Charged Up! podcast: The mind-money connection

Episode 33 with Dr. Srini Pillay, training your brain to boost your finances

Charged Up! with Jenny Hoff


Harvard professor, executive coach and brain guru Dr. Srini Pillay teaches us how to train our unconscious brain to do what our conscious brain wants. Whether you’re looking to get out of debt, build wealth or develop that next great business idea, a big part of the project is getting your brain on board so you’ll stop just making plans and start following through. Citing studies and offering real tools to change your brain, Dr. Pillay helps you develop ways to achieve the lifestyle you’ve been craving.

Let’s get Charged Up! about mastering the mind-money connection!


Jenny Hoff: Dr. Pillay, thanks so much for joining us today. 

Dr. Srini Pillay: Thanks for having me, Jenny. It’s lovely to talk to you. 

Hoff: I’m excited for our conversation because it will really help us look at our habits and lifestyle choices through a different lens. I want to talk both about how to change our brains, to change our finances, as well as your recently released book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try,” which challenges the philosophy of just focus, focus, focus. But first, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you journeyed into the realm of changing our brains to change our lives?

Dr. Pillay: Sure. I currently teach at Harvard. I’m a part-time assistant professor of psychiatry. My background is in psychiatry and then I studied brains in a brain imaging lab at Harvard for 17 years. In addition to that, I’m also a certified master coach and I work with organizations worldwide to help them achieve better financial outcomes and develop their leaders. Because of my background in human psychology and brain science, I pioneered a field that combines human psychology and brain science together with my executive coaching experience to help leaders of organizations understand how they can get to better financial outcomes by optimizing their brain. 

Hoff: All right. Perfect. I guess, of course, your research also then applies to an individual. So not just how to motivate your employees in order to do that but how we as an individual can use these techniques in order to change our financial lives. 

Dr. Pillay: Absolutely. I do work with individuals as well. Working with individuals, I think, has proven to be, for me, a real joy because people don’t often realize how important the brain is. They sort of think of it as some kind of academic thing. I think especially they don’t realize how much power and control they have over their own brains in order to change them. 

Hoff: Yeah. That’s why I’m excited to really get into this because we’ve heard the power of positive thinking a lot but for some people it stops there. Now what? What’s the next action you have to take? Or OK, I’m thinking this way. How do I get myself to actually behave this way? So let’s talk about breaking bad habits and forming good ones. Many of us know what we should be doing health-wise and financially. The information is out there and it’s ready for the taking yet most people don’t do it. I saw you once give an example of a baby throwing a toy out of their grasp and then crying, and then when they get the toy back, they throw it out again. You relate that to mastering disappointment. Can you relay to us that study, for those who aren’t familiar with it, and then connect it to how we behave as adults? 

Dr. Pillay: Sure. The study you’re talking about has to do with a particular event when Freud and a bunch of other psychologists were standing around, watching children’s behavior. What they found was that children behaved oddly and they wondered whether adults behaved in the same way. The first thing is they watched children in cots; and as anyone who’s watched a child knows, the child was with the mother and then threw the toy out. Now, superficially, it sounds like they’re just teasing the mother but at some level what they asked was, “Why would you throw out your own possessions consciously and willfully?” But then, the child started to cry about it and so they said, “Wait a minute. It’s odd enough that you’re throwing out your own possession, why are you now crying about that?” And then when the child got the toy back from the mother, the child was happy and started clapping his hands. And then they actually watched the child again and saw that the child threw the toy out again and then they said, “OK. This is strange. Firstly, do adults throw out their own possessions? Secondly, do they cry about it afterward? And thirdly, do they repeat this over and over again?” 

What they said was that this was a phenomenon called ‘repetition compulsion’ which is that humans are wired to master disappointment rather than find fulfillment. So unconsciously, they may often put themselves in situations where they create losses in order to train themselves to deal with those losses. The way that that relates to habit is that if we keep on doing this over and over again, then we get stuck in habit pathways that actually drive us away from our goals rather than toward our goals. From a financial perspective, I think it’s important to recognize that even though most people draw up strategies and they try to execute these strategies in order to get to their goals, they don’t follow through. 

So, let’s say they say, “I want to make $100,000 this year and the way I’m going to do this is by doing X, Y or Z. I’m going to draw up a business plan and I’m going to follow that strategy.” Well, conscious thinking is only approximately 2 percent of the brain. Most of the brain’s activity is actually unconscious. Most experts would say somewhere 90 and 98 percent is unconscious. So the conscious strategy is really like a plant but this plant has to have its roots in the unconscious soil. So if you don’t till the soil at the unconscious, meaning if you don’t learn how to train your unconscious brain, you’re very unlikely to be able to reach your goals regardless of how great the strategy is. 

Hoff: So how do we train our unconscious brain, especially if maybe we’re not even aware that we’re doing these habits over and over again or we are aware that we keep repeating the same mistakes? Let’s give an example. You rack up your credit card to too much debt and you can’t pay it off and you find yourself sinking further and further with interest rates and yet once you get it paid off, you repeat the process again. So how do we get out of that mode of constantly repeating the same actions? 

Dr. Pillay: One of the most important techniques is what I would call ‘self-talk’ and actually this is something I described in detail in my book, “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try,” where I walk people through the idea that when you talk to yourself aloud or simply just in your mind, you can actually change brain blood flow. For example, when you’re in credit card debt and you watch the debt getting worse and worse, you start to get more and more anxious. There are ways in which you can actually change your brain blood flow so that you move the blood flow away from the anxiety brain back to the thinking brain where you can make better decisions. Now, there are a lot of different ways to do that. The one thing that I would ask people to do, and I really would recommend taking out a piece of paper and a pen and writing down a five-step process to actually overcome this fear, is defined by the mnemonic:

CIRCA where C stands for ‘chunking’ meaning break the problem down and break your solution down into weekly goals rather than to overwhelm yourself by looking at the total goal. The second one, the I is for ‘ignore mental chatter’ which essentially means stop this whole process off by doing a mindfulness practice which is place your attention on your breath and then whatever mental chatter you have, ignore that. Of all these techniques, this actually have the most data supporting it, that this will actually calm down your anxious brain simply by placing your attention on your breath. The third is R, what I call ‘reality check’ which is self-talk in which you say this too shall pass. The fourth is C for ‘control check’ which is if there’s something you’re trying to control that maybe you shouldn’t, and can you let go of that? So let’s say, you’re racking up debt because of five things that you’re doing repeatedly. What’s the most difficult one? Leave that aside and go for the lowest hanging fruit. And then the last is A for ‘attention shift’ which is take your flashlight of attention and place it on the solution which is how do I get over this debt rather than being stuck in the problem of, “Oh, my God. Look at this debt that I’m stuck in.” Those five steps – chunking, ignoring mental chatter, reality check, control check and attention shift – are things that have been shown by many studies that those techniques can actually help you move brain blood flow from the anxiety center back to the thinking brain. 

But in this specific example that you gave which is, “Oh, my God. This debt is accumulating. What do I do? How do I stop this? I must not spend any more.” This is actually the worst kind of self-talk that you can use. One doctor studied this concept and said when you use self-talk under stress, your brain will not hear the word ‘not.’ In fact, it will do the exact opposite of what you want. So if you tell yourself, “Do not overbuy” or “Do not buy that pair of shoes” or “Do not buy that pocketbook,” the moment you walk by it, your brain’s going to want to buy it. The classic example that he used is the example of being in a party and having two glasses of red wine, walking past the couch and saying, “Do not drop the wine.” Why is it that the moment you walk past that couch, you drop that wine? What he said was that under stress your brain is using up so much energy that there isn’t enough energy to both look where you’re going and stop what you want from happening. So the brain does not have the energy to suppress this thought and effectively does not hear the word ‘not.’ 

It’s shown this in studies of soccer players as well, where soccer players are trying to score penalties. If they say do not kick the ball to the right and you attach eye-tracking devices to their eyes, the eye actually moves to the right. This also applies to office romances. If people say do not fall in love with this person, the next thing you know they’re head over heels in love with them. 

I think when it comes to thinking about how to change your brain, the first step would be recognizing that your brain can change. Secondly, that you can change the brain’s blood flow. Thirdly, that you can use the self-talk, either the CIRCA model to reduce fear or avoiding using the word ‘not’ and framing things in the positive when you want something to happen. Studies have actually found that this is far more effective if you speak in the second person. So rather than saying, “I’m going to crush this” or “I’m going to get over this debt,” and using that kind of self-talk, they found that by calling yourself by name, by saying, “Jenny, you’re going to crush this,” literally call yourself by name and then say ‘you’ that kind of self-distancing reduces the stress, increases your confidence, and allows you to get to your goal.

Hoff: Wow. OK. Very interesting. If we were to reframe the sentence ‘I cannot spend any more money on my credit card’ to one our brain can understand and obey what we’re trying to tell it, what would that sentence be like? Only buy what I can afford or what would you suggest? 

Dr. Pillay: I would say, “I can put X amount of dollars on my credit card this month” or “I can save X amount of dollars in my bank account this month.” 

Hoff: So be specific. 

Dr. Pillay: Be really specific. 

Hoff: Be active voice and be positive about it rather than including a ‘not’ which can get lost in the fray. 

Dr. Pillay: That’s correct. Exactly. 

Hoff: What are the most common reasons we fail? Even if we say we’re going to do this now and we feel extremely determined, many people still don’t achieve those goals. Why do you think that is? Is it really all in the brain or some people are just luckier than others?

Dr. Pillay: Well, regardless of what you call as luck or no luck, it’s very hard to make these kinds of arguments that the brain is not involved in any kind of decision, right. Because luck is an event for which you cannot logically account, which is basically 98 percent of events because that’s what’s called the unconscious. In terms of why some people succeed and others don’t, there probably are a number of different reasons. I think one of the most important things is thinking about fear and fear of failure which is also intimately tied to fear of success, which means counterintuitive because you might say, “Oh, come on. I’m not afraid of success. I want it.” Yet, when you give double messages to your brain like, “I want to save money this year” or “I want to keep my credit card on track” and at the same time you’re saying, “In order to do this I have to try something new. It’s going to be difficult. If I fail, I’m going to feel bad. If I fail, other people or my family might know.” Imagine if you were your brain and I said, “Hey, brain, I have a great idea. I’m going to start saving money but it’s going to really restrict me. I may fail. Other people may laugh at me.” Your brain’s going to be like, “No, thank you. That’s not a great idea. I’m not going to sign on to that.” 

So part of what you want to do is get your brain on board which means that any change that you are going to make is going to come at a psychological price because your habits are going to change. It’s going to be unfamiliar and you’re even going to be afraid of the change that you want. This price psychologically is called ‘switch cost.’ What we know is that when you have the psychological price to pay, your brain goes into chaos, and this chaos is called ‘cognitive dissonance.’ There are ways that you can actually stop this chaos. The first is spreading of alternatives. Essentially, what this is, is if you take out a piece of paper and a pen right now and you make a table, so there are two columns. A is where you are and B, the alternative, is where you want to be. So let’s say where you are is spending a thousand dollars more than you should a month and let’s say where you want to be is saving a thousand dollars more a month. What your brain needs to know is that you genuinely see the advantages to that. You can’t just do some kind of quick fast action thing and assume your brain’s really grasped it. You’ve got to spell it out for your brain to say alternative in column B is better. You say, if I have that extra money, I could put it toward my retirement. If I had that extra money, I could actually buy a house that I wanted. If I had this extra money, I could buy high quality things rather than just buying other things. The more you put this down and the more authentic you are, the more your brain actually signs on to this. Studies have shown that at some point that you write enough things in column B, this brain chaos actually subsides. In order to make the changes that you want, you want to quiet the brain chaos, you want to get over this fear of failure or fear of success. Those are some of the reasons that people don’t succeed. 

The other big reason that I also outlined in my book is what I call ‘possibility thinking’ which is thinking in a way and speaking to yourself in a way where you’re asking the right question. For example, let’s say you’re recently divorced. You really got taken for a ride and so half of the money that you had is gone and you don’t have that money anymore. You want to somehow figure out how to rebuild your life but at the same time, somebody in your family is ill, so you’ve got to put money toward that, and you have a number of adversities. A lot of people would say, “What’s the likelihood I’m going to become a millionaire?” Most people would say it’s really low. That may actually be correct but the people who succeed do not ask the question, “What’s the likelihood I’m going to become a millionaire?” Instead, they say, “What do other people with my adversities do in order to become a millionaire?” So, you look for the exception rather than the rule and you try to emulate that exception rather than the rule because we know that if you have a lot of adversities, the likelihood is not great but there’s someone in the world, somewhere in the world who’s managed to cope with those adversities and do that. That kind of belief, essentially by telling your brain, “This is possible, I just need to know how to figure this out,” your brains will stay on board. But if you say to your brain, “This is not really going to happen,” your brain actually switches up and says, “Thank you. Good night. I’m going to sleep because apparently this is not going to happen.” 

Possibility thinking, believing in the future actually increases your dopamine in your brain so that you actually become more motivated and it also increases the natural opioid so you feel less stressed. A classic example that this has been seen is in a study where they looked at three tubes of neutral cream. They labeled one ‘capsaicin’ which is the active ingredient in chili. They labeled the other ‘lidocaine’ which is a pain reliever. They labeled the third just ‘neutral.’ What they found was that even though it was all the same cream and it was all neutral, when people believed that the capsaicin was going to sting, they put it on their skins and they said, “Aw, this really stings.” When they believed that it was going to really relax them. They put it on their hands and they say, “Wow, this is really relaxing.” When they believed it was neutral, they just said, “Eh, it’s not doing anything.” When you looked in their brains, you saw that the people who believed actually had the reward centers of their brains activated. The people who believed that this is going to have a negative effect, had the pain and anxiety centers activated. So what this tells us is that from time to time, like a scientist, we can say, “Let’s hypothesize. Our success is a hypothesis.” Go with the success hypothesis and the chance that your life can be better rather than going with the failure hypothesis. 

So there are two concepts when it comes to self-esteem which I think it really helps to get into. One is called ‘SEO.’ It’s not search engine optimization. It’s self-esteem optimization. The other is called ‘SEM’ which is self-esteem maintenance. Now, throughout people’s lives, they often will downsize or change their goals or not be ambitious. They will essentially lower the bar so they can maintain their self-esteem. I would say to anyone out there, ask yourself, “Am I lowering the bar in my life or am I trying to optimize it?” Because when you try to optimize it, when you raise the bar, things become a little bit more pressured. But as long as you can understand that part of the excitement is trying to figure out how to get to that goal, you’re oriented in the right plane. Because if you’re not trying to get there, it’s actually going to be difficult. You’re just going to be lowering the bar just to maintain your self-esteem. In my book, one of the things I described is that it’s not just focus that will get you to your goal. While focus is extremely important, and I think everybody needs to focus throughout a day, if you focus alone, it’s like going through life on one leg. You really need to add unfocus to stimulate that unconscious as well. 

Hoff: OK. Let’s now talk as if you’re not somebody who’s a risk-taker. We talked a little bit about getting rid of the chaos in your brain but I’ve heard from so many people now, really the big buzzword is if you were valedictorian, you’re not going to be that successful. Recently, I heard somebody say they only hire B students. They don’t hire A students because they’re too scared of failure and they’re not willing to dedicate their time to one thing and take risks on others. So if you consider yourself somebody who’s like, “I don’t want to get into stock market. That’s too risky. I don’t want to play around with chance here,” but you also know that without risk doesn’t come a lot of gain, how do we start making ourselves if we’re not naturally a risk-taker but we know we need to be a little bit of a risk-taker in order to achieve more? How do we get to that level? 

Dr. Pillay: I think the first thing you have to do is think about stabilizing your brain so that you can get there. Practicing the CIRCA model on a daily basis is helpful. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can reprogram your brain so that you can be in a better state of mind to take risks. This actually affects not just your brain but it actually affects your chromosomes as well. There was a reason they got the Nobel Prize, who did a pilot study, who found that at the caps of your chromosomes are things we call ‘telomeres’ and by practicing mindfulness meditation, you can actually prolong your life as well. Mindfulness meditation has a lot of all-around benefits including help you mange risks. 

Now, when it comes to risk taking, there are actually two things that I draw your attention to. A lot of times when you take risks, you have to be creative. People think, “Of course, I love creativity. It’s why I want to do it.” But when you look at brain studies of what people’s brains do under uncertainty when they’re trying to be creative, you see that under conditions of uncertainty, the brain will associate the word ‘creativity’ with vomit and agony automatically. What we want to remember is that even though we’re trying to be creative, our brains are going to fight back. We have to figure out some way to get to that place. One of the ways of getting to that place is by recognizing what uncertainty does to your brain.

There was this study by Saranopolis and colleagues that actually looked at what uncertainty does to the brain. What they found was that in 75 percent of people, when they are uncertain, they mispredict when bad things are going to happen. Meaning even though something bad is not going to happen, your brain just goes into a state of shock and worry and starts saying something terrible is going to happen, the sky is going to fall down. Uncertainty does not mean you know what’s going to happen and in that instance I’m not recommending positivity. All I’m saying is correct the bias to neutral. Say to yourself, “I recognize that when I’m trying to take this risk. I’m freaking out and I’m thinking all the bad things are going to happen but the reality is uncertainty means I don’t know what’s going to happen, not that something bad is going to happen.” That is where a lot of the risk aversion comes in because our brain is automatically sending these kinds of messages and using self-talk to basically say, “I need to remember that my brain is going to make me feel like the sky is falling down but I’m going to slowly approach this, chunk it up into different pieces, try to keep my mind steady using a mindfulness practice, and move along in that way.” 

A lot of studies show that goals are not necessarily reached by any kind of conscious in reaching out. So many people write down their goals and never get to those goals. It’s, again, because of this unconscious. Training the unconscious mind is probably one of the best ways to manage risks. One of the things I described in my book is that when you unfocus, you actually turn on the prediction circuits in your brain. Risk is all about not being able to predict the outcome but in effect, your brain is actually a time travel machine. When you focus, your brain essentially is representing the parts of your identity metaphorically like a fork, concrete things about you. That can be things that are in your LinkedIn profile. But when you unfocus by using one of several techniques, which I do describe in the book and we can go in one or two of them, you actually turn on the time travel machine in your brain which means that your brain invites metaphorically a spoon so that all the memories that are more intangible, the delicious mélange of flavors of your identity, like things that you have to factor into a prediction equation but you don’t because it’s too intangible, your brain will call upon those memories. What it will also do is invite chopsticks to make connections. So all of a sudden, the way you see the future is much more creative because your brain is making connections and then it also invites marrow spoons or forks which go into the nooks and crannies of your brain and pick up fragments of memory and important data that’s missing. 

Let’s say you’re saying, “I need to start investing in the stock market,” and all you’re doing is focusing day after day, different stocks, different scenarios, and that’s all you’re actually doing. One of the things to remember is that in that state of focus, your brain is not in the best state to make predictions about which stocks to choose. You have to build unfocus into your day deliberately, maybe 15 minutes when you have a natural slump in your day, maybe in midmorning, after lunch, midafternoon when you’re fatigued at the end of the day. By doing that, you’re training your brain to turn on its prediction circuits and the brain does actually turn on these prediction circuits more in this unfocused state. 

In fact, I remember doing an interview with Peter Buffet, who’s Warren Buffet’s son. I remember talking to him about what was it like to grow up in Warren Buffet’s house. One of the things he said was, “You know, it’s kind of amazing because I’d watch my dad and he’d be sitting in the kitchen reading the newspaper. He’d appear to be focusing on the stocks but then it would be like he came out like some kind of financial Buddha. Because he’d come out and it’s like he lost himself in all of that material, that he didn’t just look at the surface and what was going on. He literally lost himself.” When you lose yourself in that way, you’re training your brain to unfocus.

I would say, if you’re not a risk-taker and you want to train yourself to be a risk-taker, (1) manage fear using CIRCA. (2) Use self-talk to tell your brain that 75 percent of people who are uncertain mispredict when bad things are going to happen. Your brain is just creating a catastrophe bias. You can correct that to neutral. (3) Build an unfocus activity into your day. It could be anything. When you’re tired after lunch, studies show a 15-20 minute nap can actually improve your clarity by 1-3 hours. So why not build that nap instead of dragging yourself lunch or midafternoon? You can use a technique called ‘positive constructive daydreaming.’ In the book, I described this in more detail. 


But one of the things I’d love for you to think about is, falling into a daydream, slipping into a daydream doesn’t help. It also doesn’t help to just be ruminating over something. But Jerome Singer and his colleagues have actually found that since the 1950s that if you use positive constructive daydreaming, it will help your creativity. There are three things to remember about this:

  • Build it deliberately into your day for 15 minutes.
  • You should be doing something low key, not nothing. Walking, knitting, gardening, any of those things could help you get into that state.
  • Begin by turning your attention or flashlight inward and starting with some positive or wishful imagery, like lying on a beach or maybe running through the woods with your dog, whatever for you is positive or wishful. This will actually turn on this unfocus machine and help you collect data that focus could never actually collect, so that you can actually improve your risk-taking as well. Remember, doodling, just scribbling on a piece of paper while you’re listening to some kind of advice can actually improve your memory by 29 percent. That’s another way that you can activate your unconscious as well. 

Hoff: I’ve got the doodling down. I’m pretty good at that but I will say I guess it’s my personality and you’ll be able to tell right away I’m not very good at calming my brain down is when you say positive constructive daydreaming and mindfulness meditation, I get nervous because I don’t know how to do that and I’ve tried. Are there any tips if you are somebody who is very hard to calm down your brain and to stop thinking about the list of things that need to get done to get into that zone, meditation? I’d love some legit tips on how to be able to do that but also getting into this positive daydreaming without letting catastrophe enter the zone. Do you have any tips on how to do that? 

Dr. Pillay: Yeah. Couple of different things. I think a lot of people feel like when you say ‘meditation,’ that somehow you are saying you have to sit down in some kind of yoga position and do that kind of thing. It doesn’t actually mean that. You can start by using an online app. So Head Space, for example, will guide you through what is a meditation but it will do it in a more playful way and in a way that will be easily understandable and you could also get devices so you can watch your brainwaves change, which I think is particularly helpful for a lot of people. The No. 1 tip would be, use something like Head Space if you don’t think you’re some kind of conventional meditator. No. 2, remember, the meditation doesn’t have to be sitting in some kind of yoga position. You can actually nail walking meditations as well. So by walking, you can activate your creative brain. Studies show two things about walking that I’d love you to remember. One is, walking outside will improve creativity more than walking on a treadmill. While the treadmill is great for exercise, if you want to improve your creativity, walk outside. No. 2, studies show that walking in a meandering path is actually much more effective for creativity than walking around the block or walking in any kind of rectangle. So simply by just walking and looking around the neighborhood, if you just walk in a meandering path, that can activate your creativity as well. I think the third thing would be, it’s overwhelming to think about sitting still in one place and doing that for 20 minutes a day. If you can do that for a minute, two minutes, and gradually increase that over time, this can help your brain as well. 

Hoff: OK. Perfect. I definitely want to clarify. When we say ‘creativity’ people might say, “What does that have to do with money?” But creativity is often what allows you to come up with solutions to some of your money issues. It also helps you come up with new ideas of how to increase your income. So this creativity, tapping into that is a very important process in order to get us thinking outside of our typical patterns, correct? 

Dr. Pillay: Yes, absolutely. This has nothing to do with painting and music in this context. I think there are people, for example, who are famous who have actually done this. People like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg have at points when they’ve hit a wall and they try to figure out what to do, they realize that the thing to do was to allow their unfocused minds to activate so they went to places where they could allow their minds to roll. Bill Gates actually does this twice a year, where he will take a complete timeout and just allow his mind to roam freely. Ingenuity, the real answers to the questions we’re asking are not necessarily – what I’m offering you a framework but the real answers, the fuel for those framework. Those frameworks are like cars but in order to move, they need to be fueled by your ingenuity. Your ingenuity can only be activated, a big part of the cells circuits are contained in the unfocused circuits. By learning to activate those unfocused circuits, you can activate this ingenuity in yourself. 

Hoff: Wonderful. I definitely recommend people pick up your book “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try.” I think that you have a lot of suggestions in there and practices that we can all use in order to get us to think outside of the zone of what we’re typically doing in our automatic days, to thinking and acting in a different way so we can change our lives. I want to say, we talked about a lot of wonderful suggestions to give to people. What are the top three things that you think somebody could do right now to change their brain in order to change their financial health? 

Dr. Pillay: Sure. I think the No. 1 thing is identify a downtime in your day, when you’re dragging yourself through something, and take a 15-minute nap. That will improve your creativity, allow your brain to make connections, and take you to your goal. I would say the No. 2 thing is practice using CIRCA to manage your fears. Because the fears are unconscious, you may not even feel the fear. But if you’re hitting a wall or slowing down or not getting to your goals, ask yourself what your next goal is and then use CIRCA to walk your way through that. The third thing is use self-talk regularly and avoid using the word ‘not’ when you’re trying to frame your goals. 

Hoff: Finally, our show is called Charged Up. What gets you charged up about discovering the true power of our brains? 

Dr. Pillay: I think in part, it’s aesthetic really. To be real about it, the human condition is fascinating and I think there’s just so much to be understood and discovered about the unconscious. So when I see people using these techniques and I see them working for them, and I see them understanding themselves more easily, and when I myself also use some of these techniques and see them working for me, I think it really gets me charged up to want to find out more and to want to share more. So I think it’s really the beauty of the brain as well as the science of the brain that both inspire me tremendously. 

Hoff: Wonderful. Dr. Pillay, thank you so much. Fascinating discussion. I’m going to definitely be checking out even more of your work because I think understanding our brains could be the key to understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Pillay: Thanks for having me.

 See related: Charged Up! podcast: How to think about money, Video: How to meditate your way out of debt, Video: The psychology of bill avoidance

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Updated: 11-23-2017