Science, comfort zones and the benefits of setting new goals

Book review: The Art of the Possible by Katie Tojeiro

The Art of the Possible:  €18.99

The Art of the Possible: €18.99

Mon, Sep 28, 2015, 13:00


Book Title:
The art of possible


Katie Tojeiro

Black Mustang Press

Guideline Price:

The motivational genre of business books is a crowded space and it’s hard to find a fresh angle. Blending psychology and business coaching techniques with what we know about neuroscience is not a novel approach in itself but executive coach Kate Tojeiro does it well here in a simple yet compelling narrative.

One of her messages is a variation of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ or in this case, get out of your comfort zone as it is making you less energetic, creative and productive. This is not just conjecture, she says, science proves it.

The novelty and difference presented by new experiences will immediately get your brain firing on all cylinders. When we skip our conventional practices and give our brains something unusual to explore, they work harder.

It’s a form of mental exercise which creates new neural pathways and fresh neurons, both of which fuel our power to reach new potentials.

What makes successful people different is that they constantly strive for new goals, Tojeiro notes. Not only are successful people brave enough to get so uncomfortable with discomfort that they can allow new possibilities into their life, but they are also very disciplined and determined in their approach to reaching their goals.

Boredom, she observes, gets a bad press but can be very useful in that it forces you to seek out new people that you wouldn’t ordinarily speak to and to try activities that you wouldn’t try otherwise. Conversely an overdose of stimulation can lead to seriously negative outcomes such as stress, lack of focus and lower creativity. The trick is to get a balance. A little boredom to give our minds a rest from the constant stimulation of technology will give us room to think more creatively.

Daydreaming is something else that gets a bad name. We dismiss our daydreams as fanciful but instead we should think of them as manifestations of desires that we have hidden or buried because they seem impossible, either now or in the future.

The author encourages readers to list some of the common characteristics of daydreams, to visualise them more completely. Big visions then need to be turned into a series of small questions as a way of helping the brain start working on it in the here and now.

Operating in the present is crucial. If we ask a question in the here and now, rather than one that involves referring to past or future events, the brain will look outside itself, searching and finding information from the immediate environment that it finds itself in. The brain, it appears, needs to work on questions and not statements and it doesn’t like ambiguity. Action plans should be formed from this process with the emphasis on doing whatever you can now to start the process.

Neuroscientist Araceli Camargo from King’s College London, one of the collaborators with this book, likens the brain to a reliable golden retriever. Throw the dog a ball and it will bring it back every time. Ask the right question and the brain will also bring you back the right answer every time.

What’s a right type of question?

The example is given of a situation in which you want to run a highly successful business in five years’ time. Your brain will get stuck on the concept of five years because it can’t compute that time but if you give it a concrete question like ‘I want to run my own business , what should I do to start the ball rolling’ it will identify with the here and now and deliver you an answer, it appears.

Other advice in the book includes the importance of acknowledging your own strengths and talents in order to grow them. This also helps the brain build new neural pathways.

Similarly, self-limiting narratives need to be addressed. The example is given of Alison Mowbray who, whilst a kid at school, was defined by others as the ‘non sporty sibling’. She carried this around for years but overcame it to become an Olympic silver medallist.