the negativity bias. Yes, you’re naturally going to look at all of the worst-case scenarios that could potentially happen around situation X. That is negativity bias doing its exact job. But it is also, I love that you say like, let it run its course into however many ways you need to do it until you can make the shift. Because you always get to choose that.

Understanding the Science of Neuro-Hacking

Iris Polit:  Yes. Absolutely. And I think, look, I, you’re not the first person to ever say that. Oh my God, you’re so woo-woo, and this stuff never works. Trust me, everything that I’m sharing with you here is based in science-backed by research. I’m, I’m not, like, there’s nothing woo woo here. It might sound woo-woo, but if you want the backup research, I’m happy to send you the links to it. So

Jenn DeWall:  No, I’m, I’m in total agreement with that. And I think it’s because of our, you know, educations and our background of understanding, you know, the impact of this, and it’s still relatively new. And so that’s why I think most people really do think this is woo-woo magic that is just not gonna work. And you know, I always find like, let’s address the elephant in the room, like <laugh>, you know? Yeah. Because there are people that are of that. But it also could be going back to the other example you shared– it’s your fixed mindset coming through

Iris Polit:  <Laugh>. Yeah, yeah. No, and, and you’re absolutely right. I think, look, especially if you look at the field of positive psychology, it is relatively new. It started in the nineties with Dr. Marty Seligman, who became, you know, the head of the American Psychiatric Association. And he was like, We’re focusing too much on disease and we’re focusing too much about all the stuff that is below neutral. Why don’t we examine, you know, all the ways that people can thrive and go above neutral.

And he did many studies, especially with the military on PTSD. But the reality is there’s PTSD, but there’s also post-traumatic growth. And there’s many cases of people that came back from trauma stronger and better and, and thriving. But nobody talks about that because we all have that negativity bias that is like, Yes, PTSD, that’s the label we’re gonna use for everything, right? Yeah. And I’m not saying that there aren’t severe cases of PTSD out there, obviously. Of course there are. But how do we approach treating them, right?

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for even just talking about positive psychology. That’s all this is. It’s not magic. It’s not woo-woo. It’s positive psychology.

Positive Psychology and Self-Empowerment

Iris Polit:  Yeah. And it’s, and the biggest a thing difference between psychology and positive psychology is, again, psychology, in general, is based on a textbook, like dealing with disease, dealing with dysfunction, and it’s very prescriptive. Whereas positive psychology is more descriptive and taking a look at different methodologies that work and trying them out. At the end of the day, we’re the only ones that know what will work on us. You know, you could try different vitamins, you could try different medications, they will impact everyone in a different way. So why not try, you know, neuro-hacking yourself and doing my exercises on yourself to see what works, right?

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. I mean, I’m here for it. I find that that’s the best, like lease on life is to know that the times that I feel powerless and the times that I feel discouraged that the one thing I can come back to is how I control my thoughts. How long do I wanna pitch a tent there? And of course, we’re not talking about trauma when it comes to this because there are different mechanisms, but, you know, I just think there’s power in understanding that that’s the one power that people can’t take from us. That’s my thing of like, why I love it so much is like, it’s free. Well, maybe not free. Sometimes we have to invest in that, but it’s free, right? Something that’s within our control. I don’t have to go and buy this product and think I need that. Like, it’s all up here and I can do it. I mean, you might have to do the work for it, but you can do it. I just think it’s so powerful. So where do we continue? Yeah, go. Sorry, go ahead.

Upgrading Your Software to Reprogram Your Brain

Iris Polit:  No, I love what you just said about, you know, we have control over it because again, if we are looking at our brain as this mega computer, why would we allow somebody else to program it? Right? We need to take that power back. And that’s where, you know, the upgrades come in and that’s strategy number three. And that’s, you know, the everyday practices that we take. And it could be different things for different people. For some people it’s, you know, writing and journaling. So you have like, you keeping track of how your thoughts are and what triggers you to be able to be more aware of it. There’s repetition, you know, if you’re like, some people use mantra, some people use you know, different things that they’re able to repeat that help them reprogram their brain. There’s stimulation. So I’m a huge fan of positive visualization.

And whether you believe it or not, whether you think it’s woo woo or not, research shows that our brain cannot tell the difference between an actual memory and something that we visualized. And this is something that has been researched a lot, especially through sports psychology. One of my favorite pieces of research, it was a basketball team and they separated them into three groups. One group had to like practice shooting hoops every day, every day, every day. The second group was supposed to just sit in their room and visualize making the perfect shot every time doing those visualization exercises. And then the last group was basically told to do nothing. So obviously the group that did nothing did not improve, right? And the group that practice did improve, but the group that visualized it improved the most because there was no sense of failure.

So the ones that were practicing, yes, sometimes they would make the shot and get it in, sometimes they wouldn’t. And that failure would kind of mess with their belief of being able to do it. Whereas the folks that did the exercise of just visualizing it perfect every time, didn’t have that failure impact their performance. Which I think is absolutely a amazing. So, again, remember, our brain doesn’t know the difference between a, an actual memory and something that we visualized, and it’s those neural pathways that, that we’re developing that, that allows us to, to grow.

Jenn DeWall:  So how can you visualize your success today? Visualize the outcome that you see? See, this is the stuff that’s so exciting. It’s all within our control.

The Power of Visualization

Iris Polit:  It’s not, by the way, it’s not just outcome. So it’s kind of like a double-edged sword, right? Cause there, there’s plenty of, of gurus out there that are like, Oh, well, you know, visualize yourself in the big house with the fancy car. That could be dangerous because your brain is also like, Oh, okay, so I already have the house in the car. I don’t need to do any work. So, visualize the process, the effort that you’re putting into being successful, right? So it, it’s that visualization needs to have a very clear cadence of not just the end goal, but also the process that got you there. And I think it’s really important.

And that’s where sort of like collaboration comes in. It’s like, what are we sharing with our loved ones or our partners or our coworkers regarding, I’m working on building this, right? Because you never know what ideas will come to you from other people or what resources will come to you from other people. So the more we collaborate and, and share that visualization, the the more we we could bring it to fruition. And then the last piece is actually act. You can’t just sit and visualize and expect, you know, something to land in your life. You actually have to take the actions that you’re visualizing in the process to get it done.

Jenn DeWall:  And I know that you had we had talked in the pre-call even about talking about a little bit of how we can improve our own resilience. Yeah. And you know, of course, like life is gonna throw some curve balls at us. Life is gonna challenge maybe that vision that we had or just that belief. And so knowing in our, we have a few minutes left, what are some strategies that we could share with our audience for how to improve their own resilience?

Building Resilience By Living Authentically

Iris Polit:  Sure. So I look at it through the lens of thriving and resiliency at work. So that’s like the approach that I, that I’m going to take here. Like how do we show up in our professional life? Number one, and this is something that all of like the top 10 resiliency lists always miss is authenticity. Like, how authentic are you are? Are you living your values? Are you developing your strengths? Because it is the times where we’re not authentic that it just, it strips away at us and it makes us feel less resilient. So authenticity is a huge part of building that resiliency muscle.

Number two this is gonna sound a little hokey, but finding your calling. If you feel like the work that you’re doing is meaningful and it doesn’t have to be meaningful to anybody else. You know, I mean, I don’t know who told you you shouldn’t be a lawyer, but they’re crazy because most parents would love to have a child that’s a lawyer.

Iris Polit:  But you know, even if like your parents want you to be a lawyer and you decided to become a dj, you know, it doesn’t matter if the work is meaningful to you. That’s like the most important part because that allows you to be in the flow and, and be productive and feel resilient even when, because I mean, look, we could do meaningful work, but it’s still gonna be work, right? So if we’re in the flow when we’re doing something that’s meaningful, it makes us more resilient.

Iris Polit:  Number three maintaining perspective, right? So we talked a little bit about negativity bias but it’s also how do we learn from setbacks, right? Do we view failure as a learning opportunity or do we view it as the end of the world, right? So that perspective is really, really important because we need to continually focus on solutions.

Iris Polit:  Our brain, again, it’s like an eager German shepherd. It wants to do whatever we tell it to do, but if we’re like, Oh my God, this is awful, this is hopeless, the brain is like, All right, see, I’m going on vacation, you know, <laugh>. But if you ask yourself curious questions, you know, and, and change that perspective again from the judge’s path to the learner’s path, like how can we deal with the situations? What solutions are available to us? What resources are out there that we could sort of like dig into?

Iris Polit:  Managing that negative thinking is so important and being able to, to really maintaining our perspective on stuff. Managing stress is so super, super important. And, and it’s not just, you know, say to yourself, Oh, stuff being so stressed out, right? It’s that you make time for life work balance, and yes, I call it life work balance because your life comes before your work. Work is integrated into your life, not the other way around. I don’t know who came up with work life. I’m not judging them, I’m just saying it should be life work balance.

Re-Program Your Brain with Healthy Habits

Iris Polit:  So how are you making time to like renew and refresh in order to maintain your resiliency muscles, right? Because when we have a good night’s sleep, you know, it’s a lot easier to deal with the muck when you wake up in the morning and you’re all like bright eyed and bushy tailed, right? Right. Instead of, Oh my God, I did not get enough sleep. And it’s, it’s even harder to deal with what I’m dealing with right now. There are so many different ways, I’ll give you three more for resiliency. So we talk just working with colleagues, collaboration, feedback, advice. Again, it helps you stay more solution-focused. So the more you can work with your colleagues at work and be like, My God, this situation really stinks.

Like what can we do about it? Right? Or, or celebrate. And just, this was amazing. You know, I think we so often forget to celebrate our successes and if you just move on to next, next, next, the next thing that erode away at your resiliency as well, right? So definitely be mindful of the way you’re working with colleagues. Staying healthy. I know this is like on every list, right?

I mentioned authenticity wasn’t on any of the list, but staying healthy, you know, self-care is healthcare at the end of the day. Like what are you putting into your body? Are you actually taking time to move? Are you taking time to go outside and have some fresh air? You know, your body needs that to be resilient. Spending time in nature. There is so much research that shows that being in nature and even just looking at the color green is downregulating for your brain and it makes your brain happy.

Iris Polit:  So I think that’s super important. And then, last but not least, again, going back to that community piece is like building networks. Not just within work but outside of work. Like where, where’s your support system? You know, no person is an island. No person can do everything, right? And I find that, especially when it comes to the point in our life when we’re successful in our career or in our businesses, we’re kind of sandwiched between different things like aging parents, younger children, and we’re taking care of everybody else, except ourselves. And when your cup runs empty, your resilience isn’t, isn’t going to be there. And just being mindful of that.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah, I I love that as a closing message. Your self-care is your healthcare. I feel like that’s a really, I don’t know that stuck with me and I’ve never heard someone say it in that way before. So I love that. It’s

Iris Polit:  Not, it’s on my own. I’m borrowing someone else’s. I just, I know I read it somewhere.

Where to Find More from Iris Polit

Jenn DeWall:  But it’s a great reminder and I think we all need that to put yourself at the top of your to-do list. Iris, how can our audience get in touch with you?

Iris Polit:  Either through LinkedIn, just look up Iris Polit. I’m the only Iris Polit on LinkedIn. So that’s I R I S P O L I T. Or email me at Iris at I’m happy to share these resources as well as assessments and other PDFs on staying resilient. So reach out

Jenn DeWall:  Iris, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you for a great conversation. I really enjoyed it. I felt like we covered a lot for our short time, but thank you so much for leaving our audience, hopefully feeling inspired and empowered to go out and hack your brain, and reprogram it. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Iris Polit:  Thank you.

Jenn DeWall:  Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of the Leadership Habit Podcast. I really hope that you enjoyed my conversation with Iris. I love the insights. I love talking about all things brain. And, of course, if you enjoyed this podcast or if you know someone that could benefit, share it with them or leave us a review.

And if we can assist you in any of your leadership development needs, head on over to There, you can request a complimentary two-hour leadership skills workshop and also register for our monthly complimentary or free webinars that cover a wide variety of different leadership topics. And in closing, if you wanna connect with Iris, you can connect with her on LinkedIn. You can also email her at, or you can head on over to, and there you can find more information about her services. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.