from the


from the Top of the Mind


from the
Top of the Mind

“Dr. Crawford’s presentation was the highlight of the conference and a much needed reminder for all of us (especially nurses) to keep it all balanced. Bill’s psychology background surely protruded through his messages and I know it was well-received by all!”

Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL

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“One key to having peace of mind is having a high tolerance for ambiguity.”
~ Dr. Sam Buser


If there is one thing that almost all of us are experiencing these days is uncertainty. Whether it’s what happened in the past, what is happening now, or what might happen in the future, this ambiguity tends to trigger stress, anxiety, and frustration, despite our best efforts.

Of course, for those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that this reaction has a lot to do with how the brain processes information. In other words, because the prime directive of our middle brain (the limbic system) is to keep us alive as a specie, it tends to interpret ambiguity as dangerous, and throws us into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger…the brainstem.

This is a perfect response when we are in a dangerous situation where reacting without thinking is necessary to survive. However, when we are dealing with everyday life (or making plans for the future) this reaction bypasses the upper 80% of the brain and blocks our ability to access our best and influence how we are thinking and feeling.

That’s the problem. This ambiguity, or lack of clarity, is being misinterpreted by the middle brain as immediately and physically dangerous. As a result, it numbs the upper 80% (the neocortex, or what I call the “Top of the Mind”) which is the part of the brain that allows us to influence our experience of life.

The solution, therefore, is to control or influence what we can so that we can then deal more purposefully with the aspects of life that are unknown. Notice that I didn’t say remove all ambiguity from our lives…The truth is that there always has been, and always will be, ambiguity in every aspect of life. The key is to develop a high tolerance for this uncertainty, and the best way to do that is to have ultimate confidence in those aspects of life that are both in our control, and put us in the best position to deal with the unknown.

I call this our “highest purpose” in order to emphasize its importance, and to signal what part of the brain it comes from (the upper 80%). Specifically, this means trusting the best of who we are (those qualities and characteristics that define us at our best) and make bringing these qualities to life the most important thing we can do.

This way, we are accessing our clarity, confidence, creativity, and compassion on a regular basis, which allows us to deal with life’s uncertainties in a way that keeps our limbic system from throwing us into the lower, reactive brain. Easier said than done? Absolutely, and, of course, isn’t everything?

Therefore, the question that I suggest we ask ourselves is whether we are dealing with the ambiguity in our lives in a way that is responsible or reactive? Are we focusing on what we can know and influence, or worrying about what we can’t? The bottom line…are we dealing with this aspect of life in a way that we would teach or recommend to someone that we love?

If the answer to this question is yes, then congratulations! If not, then we have just removed some degree of ambiguity around what to do next. We can begin to practice bringing our best to life (knowing that life will always give us plenty of opportunities to practice) and, in doing so, we can begin to build up a tolerance for the fact that there will always be aspects of life that are unknown.

For those of you who would like my help in this process of rewiring the brain, feel free to contact me, because this is what I teach. In my seminars, books, and work with individuals, I teach people how to reprogram, or retrain the middle brain, or limbic system so that it interprets things such as ambiguity in such a way that allows us to access the “Top of the Mind.”

I believe that we need this neuro-scientific approach now more than ever. Until we learn to face life’s ambiguity while continuing to access our clarity, confidence, and creativity, we will continue to be at the mercy of our old, reactive brain and stuck in the cycle of stress, frustration and anxiety.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

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