The brain represents three percent of your body's weight yet it consumes about twenty percent of the body's energy.
Believe it or not, your brain is firing when you're pouring coffee and walking to the water cooler. Your brain is even active when you sleep.
But just because your brain is working doesn't mean it's working well.
Since getting ahead in this world requires some brainpower, it's important to pay attention to what's happening with your grey matter. Fortunately, if you find that you aren't performing at your mental best, there are some things you can do.
First, let's identify whether your brain is performing at its best. Here are ten ways to know whether your mental energy is being used well.
1. Your decisions are balanced between emotion and logic
If you find yourself making purely emotional decisions, you may not be performing at your metal best. People who are mentally strong understand that the best decisions are based on equal parts emotion and logic. Try not to make any important decisions while you're feeling a powerful emotion, such as anger or grief.
2. You face fears head-on
Mentally-strong people don't let fears hold them back. They understand which fears must be confronted and they face them head-on. It's true that some fears, like standing at the edge of a 12-story building, are valid. Other fears, like starting your own business or writing a book, are based on personal insecurities. If you think your insecurities are holding you back, it's time to strengthen your mental aptitude and charge forward. New experiences improve brain function, so there's no way you're performing at your best if you are stuck in the status quo.
3. You're comfortable with change
You've probably encountered someone in your professional career who has an extreme resistance to change. Not only is this person holding himself back, but he also stands to handicap the entire company. It's clear that extreme resistance to change is unproductive, but we'd all be wise to see where we may be resisting in our own lives. The strongest women won't waste a minute on the resistance. Instead, they'll jump straight to adaptation mode.
4. You learn from your mistakes
A Psychological Science study found that people who believe they learn from their mistakes have a different brain reaction to mistakes than people who don't. The difference seems to make sense from a logical perspective. Wouldn't you be more willing to try something if you have something to gain regardless of the outcome? If you succeed, you get everything you wanted. If you fail, you win by learning something.
5. You show gratitude while striving for more
Results from a NeuroImage brain scanning study suggest that the more you practice gratitude, the more gratitude you will feel over time. When gratitude replaces feelings of ungratefulness or apathy, you make room for more positivity in your life.
6. You're constantly working on yourself
A PsychCentral study suggests that you may be able to strengthen the medial prefrontal cortex by learning new ways of doing things. The medial prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that is believed to be responsible for noticing details outside of a person's immediate focus. People who are mentally strong understand that there's always room for growth. To strengthen your mental performance, consider kicking any bad habits or addictions you may have and focus on positive growth.
7. You start your day with a cup of coffee
If you've heard mixed things about consuming coffee, you're not alone. The key takeaway is that it has benefits when consumed in moderation. And it may also have brain-boosting effects.
A British Nutrition Foundation study found that coffee has positive effects on mood, cognitive function, and performance. If you're not a fan of coffee, you may get some of the same effects from caffeinated tea.
8. You plan regular vacations
Mentally healthy people may know how to work hard, but they always find time for play. It's important to achieve a work-life balance that works for you. So if you're starting to feel too stressed, it may be time for a vacation. Even the act of planning a vacation can boost your mood, according to a 2010 Applied Research in Quality of Life study. If you truly cannot get away, at least plan some vacation time close to home.
9. You play to your strengths
Doubts and fear can really hold a person back. The strongest among us know to tackle their strengths before moving on to more challenging tasks. Even small achievements can boost your confidence enough to help you tackle more difficult projects.
10. You're comfortable relying on other people
When you are performing at your mental best, you should be comfortable letting go of the reigns a bit. You understand that one person cannot handle everything alone. As people, we need relationships to survive. If you're comfortable delegating and relying on others, you're showing positive mental aptitude.
The brain is a powerful organ that's responsible for virtually everything we do. If you want to succeed in work and life, evaluate whether you're performing at your mental best and make improvements if necessary.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."