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This will not be an analysis of the leadership of Jason Sudeikis’ character, Coach Ted Lasso. While I would debate that there is value in looking at this unlikely protagonist to guide leaders, this is a discussion on how media like “Ted Lasso” can be part of a strategy to enhance success in your life. It is how we can choose media to prepare our brain to be in an optimal place of functioning.
Many of us forget to prepare our brains when working towards our personal and professional goals. We prep our skills and refine our behaviors, but we often overlook the conscious and deliberate efforts needed to get our brains best functioning. Here’s how you can use areas of entertainment and information to prepare your brain, starting with a process called priming.
Related: How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity
What is priming?
In psychology, priming is the process by which we unconsciously teach our brains to focus on certain things based upon exposure to different variables. For example, let’s say you were interested in buying a new car. You consider other options, but then you decide to buy a Jeep. Suddenly, you start seeing Jeeps everywhere you go. This is the effect of priming.
As another example, let’s say a new co-worker does a few irritating things. You mention to a friend how much this person gets under your skin. Suddenly, everything this person does irritates you and you see few redeeming qualities about your co-worker. This is also the effect of priming.
Ultimately, your brain will do what you tell it to do, focusing on whatever you tell it to focus on. It will then search for evidence or examples to support what we say or what we believe. In the instances earlier, you told your brain that you were interested in a Jeep, and it found all the examples of Jeeps around you, confirming your choice of vehicle. You also told your brain that your co-worker was irritating, so it focused on all the examples which supported your negative belief about your colleague. Not only have you primed your brain, but you’ve also now created a confirmation bias.
What is confirmation bias?
When you prime your brain to focus on certain things, you also create the environment for your brain to interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms your beliefs. Our beliefs are typically based on paying attention to the information that validates them and ignoring information that refutes them.
In the co-worker example, your brain is primed to see the irritating things your colleague does. When there are neutral actions, your brain interprets them as unfavorable. And when your colleague does something positive, your brain will translate it into negative terms. “She only did that because people were watching” or, “he said that because he knew I was annoyed with him; it’s not how he really feels.” With your new Jeep, your brain finds all the examples of Jeeps in society and confirms it was the right choice because “so many people love them.”
The problem with confirmation bias is that it can trap us into one belief system that might include emotions or behaviors that don’t serve our goals. We are less likely to consider other options, and we begin to create a daily experience for ourselves which ultimatelys our success.
Related: 5-Step Formula to Rewire Your Brain for Entrepreneurial Success
How can “Ted Lasso”-like exposure help?
So you might ask yourself how watching “Ted Lasso” relates to priming and confirmation bias? I will tell you based on my experience. I started each day this month watching the show while I worked out. Each episode is mostly or entirely happy. Each episode reflects kindness. The characters are redeeming. The relationships are lovely. When I walk away from an episode, I feel good and take away something that makes me more optimism. I watch this, and I’ve primed my brain for goodness.
It doesn’t have to be this show, but we can deliberately choose to ingest media that primes our brains to pay attention to happy and good things. Doing so allows us to see our world in ways that confirm happiness.
Ultimately, by choosing music, podcasts, TV series, movies, books and other opportunities for positive exposure, we create a foundation in our brains for the emotions and behaviors we want to flourish. It doesn’t mean we don’t see or hear the negative, challenging or even bad things in the world. By choosing media that supports how we want to see, feel, and think, we create a cognitive space that allows us to be at our optimal level of functioning to deal with and mitigate the harsher realities. We have more creativity to determine solutions. We have more energy to enact our plans. We have more patience in listening and communicating with others.
Consider this. We know that when we nourish our bodies with food that benefits us, we feel better. We function better. We have more energy. Why wouldn’t the same be true for our brains regarding cognitive functioning?
Related: 5 Science-Backed Ways to Strengthen Your Brain
What do you choose?
Ask yourself one question. How do you feel after you watch or listen to the various sources of entertainment or information in your life? Do you feel invigorated? Do you feel recharged? What do you notice more in your world? Do the good people and situations that can be building blocks for your personal or professional goals help create solutions to manage social issues?
Or do you feel depressed? Discouraged? Do you view people and daily life as obstacles and problems? Do you believe there are no solutions and feel trapped?
It comes down to your steady cognitive diet. In nutritional terms, are you filling your brain with sugar, fat, and simple carbs? Or are you giving it a balance of nutrients to be strong and vital? It is a choice we know how to make for our bodies, but not all of us do this for our minds. You can decide whether you want more of the highs or the lows, choosing information and media that inspires and energizes you or media that depletes and exhausts you.
In the words of Coach Lasso, “‘Cause every choice is a chance [and] it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”