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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“In order to become effective leaders, or become more influential in our lives and the lives of others, we must first master the concept of ‘internal leadership.”

~ Bill Crawford

Mastering Internal Leadership

To be clear, when I speak of internal leadership, I’m not talking about developing the leaders within your organization, although that is certainly important. No, I’m referring to our ability to influence the parts of ourselves that we bring to life.

Of course, we all want to be influential in how we experience life, but most don’t know the neuroscience behind what this looks like. For me, this means that we allow the clear, confident, creative part of the brain (the neocortex) to take charge and trust this more purposeful part in deciding what to do next. To do this, we must recognize that there are often different “parts” of us who want different things.

For example, I’m sure that we have all had the experience of noticing that a part of us wants to do one thing while another part wants to do something else. A part of us would like to go out and connect with friends, while another part just wants to stay home. This sort of split is not a big deal when the decision is around whether to go out, but what if this internal struggle is more about whether we act on our anger, resentment, frustration, or depression? Here the split can be more problematic, because the pull to feed the more extreme emotion is so strong.

Those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy know that the reason for this strong pull is that the middle brain (the limbic system) is interpreting some negative situation as dangerous, and throwing us into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger (the brainstem).

However, if we become clear that letting this lower, reactive brain define who we are and what we do isn’t working (isn’t producing the results we want and isn’t something we would recommend to someone we love), we can become more influential in our lives and the lives of others by making a more purposeful choice.

There is a story about this that you may have heard about a young boy who was getting into a lot of fights at school. This was proving to be a problem with his parents and teachers, and so the boy went to his grandfather for advice.

He said, “Grandfather, I need your help. I keep getting into fights, which is getting me in trouble with my parents and teachers, but I’m confused about what do.”

His grandfather said, “You know, I was a lot like you when I was a boy. It was almost like there were two dogs inside of me. One was an angry dog that snarled and bit anyone it didn’t like, and the other was a more friendly dog that just wanted to get along with everyone.”

The boy said, “Yes, that’s it! Which dog won?”

And the grandfather said, “It depended on the dog I fed.”

That’s what I mean by internal leadership. If we truly want to be influential in our life and the lives of others, we must first decide which parts of us we are going to “feed” or trust in determining how we deal with life.

I like to see us as the conductor of an orchestra who can choose to draw upon the brass and percussion if we feel that represents the best of who we are. Or, we can bring out the woodwinds and strings if we are wanting to bring a more subtle energy to the situation.

This means that we make more purposeful decisions about the qualities and characteristics we bring to life which will require that we come from the more purposeful, influential part of the brain (the neocortex, or what I call the “Top of the Mind”).

Interestingly enough, it’s not that we don’t know what these qualities are. When I ask those in my seminars, “What are the qualities you want to access when dealing with difficult people and/or difficult situations?,” they come up with a great list that includes calm, confident, understanding, logical, being a good listener, authentic, etc. And yet, we all recognize that these aren’t always the qualities that “come to mind” when we have dealt with certain difficult situations in the past.

Therefore, going forward, I suggest that we practice “internal leadership” before we attempt to practice external leadership, and take more responsibility for who we are by understanding the neuroscience behind our choices. Let’s choose the “Top of the Mind” as the part of us we want to feed, so that whatever we decide will represent the best of who we are and what we would teach and/or recommend to someone we love.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

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