• Morgan Fielder


Skip the self-sabotaging reliance on willpower & to-do lists and instead try the “iBehave” system to lay the neurobiological groundwork to level up your business success in 2021.

Are we rational thinkers, or just really good at rationalising?

It's 2014 in San Diego and we experienced my first Ninja level 10 gift for my husband. I got him surprise live UFC tickets! Basically, it's legal cage fighting for men and women-- cool, right?

He was so excited watching an amazing lady with double french braids destroying her blonde opponent, blood flying. We watched some other equally emaciated fighters wrastle, punch and kick each other. But before the main event, we decided to get some beers in the hallway.

That's where it started. A really nice buff guy in a biceps framing t-shirt promised a fully paid trip to Cabo if we just went to a "timeshare event".

"We didn't have to even buy anything, just show up", he said.

Well, you know how this goes...

The worst real estate deal of our lives, and difficult to exit.

Everyone told us not to bother going, but we knew better and wanted the free tickets. We were wrong.

In a nutshell: Our brains have evolved to avoid pain and remember where we stored the nuts last Autumn.

We are both trained scientists and moderately smart. That's the first time it hit me: we are not governed by rational thought 98% of the time. Instead, we are just really, really good at rationalising our decisions ex post facto.

Timeshare sales lady tapped into our guilt of not spending enough time with our kids. Living in SOCAL means both parents usually have to work, maybe 2 jobs, in order to afford to live there.

She masterfully made us feel like bad parents, and the timeshare would somehow reduce our guilt because we would be committed to an entire week long vacation each year with just the kids.

Why did 2 trained scientists buy a timeshare scam instead of just choosing to take more time off work and stay in a sweet airbnb?

Two researchers in the 1970s, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, famously showed that humans mostly don't act in their own logical self-interest.

Cognitive biases (systemic error) and heuristics (shortcut) inform a vast majority of our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Our brains are elegantly efficient and most of the time run on autopilot based upon DNA & past experiences.

Critical to understanding human decision making: emotions are the most potent triggers for our behaviours.

Thinking hard is actually quite expensive biologically, so our brains will take any shortcut possible.

In a nutshell: Our brains have evolved to avoid pain and remember where we stored the nuts last Autumn.

Shame, guilt, repression, & fear all create a situation where our brain chemistry fires hot and fast to find a way out of pain, not usually in our best long-term interest.

Hope, optimism, mindfulness, abundance, & well-being give you some space to maybe make a rational decision.

Discipline and to-do lists aren't helpful if you don't know where you are going and just floating along in the matrix that is formed by our cognitive biases and heuristics.

"Working harder" helps you go around in the same circle, rut, or downward spiral.

How can we upward spiral?

Is it ridiculous to learn how our brains actually work and then optimize for our neurobiology to set ourselves up for success instead of struggling with goals, to-do lists, and forcing discipline and pain?

Neurobiology 101

The Brain

The brain consists of many parts but generally understood as having 2 distinct operating systems.

The “rider” and the “elephant”.

Rider: rational decision maker part of your brain — a.k.a. the tip of the iceberg.

Elephant: instant gratification monkey part of your brain — a.k.a: most of the brain that keeps you alive and rests below the surface.

The elephant is only steered by the rider. Don't forget: Elephants have not ever been domesticated by humans.

There generally are 2 pathways for our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Thinking Fast:

DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: unconscious, automatic, effortless

  • WITHOUT self-awareness or control “What you see is all there is.”

  • ROLE: Assesses the situation, delivers updates

  • Makes 98% of all our thinking

Thinking Slow: DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS: deliberate and conscious, effortful, controlled mental process, rational thinking

  • WITH self-awareness or control, logical and skeptical

  • ROLE: seeks new/missing information, makes decisions

  • Makes 2% if all our thinking

Brain processes are driven via neurotransmitters (signalling hormones) that flow due to various mind and body stimuli. They dial up (upregulate) or dial down (downregulate) reward and learning and keep us alive. These include molecules like serotonin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, dopamine and others. They not only help with learning and reward, but mood, well-being, sleep, social connection, and more.

For example: norepinephrine is a hormone released to tighten your blood vessels if you are getting cold. However, its' natural byproduct is euphoria. Boom! Make yourself take quck cold showers and you get some pain relief and good mood out of it. Isn't our biology is amazing?

It's impossible to precisely get one outcome, but there are patterns we can tap into for clear thinking and good work at certain times of day.

Also, we can become aware that our neurotransmitters and hormones will affect how we see the world. A shot of serotonin will fuel our aversion and disgust so our judgement on an issue may be clouded. Acetylcholine will spike our anger to ruin negotiations. And we are all slaves to dopamine rewards that lead us into confirmation bias.

It takes a mighty aware “rider” steering the elephant and willing to employ draining, exhausting system II slow thinking to avoid the common pitfalls of tribalism, cognitive biases, and ineffective communication.


Systems tend to work well to save ourselves from ourselves. Ground rules to optimize our neurobiology and do our best work.

iBEHAVE for short, because who doesn’t love an acronym?

iBEHAVE: A System to Avoid Burnout & Do Our Best Work

Follow these 7 steps to avoid burnout and supercharge your recovery from physical and psychological stress so you can crush your next real estate deal.

#1: i = Instant Gratification.

Learn how to reward yourself so you can master dopamine and enhance learning you value instead of being a victim to facebook’s masterful algorithms.

Try mindfulness meditation. You can do it on the spot pretty much anywhere and with practice it feels really good and therefore rewarding to our brains. It does this by creating a bigger better offer for your brain to get dopamine from places other than mean tweets, social media likes, booze, or drugs.

Apps like WakingUp, Headspace, and 10% Happier are amongst the plethora of helpful and cheap tools available to help you learn the practice.

#2: B = Be able to shift emotion on demand.

Truth without emotion. Learn to breathe away anxiety and stress from the 24 hour news cycle and reduce glucocorticoids causing low grade inflammation.

Try deep diaphragmatic box breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds. Then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Then Exhale for 4 seconds. Then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat as needed.

#3: E =Exercise.

Simply put, the fittest are the most resilient. They have higher heart rate variability, lower resting heart rate, and improved BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which is a major player in brain plasticity. Plasticity refers to the ability to create new connections for learning and memory, both very important when presented with complex questions.

In order not to slam into the rails of homeostasis and hurt yourself and land in pain or hypervigiliance, exercise should tolerable yet progressive.

Try to aim for at least 30 minutes of whatever exercise lights you up per day to clear your mind.

#4: H = Habits.

Create your environment for optimal function and well-being by implementing habits to save your willpower.

Gentle reminders like nudges and incentives put into place ahead of time create the best behaviors by minimizing decision fatigue and depletion of executive function. Save the executive function for negotiating your next deal!

Try tiny tweaks.

Tiny habit changes equal big results without challenging homeostasis to the breaking point and activating System I thinking. System 1 will strongly tell you to sit on the couch and get away from all the work by watching netflix with a plate of nachos.

Nudge yourself to limit panic scrolling by placing a screentime reminder on your phone. You can dismiss it, but it will gently remind you to be your better self.

#5: A = Active Recovery.

Nourishing restorative exercise and muti-sensory inputs restores your hormonal balance toward calm and reduces CNS fatigue. Activities like walking, yoga, sauna and others helps to accelerate healing from muscle tearing induced from the exercise you did previously to clear your mind.

Try a non-addictive, non invasive approach. Invest in a 10 dollar foam roller and learn how to crack your mid back yourself. What a nice little shot of happy hormones to reduce stress, even if just for a moment to reset your attitude after losing a deal.

#6: Values Aligned.

Values shape our beliefs & behaviors. Facts don’t.

Connect to your why on a regular basis to stay recharged and resilient.

Try 10 minutes of journaling before you have your much beloved coffee to stack a habit and refine your values.

Marcus Aurelius famously did this and much of the same beliefs, thoughts, and values that we struggle with now can be seen in his book Meditations. History repeats, but you can enhance your ability to be healthy and happy with a simple strategy.

#7: Environment for Sleep.

We are as much a product of our biology as we are of our culture and environment.

Try the one thing that makes you better at everything: sleep.

For mind-body resilience and maximal alertness, above all else — sleep must be sacred.

Sleep is the only time our muscles grow, the brain cleans itself out, and memories solidify.

Our environment for sleep must be cool, dark, and quiet and routines and consistent bedtimes really do help make 7–9 hours a night realistic.

It’s too easy to ruminate about an endless email inbox, but if we really want to DO something about it, fix your sleep to operate at your optimal level of function.


To sum up a system to help you do your best work in 2021, level up your negotiation skills, beat procrastination and impostor syndrome and propel yourself into your best future:


Instant gratification rewards

Be able to shift emotion on demand.



Active Recovery

Values Aligned

Environment for Sleep



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By Morgan Fielder

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is an evangelist for sustainable investing. Join her eating, playing, and loving on nature around Europe exploring sustainability & husky powered oddesseys. She is living in Germany raising two gorgeous girls, wife of a rebel, serial expat, and is actively involved in the German community through several organizations. Visit her community projects at cornholeuropa.com and cravetheplanet.com.


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