Scott Halford at CUNA CFO Council Conference 2017

5 simple ways to retrain your brain

Flooding ourselves with information from dawn to dusk can be ‘corrosive.’

May 25, 2017

Would you smash a Stradivarius on the ground and then expect the delicately crafted violin to play well?

Of course not, says Scott Halford. And neither should you expect your brain to withstand the dawn-to-dusk abuse we level upon them, according to the educator and authority on emotional intelligence and the use of neuroscience in business.

He addressed the CUNA CFO Council Conference Wednesday in Orlando.

The primary culprit for this assault is technology and our desire to constantly stay connected. We overwhelm ourselves with information, occupy ourselves with activities that don’t nurture intellectual growth, and deprive ourselves of needed human contact, sleep, and time to recharge.

This barrage floods our brains with cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands that “is a good thing until it’s a bad thing, and when it’s a bad thing, it becomes corrosive,” says Halford, of Complete Intelligence.

“We subject ourselves to stress from the moment we wake up, and by noon your brain has had enough cortisol to mimic dementia,” he adds.

How do you make your brain thrive? How can you work it all day and yet have enough energy, stamina, and focus remaining for the people you love when you get home?

“Simple things make a big difference,” says Halford, who offers five examples:

  • Cardiovascular exercise, ideally 150 minutes per week.
  • Sleep; at least seven to nine hours.
  • Waking rest. Untether from electronics three times per day for 10 minutes at a time. Let your mind wander, meditate, or be mindful.
  • Sprint and rest. Adhere to a 50 minutes “on,” 10 minutes “off” ratio.
  • Emotional connections that move you. Laughter is a wonderful medicine.

The brain thrives on five Cs, Halford says:

1. Certainty. Brains make millions of calculations and watch for inconsistency in messages, internally and externally. So, become congruent. Stop lying to yourself. The degree to which you keep agreements with yourself is the degree to which your life will work.

2. Choice. Stop selecting options for people. We like becoming what we choose to be, not what we’re coerced to be.

3. Control. What do you do better than 97% of the people around you? What is your specialty? What is your fiefdom?

Identify that, and enlist help from others on areas of strength for them. If you don’t know what you control, you try to control anything and everything.

4. Completion. Anxiety often stems from either threat or danger and incomplete tasks. Your brain likes check marks. Help your people make more check marks every day.

5. Context. How and where do we fit? How important am I to the organization? Ask that question of yourself and ensure that you provide answers for those who work for you.

Click here for more conference coverage from CUNA News, and get live updates on Twitter via @AdamMertzCUNA@cumagazine, and  @CUNACouncils, and by using the #CFOCouncil hashtag. Learn more about the CUNA CFO Council, a member-led professional society for credit union executives, at