A conversation on neuroplasticity and limiting beliefs with Thrive’s Joey Hubbard.
Well-being has moved to the center of our conversation, and as a Chief Wellbeing Officer, I can only say that’s a good thing. But knowing we’re stressed or burned out is different from being able to do something about it. So where do we start? How do we take action to improve our well-being? Joey Hubbard says the place to start is with our mindset and how we think about ourselves. By changing our mindsets, we can literally rewire our brains to help set us up for greater well-being and true success. Joey is the Chief Training Officer at Thrive Global, and for over 30 years, he’s been coaching and facilitating seminars all over the world to help both employees and organizations improve their lives, their careers, and their businesses. I recently sat down with Joey for my WorkWell podcast to talk about the collective shift that’s going on around well-being and the individual mindset shifts we can all take in our daily lives.
Here are some highlights from our conversation. You can listen to the whole episode here.
Jen: You’re someone who’s been working with top corporations and leaders, all over the world — from your perspective, talk about the shift that’s going on around how we think about our work.
Joey: We’ve been conditioned as humans to prioritize work. And one of the things that happened over the last few years is people got the chance to reverse that and be around family more. They started to realize, wow, this is actually more important to me than my work. So how do I live a life that I feel fulfilled by? It will have all kinds of elements in it. It’ll have friendship, relationships, work, family — it will have lots of elements that I consider valuable. The key for people now is to start to say, what is most valuable to me for my fulfillment? And then create a life that matches that.
Jen: With the pandemic, we’ve seen well-being move to the top of the agenda, not just for the workforce, but for business leaders, too. But there’s still this myth that there’s a trade off between high performance and taking care of ourselves — that those things are mutually exclusive. Do you still see this myth hanging on?
Joey: During this time, Thrive has probably had a 10x increase in our business, because more and more organizations have realized that their people need to be well to lead, and that when they’re not, it leads to attrition, absenteeism, and disruption. So organizations who used to think that well-being is a soft idea have now pivoted. They’ve seen the data, the research, the reality that if their people aren’t well, then there is a deficit that will occur.
Jen: Do you feel like they’re taking meaningful action within their organizations?
Joey: I do. And I see it starting at the top, where organizations are realizing that people are struggling, but leadership has not created a culture where people can prioritize their well-being. So we’re seeing leaders saying, come in, help our leadership understand how they need to prioritize themselves, and then scale it within their teams.
Jen: I’m seeing the same thing — it’s a really positive shift. And that leads me into mindset. What does our mindset have to do with our well-being?
Joey: When we look at mindset, there’s a part of the brain called the reticular activating system. It regulates a lot of things, including sleep. One of the things it also does is filter what we see, feel, and hear in the world based on what we believe.
As we’ve seen over the last several years, people can have completely opposite polarizing perspectives using the same data. It doesn’t matter what the truth is — it matters what people believe, because that’s how they’re going to see, feel, and hear the data. So it becomes critical what you believe. From the work I’ve done in this field, what I’ve learned is how important it is to challenge your beliefs, to ask yourself, is this really true? It’s about having an open mindset that asks, is there more for me to learn? How can I continue to get better?
There’s no human being I’ve met who says, I want to be wrong about what I believe. We want to be right about what we believe, but if what we believe isn’t taking us in the direction we want to go in, we’ve got a challenge. But it’s one we can address with mindset — making sure where we want to go aligns with the belief system that we have. Because without it, you will go in the direction of your belief, not the direction of where you say you want to go.
Jen: I want to hone in on the particular belief that our worth is tied to what we do and our jobs. That’s true for many of us. I know it was for me, and I never really challenged that belief until I burned out and gave myself the opportunity to do it. So beyond burning out, why is this a dangerous mindset to have?
Joey: This is very important. This is what I would call the human condition. From a young age we get conditioned to the idea that what I have and what I do determines my value.
We lose the inner connection that recognizes that the kind of human I am is really where my value is. But most people reverse it. Instead of, who I am determines what I do, we think, what I have determines what I do, which determines who I am. And therefore if what I have or what I do goes away, my identity is greatly shaken. But if I understand that who I am is my value, then what I do can change, but my value doesn’t change.
If your value is tied up with what you do, then you won’t prioritize yourself. You won’t take time for yourself or your family because you’re going to say, no, I’ve got to stay up late and keep doing this project because if I do it right, they’re going to like me and give me a promotion, and I’ll make more money and then I’ll be more valuable.
Jen: Joey, where were you ten years ago in my life when I really needed you!
Joey: It’s a human condition — everybody goes through that cycle.
Jen: Let’s talk about beliefs — what are they, and can you give us a few examples?
Joey: This has been a thirty-year journey for me of understanding this whole dynamic I call paradigms. I started by uncovering my own process. And then working with thousands of people in different environments, I was able to see that no matter where I was, what culture, what country, I was seeing the same patterns over and over again.
A top limiting belief was no matter what I do, it’s never enough. Another was, I am not enough. Then others like, I’m not valuable. I’m not worthy. I’m unlovable. Those were the big ones I found. Regardless of who you are, you’re going to have some experience in your life that will trigger some of these beliefs. They’ll keep operating in your head, and they can act like an anchor. Is the anchor small? Is it large? It depends on the person.
Jen: Why is it so hard to move from these negative beliefs to something that serves us better?
Joey: Different people are able to move faster than others — but what I’ve found is that everyone can move. That’s the beauty of neuroplasticity. Regardless of who you are, every brain has the capacity to go from a more limiting belief-based mindset to a more positive belief-based mindset. That’s the great news.
You can have perfect parents and go to school and have somebody be mean to you, and you start to wonder if you’re good enough, and that that can stick. No one’s immune to the effects of life. And unfortunately there’s lots of negative things that occur in life. They’re not necessarily life threatening, but they’re enough to give us pause and question who we are. Consequently, we end up with those belief systems and then, depending upon how aggressive we are about addressing it, we either keep them or we start to build a new mindset.
Jen: How do we use neuroplasticity to change our habits and beliefs?
Joey: Neuroscientists will tell you that it takes anywhere from 14 days to 254 days to change a neural pathway. All beliefs are neural pathways that we’ve developed in our brain. So somewhere in there, depending on who’s right, your brain will change a neural pathway if you consistently create a new pathway.
What that means in essence is something as simple as changing I’m not good enough to I am good enough. Your brain might respond, no, you’re not, but you just keep saying it. What you’re doing is building a new pathway brick by brick, and reducing the efficacy of the old pathway. You’re taking one out and you’re putting one in, and you’re doing that daily. Over time, someday that new road is going to be stronger, and you’re going to wake up and actually feel like you are enough.
You just redirect that neural pathway in a new direction. That’s it. You can do it just by practicing. You don’t even have to worry about figuring out the past experience of why it’s there in the first place. You don’t have to do any of that. If you do this new process, eventually you’re going to wake up and think, okay, I am good enough. That’s the shift.
Jen: Can you give us some favorite Microsteps for changing our mindset?
Joey: One is journaling at the end of night. The reason why journaling works is that you do a reflection on your day. And in that reflection, you can look back at a moment and say, okay, the mindset I want to have in a moment like that is that I am valuable. And next time I go into that situation, I’m going to go in with a mindset that I’m valuable.
So if I start to feel that old mindset kick in that I’m not valuable, I’m going to reframe it in the moment. It won’t work every time, but at some point it will start to stick. So journaling in the evening gives you time for reflection on the day so you can start to insert thoughts like, hey, here’s what I’d like to do differently next time. Then when you go into it the next time, your brain’s going to have that awareness. Simple awareness is often curative.
Another one is to really call out the limiting belief we have, like I’m not good enough, or I’m not worthy, or whatever it is for you. And then think: what’s the opposite? In a very literal way. If it’s I’m not good enough, the opposite to that is, I am good enough. So you create a practice where every time you experience the I’m not good enough thought, you shift it in your head. Will you do it every time? Maybe not. But you’re saying that this is the way you want to be. And every time you reframe that negative thought, it starts to redirect the brain.
You can even make a list of the negative paradigms you say to yourself. Just call them out. Once we name these things, we can take much more ownership over them. Then write your opposites, so you have them already there.
Jen: Joey, thank you for your time today and for sharing your wisdom with us.
Joey: Such a pleasure, Jen.