Neuroscience and Design Thinking offer keys to a mindful, healthy and purposeful life. Dr. Kyra Bobinet author of Well Designed Life: 10 Lessons in Brain Science & Design Thinking for a Mindful, Healthy, & Purposeful Life offers the science behind why we don’t do what we know we should. We make the distinction between behaviors and habits and consider practices to adopt new habits. A key Design Thinking process is to develop an iterative mindset. The practice of embodying self-compassion is extraordinarily easy. We do it all the time without even knowing.
Table of Contents
- Episode Introduction: Who is Dr. Kyra Bobinet?
- What Influenced Kyra to Delve Into the World of Conscious Embodiment
- Wholeness and Appreciative Embodiment
- Key Concepts for Well Designed Life
- Reframing Failure
- How Can We Embody Self-compassion
- Connect to Kyra
- Resources Mentioned in this Show
- Become a Sponsor of Positivity Strategist Podcast
Episode Introduction: Who is Dr. Kyra Bobinet?
Dr. Kyra Bobinet, qualified as a medical practitioner and switched to Public Health. She is an innovator, and an entrepreneur at her core. She was already showing entrepreneurial talents in grade school. She worked in a nonprofit that dramatically reduced incarcerated youth recidivism. She pioneered a proven stress-reducing mindfulness program for a very large health insurance provider and developed a patented clinical algorithm. She has received the Harvard TH Chan Innovator Award in 2015, the highest honor presented to an alumnus of the Harvard public health program.
In 2013, Kyra founded and continues to run the disruptive wellness tech start-up, engagedIN.
What Influenced Kyra to Pursue Neuroscience and Design?
Despite her academic and innovative accomplishments, Kyra had a nagging feeling that something was amiss. She experienced an emptiness that kept her from appreciating everything that was going well in her life.
It was the luxury of hindsight that provided the insight she was disconnected from herself – just living in her head. She knew what she wanted to do with her life, what career to pursue, but an overarching purpose was lacking. It was working with incarcerated juveniles where she experienced a profound sense of connection to humanity, even though she was engaging with people who were from a totally different background.
Hanging out with them led her to the awareness of how different and yet so similar we all are. This experience was her wake up call to serve others. She connected to a strong desire to understand the science of behavioral change so she could support others to begin to design the life they wanted.
Wholeness and Appreciative Embodiment
Continuing her medical residency, her observations quickened. As she conducted her hospital rounds daily, it became obviously apparent that treating illness is only part of the story.
there's a whole behavioral cascade that happens before that [illness].
Kyra learnt from caring for patients that deep connection starts with asking appreciative questions and truly listening. She would ask her patients what made them happy, especially if they were feeling very low in their hospitalized state. Connecting at that heart level benefited patients, patient's families and herself, as the medical practitioner.
I invite Kyra to share a most touching story from her book that had brought tears to my eyes when I read it. It's the story of Mrs Williams.
Kyra's insights from that story can be summed in this way: when we face our vulnerabilities, when we feel frail and are at the edge of discomfort, we have the greatest potential to find our gifts.
Kyra: Aside from connection, people are also addicted to comfort. But without discomfort, no one can embody anything. There has to be a balanced recognition to what the body is telling us, regardless if it is comfortable or not. There has to be a disconnect in order to connect, an inconvenience to appreciate what’s convenient. That is appreciative embodiment. In order to appreciate what’s good, one has to be willing to face and deal with the bad.
Key Concepts for Well Designed Life
Self Image is our Client when it comes to Designing our Lives
Self-image is the number one criterion that we most need to understand in making lasting change. Everything operates by one rule, which is:
Is it me or not me?
The brain uses that as a sort of primary filter in an attempt to understand the world around it.
Whether it is a new program, a new job, a change that's happening at work or in one’s life, all these changes are being filtered and reacted to by our brain. When we get that uncomfortable sense, it likely to be the feeling of “not me” kicking in; and when it does, it’s the best time to step in and offer something different. For when a person is not comfortable, a connection cannot be formed and change will not be sustained.
Therefore, when it comes to designing our own lives, change must work with our self-image for it to stick.
The Emotion-Motivation Quadrant
Motivations have many different ways of operating in the brain and are directly influenced by the different levels of human emotions. Kyra's easily understood framework on this tricky topic of motivation categorizes motivations in two ways: stable or unstable, and emotions as either strong or weak.
The basic premise around how you will change is to identify whether your motivation is stable or not and whether the emotion is strong or weak. How committed you will be to a new design for your life is dependent on where you fit in that quadrant.
The goal is to create new habits. Brain science tells us that we create habits through repetition and practice.
Behavior versus Habit
Behavior is an act mandated by the brain. It is an activity or event that requires consciousness, and most likely we need to set up some kind of trigger to enact the behavior. An example might be create a shopping list before you leave for the supermarket.
Whereas, a habit is something that you mindlessly and consistently perform, such as drink your favorite morning beverage. It requires no participation from the brain.
Design Skills to Change Behaviors and Build New Habits
First, identify what needs to be done. If it’s a change in behavior, then create a behavior design to be observed regularly. For example, setting up behavior of going to the doctor for an annual physical exam. That’s a behavior design. A habit design is something that is done more religiously, consistently, and frequently. It is designed in a sequence, having a specific location at a specific time of day.
The design thinking process accepts failure as a way to train the brain to develop an iterative mindset. It's a key concept of Design Thinking. It can take multiple versions before accomplishing a final solution, product or service.
When it comes to change or innovation, failure is something that cannot be avoided; and it shouldn’t be. Even if it causes disillusion and disappointment, and may even lead to loss of interest, an iterative mindset is required to redesign the process to get back on track.
People who fail, pick themselves up and try all over again, and know how to iterate are more successful than those who give up after "failing." This is linked to the concept of "rebooting."
The Three Steps of Rebooting
- Cultivate the mindset that rebooting is a worthwhile practice – starting over is fine. If something doesn't turn out as desired on the first attempt, there are infinite iterations that can be done. Cultivating an iterative mindset is the first step of rebooting. You're not bad if you need to restart after a relapse.
- Create a checklist of the things that can be redesigned, regardless of who it's for. It could be for yourself, for another, or a whole group – at work, example. This checklist comprises things that need to be done differently and serves as a guide for future changes. Seek out others who can support you. You are not alone.
- Reflect on the question how you can be gentle with yourself. How might you build capacity so you are more resourceful in the future?
How Can We Embody Self-compassion?
One way to feel compassion for yourself is to place your hand on your chest and simply feel your heartbeat. As the hand lingers on the chest, the more the body becomes in tune with the heart, and the more you begin experience comfort and care. It becomes a natural thing to feel care for self through the body without the mind telling you what to do.
When you give yourself a hug or hold your heart, the brain can't tell who's doing the hugging – you or somebody else. The brain simply registers the thought that it is being cared for.
The beauty of this practice is that you can do it anywhere, at any time and in any company. It strengthens your capacity for self-love and self-compassion. It requires no scientific formula, or no famous quote, or mantra. It’s just the body and the heart in perfect coordination in strong connection, responding to each other. When a person is touched or moved or connected, the response is natural and automatic. The hand moves over to the heart indicating it has been touched.
Connect to Kyra
Resources Mentioned in this Show
- The tools mentioned in this episode are all available in engagedIN, a neuroscience-based design firm specializing in behavior change.
- For habit formation, Kyra’s team has created the app, freshtri.com
- Book: Well Designed Life: 10 Lessons in Brain Science & Design Thinking for a Mindful, Healthy, & Purposeful Life, by Dr. Kyra Bobinet
- Book: Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahnman