Each day we have our to-do list of tasks and responsibilities. And, on top of that, we’ve all got dreams and goals we want to achieve. But whether we do all those things largely comes down to our motivation. So, where does motivation come from? Is it the same thing as accountability?
For loan officers looking to grow their careers and improve their numbers, there are some important lessons about motivation and accountability from the field of neuroscience. Here to walk us through it all is Steve Scanlon, CEO of Rewire and author of Still the Lizard. Steve joined us on an episode of the Laugh, Lend, and Eat podcast and provided some insightful takeaways.
How do loan officers, accountability, and cortisol all connect? Let’s find out.
What are Neurochemicals?
Steve has a self-proclaimed obsession with neuroscience and neurochemistry. He’s been studying and compiling meta-research on data and studies for the last ten years. This has culminated in his book “Still the Lizard”, which looks at the implications of our “lizard” brain (i.e., the part of your brain that keeps you alive!).
Part of Steve’s fascination with this field is the study of different chemicals. In your brain, you have:
• “Happy” chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. These are responsible for emotions like calm, peace, and job.
• “Negative” chemicals… well, chemical—there’s just one in this category: cortisol. Dubbed the “stress hormone,” cortisol is secreted during times of intense pressure and anxiety.
This last chemical, cortisol, has increased massively over the years. It’s a bit of a misnomer to call it “negative” because it has a critical and important function in your body to keep you safe and motivate you to action. That said, high cortisol levels contribute to high stress and negative health outcomes. Studies show that cortisol rates are higher than ever before, which is why we can anecdotally observe our friends, colleagues, and peers to be more stressed out than ever.
And how do you operate under stress? Not your best! So, understanding what causes cortisol to rise is important. Worry, concern, fret, and fear are all based on negative predictions of the future. But those negative predictions haven’t happened yet—they’re fictional!
The lesson here is that we can swap out our future predictions for positive ones. Focusing on positive future predictions can help reduce stress and anxiety (cortisol) and help you perform your best.
Your Lizard Brain
Tied into the conversation about neurochemicals is the lizard brain. This is a construct of the productive, survivalist part of your brain. Before the modern era, people evolved to protect themselves from danger and had to go out to get food and shelter. While we don’t have those same concerns today, our brains remember what it was like and have survival mechanisms.
There are four ways your lizard brain tries to protect you:
• Familiarity and routine.
• Always being right.
• Establishing habits.
• Maintaining control.
These are unconscious mechanisms in your brain designed to protect you from danger. It explains why making changes is so hard, even if you know they are good for you. Any change, goal, or challenge pushes you out of that comfort zone and goes against your brain’s main goal and purpose.
Accountability and Change
Neuroscience, including what we just talked about with the neurochemicals and lizard brain, has a lot to tell us about how we can change and grow. Traditionally, coaching, mentoring, and managing are hinged on fear-based accountability mechanisms—i.e., “Get your numbers up or there will be consequences.” But does that work?
Steve is convinced that fear-based accountability is pointless because it raises cortisol levels. It makes people stressed! And, since our lizard brains try to keep us comfortable and safe, you’ll never do your best work with elevated cortisol.
Beyond that, telling someone what to do robs them of the chance to create their own neur