Clear Your Mental Clutter and Upgrade Your Mental RAM

How much do you spend on a computer?

You can buy a Chromebook new for £179. But most of us spend a lot more. Why?

Because we’ve experienced the frustration of rebooting and waiting after crashing.

We pay more for more a better processor and higher RAM. Because it means we can do more. And we have to deal with less frustration.

How about your capacity?

Are you crashing because there isn’t enough RAM free? Are you running our of capacity for high level thinking? Is it time for an upgrade?

We can’t pull off the cover and slot in more RAM.

But we can clear the clutter and the fog to optimise our brain. We can increase our focus. And so we have more presence and more power in each moment.

This is what today’s guest, Neuro Science Coach, Niki Vinogradoff teaches people to do.

He understands the leadership journey having been through it himself. He told me about his path which included living in a meditation centre and training for 15 years. He told me about the challenges people find in beginning meditation.



Niki: [00:00:00] As I was running up this hill, I would probably see five meters. It was such a big fog. And then what came to my mind is very often my clients use, or people in general kind of use this expression, there’s this fog in front of me. Having worked with many people, often I know that it’s not something you really figure out, like what’s there.

Niki: As I was running in the fog, it just Interesting that when you are like five meters ahead of you, you can’t see anything, but when you run there, you see very clearly what’s there. And then when you look back where you came from, it’s now you cannot even see where you came from. It’s such an interesting thing.

Niki: When you’re doing something really big, meaning like you just finished your career, you want to build something for your own. The future is not clear, but you know that you cannot go back into the past because somehow the life isn’t there anymore.

Niki: Often people unfortunately stop and try to figure out what’s there while really it is through the going into the fog or into the unclarity where you gain [00:01:00] the clarity. 

Niki: Never occurred to me how interesting it is that you can in five meters in front of you can’t see anything you go there and it’s clear you look back where you came from and you don’t see 

Rob: there’s like pockets of fog yes a fog here and then it’s clear and then it’s a fog again 

Rob: What immediately comes to mind to me, whenever I think of solving a problem, I think you have to go up.

Rob: It’s about transcendence. I had in mind when you were saying that you were probably going to say it’s like changing your state by rising up and you rise above the fog. 

Niki: That’s also part of it. It’s One of the main things I’ve learned is when we are like stuck in some problem is to never don’t try to solve it.

Niki: If a client comes with a problem, I never go with them let’s solve it. Because like you said, A lot of times when you really like gain perspective, yeah, the problem is there let’s connect with, let’s really get connected with who you are, what’s important, let’s look at it from the perspective and many times either it’s actually not a problem or it becomes very [00:02:00] clear, but like you said, the state changes so much of The problems we face or problems we create comes indeed from being in a state that just is very foggy.

Rob: That’s interesting because I love to solve problems. And it’s something that I have to hold myself back from just jumping in it because, if someone comes to you with a problem it’s like an ego boost and you feel good. How do you solve that for him? And so there’s a lot of attachment to being the one that comes up with an answer on that.

Rob: It takes a lot of maturity and emotional regulation to be able to say, okay, no. And hold back, from immediately jumping in. I’m guessing that’s part of what’s come on your journey. 

Niki: Yeah. Thanks. That’s both in when I was in leadership position, but I was really lucky to be sent to amazing leadership courses.

Niki: I learned coaching a bit. I think the first time I started dealing with this. Indeed, this is what you are sharing, do not jump in because I wanted to, as a leader, to be seen as [00:03:00] useful. And to me, the idea was that if I know how to solve something, then I’m useful. And then, like, all good. But then I, of course, realized that At one point I had 13 direct reports, and if I’m going to solve everybody’s things, I will be just swamped and my team will not grow.

Niki: So what really changed for me when after a leadership course, read a book called The Coaching Habit, say less, ask more, and change your leadership forever. And then seeing the true questions, people actually could recognize what’s the actual problem and how to solve it and often. What I also recognized, and this is a huge part of professional coaching training, is to never jump in to solve people’s problems, because we might even solve a completely wrong problem.

Niki: Is that the right problem to solve? 

Niki: How was it created in the first place?

Niki: So all this kind of true experience seeing that it works a lot better to not jump into the problem. And I think [00:04:00] working with this inner thing. That I can be valuable, useful, even without being the hero of the story.

Niki: That was big part of, in general, in my coaching in my leadership journey is to removing this need to be the hero. 

Rob: Okay. I’m really interested to hear that. So what did young Niki want? 

Niki: How far do we want to go? 

Rob: What was your earliest when you first thought of working, people wanna be a train driver or a footballer, or a policeman or something.

Niki: First professions that I want to have was NHL hockey player or a professional chef. Those were the two, because my dad was an, is really amazing chef. Like he cooked all these like really interesting exotic foods and I really liked doing it with him. There’s a lot of creativity in it.

Niki: And then I played ice hockey and that seems like this is, this would be the cool profession. And, but that’s certainly there. There wasn’t anything big or awareness of why those professions. Eventually the NHL thing didn’t happen. I didn’t make it [00:05:00] to NHL, but I did go to culinary school for three years and graduated from there.

Niki: And then I was just thinking during the morning run about my leadership journey. 

Niki: In theory, I would say that I’ve been in leadership for 15 years, but in reality I would say only eight or nine, eight or nine years. Yeah, younger me was a lot more learning about the spiritual side of things from a very barely. early age on where I recognized that yeah, I can get a profession, I can get this or that, but, there’s all these questions that I actually want to have answered. So that may be a big part of the younger me today also, but I wasn’t really convinced that the career or work will let’s say, solve the things.

Rob: That’s interesting. So when did the spiritual journey or the spiritual seeking? 

Niki: I think that the seed was laid very early. I don’t know how can I remember it, but when I was three years old, my great [00:06:00] grandfather died and my family line is christian Orthodox, and why this is important to say is that in Christian Orthodox funeral, the casket is open.

Niki: And there’s a tradition that you go, you kiss the forehead of the dead person. I remember my grandfather lifting me. I kissed my great grandfather. And then the following night, I couldn’t sleep because I realized my parents will die one day. Like death became oh, like there’s this thing called death.

Niki: And then, I’m not going to go through every stage, but already at 12 years old I was asking questions okay, what, not just who we are, but what we are, how did we come here, what about after that? And then when my grandma got cancer we are very close with her, I think I was 15 or maybe a bit older.

Niki: I felt like church or priest or my parents or nobody had any answers to it. Nobody had any spiritual side to contribute to dealing with it. I became really angry [00:07:00] kind of to society and church. I resigned from the church and all that because there was no answers. Read so many books about spiritual and science and eventually that seeking led that I went into the Buddhist meditation center and that’s also where the seeking did end. Seeking did end there. 

Rob: As in you found a peace or you found an answer? 

Niki: I found the answer. I gain some experiences. I’m not saying that I got enlightened, nothing like that, but more like. I think there is, in spiritual seeking, there is the seeking for the path, then finding the path, and then it becomes about walking the path.

Niki: It’s interesting that, for example, in Buddhism, which is, of course, it’s one of the major religions, but it is not religion in the sense that It is purely based on Buddha’s one of the most famous sentences, don’t believe everything that I said, because I said it’d be your own guiding light.

Niki: And so that became the practice to walk in the unique path. So it stopped being something that I [00:08:00] was seeking for anymore. And then I started. Then because the seeking and that, and my teacher told me like, it would be good for you to get into the society. You can do some beneficial things in the society.

Niki: Then I met my partner also, and we decided to have family. And that’s when I was 29 years old. That’s when I first, I’m really serious. I started to consider a career when I like, yeah, this is actually interesting. I can make something out of it. And slowly that eventually. led that I became very interested about leadership.

Niki: I’m mentioning it because I know that for your audience to understanding that is important or like one of the main aspects that they are here listening for. 

Rob: So this journey of Not enlightenment, but finding peace. That began, what kind of age? When was this time when you became disillusioned with 

Niki: your religion?

Niki: The interesting thing, by the way, is that I gained a lot more respect to Christianity after practicing Buddhism for a very long time. But around, between 18 and 23, I would [00:09:00] say I was quite I had my life with my friends and so on. And then I had my life where I was reading all this different spiritual traditions, science, and writing about things.

Niki: One evening, I was 23 years old and At that point I had stopped drinking or smoking weed or anything like that. it just didn’t feel good. But most of my friends were doing it. And there was this one evening, I would say around 3 a. m. You’re at my friend’s apartment. Everybody had passed out.

Niki: They had smoked or drank too much. And I was, forgive me if I I will not curse. But I was, I looked around. And I was like naked. What the fuck are you doing here? Really? And I walked out of the apartment, I walked 10 kilometers in Finland, in minus 20. back to my home. And since then, I just, I went to work, came back from home, read, I was writing, exercising and meditating.

Niki: And then one of my best friends, so I had at this point, I didn’t have many friends because I really left. [00:10:00] that group of friends. And one of my best friends, who we were in this journey of seeking, he went in the Buddhist meditation center. And he said you should come. And I was in my typical arrogant style, I don’t need a teacher, I can do all of this by myself.

Niki: One day I decided, okay, I’ll come with you. And when I went there. In an unexplainable way, I just felt like I had arrived to home. And during the meditation, all of a sudden, like all the doubts faded. I had some tears and that was really strange to me because I’m quite a critical person. So I always also read science along with the spirituality.

Niki: And like I mentioned, I was more like, I don’t want to trust this. I want to do this on my own. So it was a really unexpected experience to me. And then the people who are normal, there are lawyers, nurses, or corporate people, construction yard workers in the center. So I was like, Oh. These are just normal people, but they have such an interesting mind and they had a [00:11:00] different kind of energy.

Niki: And then eventually I went for a retreat, met my teacher, and that’s what it’s been for the past 15 years. I lived in the meditation center for three years or a bit older. And I went to the center for a decade and to retreats and then five years ago I can stop doing that. I always kept my connection with my teacher and some of my friends from the center but that was time for me when I left those circles and I practice every day but it’s has become just a normal natural part of life.

Rob: You were frustrated, you were angry. You, nobody had given you answers that made sense, that worked for you. So was it the Buddhist philosophy that led you to, to a frame that brought you peace or was it the daily practices?

Rob: Yeah, 

Niki: it was experiences. And just saw one off the first. experience that really created a shift in me was that For two weeks, I was, [00:12:00] 24 ruminating about my boss she’s so stupid and why can’t she understand and all this. And then I also was really stressed out about a deadline at work, which now that I look back, I just probably was connected.

Niki: Then at that point, I was really impressed about the Buddhist philosophy, it really made sense to me, but I’ve never meditated and I decided okay, what the heck what is there to lose? I’m going to try to meditate. And somehow I sat down and two hours went like this.

Niki: After I came out of it my mind was so clear on spaces that I realized first of all, I realized actually all that stuff about my boss. It was just total nonsense, like all these conversations with her happened in my head. Actually, she was really trying to be helpful, but I was the idiot in that.

Niki: And it took me two hours to finish the deadline thing, which I had been like postponing and procrastinating. And then I, then two things happened. One was like, wow. Like just from meditation, this happens, [00:13:00] other thing was like I wonder how many other things are happening inside me that I’m bothered by or I’m thinking and they are not true at all.

Niki: And that was the first that got me into meditation. And then I had, which I will not go into detail unless you want to ask, but I had some experience, especially in the retreats that beyond the doubt. made me convinced that we are a lot more than our body and our brain. So it was experiences that my teachers emphasized practice and experience, which I also in my work with clients, yes, I give information, but really what’s changing us is we do the internal work and do the external work but information is not really changing us so much. 

Rob: Yeah, I can see that because tell someone something but they’re still going to fall back to their operating system and it’s a significant emotional experience that’s going to change your perspective and change the way that you operate.

Rob: Yeah I think it might be [00:14:00] interesting to, if you’re happy to share about your experiences. 

Niki: I’ll share two first, two first ones. So one of us as I was preparing for the retreat, it’s a sound very exotic name, but it’s in Tibetan is called pova. It’s literally means sending your consciousness through the top of your head.

Niki: That’s what it means. And I was preparing for it. And we needed to do a lot of preparation work for that. And during one of the practice sessions, all of a sudden my awareness exploded to every direction. There was nothing else but just this immense spaciousness, which was full of bliss and love.

Niki: And I really, probably for 20 minutes, was just tears flowing, because it was like completely just being loved and bliss. And I remember after that. I sent an SMS back then phones with, there was no smartphones, but I sent an SMS to my mom, something like, what we really are is this place and space is so amazing.

Niki: That experience for [00:15:00] a long time became an obstacle to me because I wanted to replicate it. And of course you cannot, then you are already blocking it. Other thing was when I went to the retreat. At one point of the retreat, I had this similar experience. And there was so much joy going through my body that it was just impossible to hold it in.

Niki: There was such a joy burst in through. And what was interesting is that there were hundreds of us. And then my teacher looked at me and said, you just got rid of your fear of death. And that was impressive, I was still thinking, I still had a doubtful mind. I was still thinking that he could just say that. And then we had a break between the sessions and in between the sessions I had this thought that what if one day I will break my skull accidentally and there will be a iron on plate like put up here because that’s what is done or whatever material it is. 

Niki: Then the energy cannot flow from here. And I didn’t say that to anybody that I was just like wondering about that. And then the next [00:16:00] session started. I was sitting in the front row. When my teacher came to sit in front of us, he looked at me and said, don’t worry even if you have metal plate over here, it will still go through.

Niki: And, again, two things happened. One was that wow, the other one was like, shit, he can read my thoughts. And that was then oh, that thought shouldn’t appear. And, whoa, what about this one? Became really funny. Those kind of experiences kept coming. One more about my teacher was in one of the retreats.

Niki: This was years later than what I just explained. I was separated with my girlfriend. And I don’t think I handled it really well towards her. So I felt really guilty. Then I went to the session. I was like, felt really anxious here, but nobody could see anything because I was still in the states of I’m such a realized spiritual person that nothing bothers me ever.

Niki: And I was sitting there and then my teacher just looked at me and said, your energy your energy channels look like a broken Christmas [00:17:00] tree. It’s going all over the place. Like what, what’s going on? Again, that was like okay. Wow. Some things like that. 

Rob: Yeah, I can imagine that’s quite confronting.

Rob: You’re like, don’t read these thoughts. Change your thinking. 

Niki: Yeah. Yeah. It was all the stuff you don’t want to come to your mind. It’s coming to your mind. 

Rob: Okay, so you mentioned that you practice every day. So what is your practice? Yeah, 

Niki: so In Tibetan Buddhism, there’s a thing called nönrö, which sounds exotic.

Niki: It literally means preliminary practices. So for us to go deeper into meditation, there’s four things that are really useful to do. It’s this one is to prepare the energies of the body and stabilize the mind because more especially one of the reasons for Westerners why it’s difficult for Westerners to relax is that there’s so much suppressed stuff and when we relax it arises and it’s then it’s difficult to go deep in the meditation.

Niki: So that’s the first step and the second step is purifying the subconscious mind, especially from all kinds of suppressed emotions and [00:18:00] so on. And I’m not going to go through all of them, but basically those create a foundation for deeper meditations. And it usually takes 10 years to do it. I had life situations and enough kind of commitment to, I did it in five years and since then, so about 10 years ago, I got this main meditation from my teacher, which is how would I go into it?

Niki: Worked with really deep aspects of the energies and the awareness of the mind, especially balancing the feminine and masculine. So simple answer would be, I meditate 60 or 90 minutes in the morning. I do that practice. And then through the day I do. short sessions, which can be honestly, they’re like quiet for 10 minutes.

Niki: I meditate quite a lot with my clients. One of the reasons people work with me is that they want to learn meditation or use visualization. I do, you might be familiar with Wim Hof. So I do the breath work, which it’s not fully his, he has done amazing work with it, but something similar. So those are my main practices.

Niki: And then [00:19:00] just doing my best to be aware throughout the day, like in this moment, being aware, where are the things that I’m sharing coming from being aware of when as a part of it, just try to twist something in, in what I’m saying. Like all those, being aware in the moment, being relaxed in the body.

Niki: Those are my main practices. 

Rob: Okay. So I know immediately when you say you work, you meditate every day in the morning for 60 to 90 minutes the first thing people are going to say is, how do you I couldn’t have time. I’ve got kids. 

Niki: We also have kids when, 10 years ago, we had a 10 year old and a one year old, the 10 year old was my stepson.

Niki: And now we have a 10 year old. And she is our daughter and then we have a foster child, which actually she was adopted a week ago, so we’ll have to get another one, but she was she was four months old. So I do understand that. And when our daughter was at a very young age, she would wake up at six and I need the meditation.

Niki: It’s not a luxury for me, I really [00:20:00] need it’s, I don’t know how to, I think it would be very difficult to imagine. If there wasn’t this stability of the mind and so on, how difficult, how much more difficult life would be. And so there’s the commitment to do it, that I wake up early to do it.

Niki: It’s not easy always. Actually, most of the time, it’s not something I just jump there and it’s easy. Other thing is it’s really good that you’re asking that question. I needed to develop that habit. And also 15 years ago, I meditated 10 minutes. That was 10 minutes after a month, 15 minutes. And then after I’ve meditated for many years, then 20 minutes become comfortable.

Niki: Now, 90 minutes is easy and comfortable, but it certainly wasn’t like that. So when my clients I usually recommend them to do five minutes. Some clients start with one minute. And then we will go from there. So I completely understand that how am I going to find the time for it? I think that either we get to the point where we realize, I don’t know if there’s other [00:21:00] options because I certainly don’t want to live in a way that my mind reacts and wanders about.

Niki: And I don’t want my body and mind to be out of energy. And so it’s, like I, I need to do it. 

Rob: I did Wim Hof for a little while. Yes. And they did the cold showers. And I looked at the minimum effective dose from what I could see in science was 30 seconds.

Rob: So I was like, okay, 30 seconds, cold shower, that’s fine. So what would you say, what would you say is the minimum effective dose? 

Niki: I that’s it. We’re really good question often get that question. I use often the metaphor of thing about going to the gym. If somebody goes to gym three times a week for five minutes, then that’s the results you’re going to get.

Niki: Like it’s better than not going. But if you go four times half an hour, you’re going to see, you’re going to see results. So it’s really I will answer your question also, but for most people. It takes 10 minutes for the mind to settle in the normal state. What I mean by that is that most Westerners are in the [00:22:00] low anxiety state.

Niki: If you look at the data or statistics, it’s 77 percent of adults are under low level anxiety to the point where it’s affecting their physical health. Which, from the brain perspective, it means, from the brainwave perspective, it means that the brain is in the high beta. Which means that our mind is really not cohesive and it’s like going really fast.

Niki: So it takes 10 normal state. Which is great, like it’s nice to be in the normal state about 20 minutes and it starts falling into deeper brainwaves where it’s clear, but it’s relaxed. And after 30 minutes, you can start seeing that body gets really relaxed. The mind becomes more spacious. And after that, you start seeing deeper layers of the mind, like in general.

Niki: And if you spend time there. then more and more naturally our mind becomes familiar with that state and it stays there more longer easily. Also, [00:23:00] other thing that is really useful to understand about meditation is because so many people come and say, I can’t meditate. And then how, okay, how do you know?

Niki: I have so many thoughts and I’m so distracted. Oh, that’s meditation. You are, you sit there, your mind goes to what’s for dinner. Oh, back here. What did that person say yesterday or back here? And that the moment we catch ourselves, we are aware of meditating. And imagine when a person every day does that 30 minutes, and they’re constantly developing the habit of the mind coming back to the present moment.

Niki: So it’s good to think about that’s why sometimes. I often use gym or exercise as an example. Because we know that reps, repetitions actually do matter. So same with meditation. If you pull your mind back to the right moment, a hundred times, that muscle is getting stronger. So anything’s better than nothing.

Niki: But I would say like 10 minutes is, that’s, you can start, well according to science, 30 days, 15 minutes a day is increasing your focus for 15 percent and [00:24:00] lowering stress by 12%. So there is that. 

Rob: So what comes to mind is like you have clutter on your computer and you run a program and it just clears it.

Rob: And so the computer runs better. So it’s basically having more RAM. So the more, the longer that you meditate for, the more RAM you have and the less clutter you have in your head. That’s a really good 

Niki: one. Yeah. That’s a good way to look at it. 

Rob: So at the peak state, it means basically my uneducated view is at the peak state, you’ve got much more focus, much more mental power, so you can focus on a problem or a situation and you’ve got much more RAM, much more ability, much more mental power.

Rob: So really for. That kind of meditation it’s someone who needs to think at a really high quality who’s making big decisions, who doesn’t need to be affected by emotions and biases needs to be really able to process a lot of information and use it. So the more, like the more knowledge work that you [00:25:00] do, the more valuable meditation is from a productivity perspective. 

Niki: For sure, because your brain becomes relaxed and when it’s relaxed, it’s able to process the information in a lot more faster and cohesive way. And what I mean by that is that. We’ve all experienced a flow state and what flow state on the brain level means that all the things are firing together at the same time are connected together.

Niki: So that’s why you are like accessing so much more of your your memory, your experience, your knowledge, your ideas, you’re accessing all that at the same time. While The brain is not wondering about other stuff, and that’s meditation helps us to get in that state. Here’s the important thing is that meditation doesn’t fix everything.

Niki: For example, if we don’t have a vision for life. If it’s not clear why am I doing this thing that I’m doing, and it’s not really clear what am I doing and how am I doing it? If those things, if we haven’t made those things clear, then we might have [00:26:00] a very spacious and calm mind, but we don’t necessarily have that robust energy to do it.

Niki: For those two things, I use visualization for to create that, create strong vision about what I’m doing, the big picture vision, but also to create the clarity. That’s what visualization is super useful for. And all this took, I’m adding this to what you were saying, because I think that was really good description of a person who needs to go on that level of performance.

Niki: If they have meditation habit, I know why I’m doing this and what I’m doing, more or less, because we can don’t know everything. Then everybody can remember how it is to be in the flow state, which is almost like you are in some way you aren’t even there. It’s just a very clear space. And even problems don’t appear as problem.

Niki: It’s just like immediately the brain is figuring out how to work with it. 

Rob: Just on that point I’ve meditated and I can feel like a great peace and you can feel clarity and ideas and better quality thinking. Visualization is something I know sports [00:27:00] people always say, you need to visualize, it’s something I’ve never, maybe it’s because I’ve undeveloped it but it’s not something I’ve ever found any success with.

Rob: And when I’ve whenever I’ve listened to a guided meditation, it just irritates me. Leave me alone, let me just have quiet. So I don’t know if I’m missing something. 

Niki: Visualization is one form of meditation. There’s so many different meditations. It’s what are we needing at the moment?

Niki: One can think about it in

Niki: this way that meditation, that our mind has two aspects. It has clarity, awareness, like it’s able to be conscious and it’s able to know things. And that part through meditation can become very spacious and stable. Our mind also has expression, it has energy, it has creativity, it has movement.

Niki: And visualization is more to train that part of the mind, the part of the mind that is more responsible for all the content that is going on in the mind, all the stuff that is appearing in the mind. Through visualization, We are learning to direct what’s happening in our mind, to direct what we’re paying [00:28:00] attention to.

Niki: And when people say to me, sometimes when people say that visualization doesn’t work for me and I often ask them have you ever thought about a future scenario and being stressed out about it? And everybody says, yes, of course, we’ve all done that. That is visualization. They’re thinking about a future scenario and they feel emotions about it.

Niki: It’s just, there’s a lot better ways to use visualization. Visualization, I think is really good for productivity. Focus on things like that, for example, how I use it is if I’m even, let’s say having this meeting with you, then I don’t spend a lot of time with it, but yesterday evening, I was still relaxed by my bed and just who do I want to be there?

Niki: What do I want to remember? Yeah, I want to remember that there’s an audience that I’m serving that what are some topics that you might be talking about, not, okay, what will I say, but just plant some seeds. For example, just yesterday with one client, she’s going into potentially challenging conversations.

Niki: Then we did have a visualization of a let’s [00:29:00] go there. How do you want to feel like confident? Okay. What does it feel like? Do you remember, like, how does it feel like to be confident? in the body. And then we get her into that emotion and then asking her, how would you behave from that emotion?

Niki: Because the main thing with visualization from brain perspective is that When we are embodied in the visualizer, when we imagine that we are doing something, then limbic brain is attaching emotion to that behavior and motivation. When we detach ourselves and we look at ourselves from outside, okay, how does it look like when you are there?

Niki: How are you behaving and talking? Then the, especially neocortex and frontal lobe, they will map our behavior into the emotion. So it’s really creating this. image about ourselves and behavior that has emotion and clarity. So that’s what visualization is really good for. And there is 3 percent of human population that have been called afantasia, which is that they literally don’t, they don’t see [00:30:00] images.

Niki: And one more thing that I’ll, and this hopefully it answers the question is, of course, It’s not that we see things the same way as we see now, but if we close our eyes, and if I would ask, imagine someone you really love or like, how do they look like, or imagine chocolate ice cream, we can see that in, but just in a bit different way.

Niki: So it’s not about creating a real image like how our eyes see it. Hopefully that gives some light to visualization. 

Rob: Obviously I do preempt things and visualize what they’re going to be like, but I think it’s more, I don’t want to be directed and I want to do that.

Rob: I don’t know. I’ve never really consciously I’d rather get on and work towards it. rather than visualize what it’s going to be like, . 

Niki: Now let me add there something really important. Based on our tendencies and what we want, then there are different meditations.

Niki: There are meditations that are super simple and you are just focused on breathing. And for a person who has a [00:31:00] mind that can do that, that their mind is not super busy and active naturally, those are really great meditations for them. Actually, the more simple the meditation, the more difficult it is.

Niki: And on some level, that’s not fully true, but then if you have a person, let’s say like me, I have a naturally a lot of ideas and stuff popping up in my mind, then for me, it’s better to do meditation where there is stuff going on that I need to focus on because then it’s playing into my tendency.

Niki: Also if somebody wants to really like. Okay, I want to find more silence and peace and this spaciousness and clarity of the mind. I’m like focused right here and those things are really good and I have my ways then there’s no need to. use visualization or to finish what I’m now trying to say is basically it’s good to use the kind of meditations that work for us.

Niki: If you don’t feel like you want to be guided, which is completely kind of [00:32:00] natural response, then it’s not that you are losing anything. You are not losing anything. It’s just, you are using something that is useful to you. 

Rob: I’ve never consistently significantly meditated, but I can meditate. And I do from time to time but I do notice obviously like All of us are trying to find answers, and I do remember there coming a time where I just became aware of there was silence in my head, like all the voices that had switched off.

Rob: So I do have the ability to focus. Obviously I still get distracted and things still come to mind, but I do, I like silence. And I can’t work if there’s any noise, like I’ve been in a co working place and people are talking, I can’t go to a coffee shop and really focus. So yeah any noise can irritate me quite easily.

Rob: In the time that we’ve got left to be able to answer. I’d be interested in your journey in leadership, but also I think people in leadership have we talked about it’s such a difficult job, so many different things and the growth that’s [00:33:00] needed and the stability and the ability to keep your ego out of things is so challenging that I think anyone in any kind of leadership position needs this kind of balance. So if you could speak from your experience and how you help leaders. 

Niki: Okay. So let’s see if this is useful. So how I work with myself and how I work with leaders is first exactly what you’re saying to understand that it is really, it is a challenging job and why is it a challenging job?

Niki: And I think this is really useful for the listeners to really imagine and see themselves in this test. When we are in a leadership position first there is we ourselves, and we, in, when we are leading people let’s not even go there yet, but even within ourselves, there are contradicting priorities, there are expectations towards ourselves, there are all kinds of unconscious things about how we want to be seen, how we don’t want to be seen, and that’s already a lot to deal with.

Niki: And [00:34:00] so that’s the first layer you are already operating from a place that is, it is very complex, can be very complicated. Now add to there that there’s a layer around you, where’s your team and your team has expectations conscious or unconscious towards us. And then there is. What is expected from us and our team, the goals, the results, and that might involve our superiors people above us and all kinds of things.

Niki: That’s where we are in that. That’s really worth recognizing and saying to ourselves, Hey. It is not an easy position to be, and the main thing that I eventually had the courage to do, because my difficulty was other people’s emotions, 

Niki: I would internalize them, which many leaders do, and I would feel guilty about it. And that creates a very difficult scenario because As leaders, we sometimes need to make decisions or we are actually all the time doing something somebody can be or will be [00:35:00] bothered by. Especially if we’re in situation where in between our boss, the results that are expected and those are in contradiction with who we are, what our values are, and with the team like to be in that scenario is like almost impossible to find a peace.

Niki: Yet it is from peace that we can actually operate in that and to bring a bit of science here. 

Niki: So when we are in the center of all that, and when we are stressed or worried, when we are not relaxed, our brain works in a very specific way.

Niki: It works from the belief or perception that there’s a threat. a problem that needs to be removed because I don’t want to experience this emotion. The problem with that is in a leadership position or life in general is that it makes us see literally. It makes us to perceive events people and things that either they are causing more stress or they are a tool or a [00:36:00] way to get out of the stress, or there are none of those, so they can be ignored.

Niki: From physiological perspective, it means that the blood flow of the brain starts to focus on more of the survival parts. The body starts pushing blood into our arms and into our hands, which means that our perception of the world also demonizes the very short term. How do I get rid of this problem?

Niki: The world appears as this narrowed down problems that need to get rid of. We will not have a lot of energy because there’s too much cortisol that the body needs to be cleaning up. We literally lose ability to be empathetic. The reason why leaders sometimes push a lot of stress and pressure in their team is because they see their team as a way out of that stress.

Niki: If my team performs well, we get the results and I can relax, but of course not a conscious thing, but that also works other way around. I don’t want to demand anything from my team. I don’t want to be honest with my team. That’s because then I get stressed about their emotions, but basically to mainly [00:37:00] to understand that.

Niki: And even that it’s not because we are stupid or our brain is stupid. It’s a scene that the brain is really thinking that there’s a lion in this room and I better get quickly out of there. I’ll get eaten. It’s not thinking like strategic views or empathy because it’s not what it’s aim is to get quickly rid of the problem out of there.

Niki: And when we are relaxed, not only will we have a lot more energy, but a lot of the ego things fall off. We don’t need to be seen as useful because we feel content inside. We will be able to actually understand and see people because there’s enough blood going into our frontal lobe. So we are able to be empathetic, are able to think details and big picture and connections.

Niki: I would say always with the people that I work with, the first thing is let’s get you into a state that is relaxed, that is really aligned with what’s important to you in this role. And then maybe you can help your team to get in the same position. 

Niki: If I would only say in two or [00:38:00] three sentences for leaders, Find first like inner stability and then start operating from there because before that it’s a very messy thing to try to operate in it.

Niki: There’s too much things that can seem to can go wrong. And they are trying to create something that is not really possible. And one more thing to your point, because I think it’s so important, especially these days to leaders to realize that, yes, look, like you are also a human. It is a difficult position.

Niki: This might be a controversial thing to say, but I see this a lot in the workplace dynamics. You are not a parent to children. Like your team is not kids, they’re adults. Even if that also happens quite a bit, often leaders are subconsciously seen as some kind of, they should be perfect parents.

Niki: That happens a lot in the workplace unfortunately. It was really when I was in the second leadership course that I did facilitator had this very subtle, interesting moment where he talked about how people, how, what does it mean when people go [00:39:00] first? And then he said, but of course, leaders and managers are not people.

Niki: And then he was quiet for a while. And that, I like exactly, it’s like. Leaders are not easily seen as that they are also humans.

Rob: I think that is so true. You see so many things about bad leaders and the statistics of people who lose their jobs because of bad leaders and the impact that can have. But I think it’s asking so much of someone. Yeah that’s such a great point that I don’t think I’ve never heard anyone make that before, but it’s really powerful reframe. 

Rob: Because it puts into perspective what we’re asking. We’re asking people to be super human. Yes. And anyone, whatever job you do, there’s going to be some that are great, some that are terrible and most are just fairly good at what they do. So I love what you’ve talked about because that’s exactly the kind of thing that I do in conflict.

Rob: The first stage is finding calm and however that is, because the big problem [00:40:00] that people have with conflict. So my work is relationships and the big work, the big problem where relationships break is conflict. Conflict stops communication. The lack of communication creates a lack of connection where people think negatively things of each other, they get become more suspicious, lack trust.

Rob: And it all comes down to the fact that. evolutionary conflict, historically or, way back in cave man times, conflict was a different tribe or a different species. And so when someone’s different in any way, you think they’re not like me, there’s immediately a threat. And so when there’s a conflict, so husband and wife, typically, when they become challenged, they have children or something, and they have different point of view.

Rob: It’s this is not the person I thought it was. I thought we had the same values. I thought we wanted the same thing. And it’s a very human thing. That if you look at religion, so Buddhism has over 30, 000 denominations of Buddhism and it’s because people have had this split.

Rob: Christianity has over 30, 000 denominations. It’s because as humans, we can agree about the big [00:41:00] picture, but the longer we’re together, the more we talk, the more points of conflict and difference we’re going to find. And though there’s moves for diversity and inclusion, that’s not how people are evolutionally programmed.

Rob: We’re programmed to be tribal. And so like you say, that any kind of difference makes people feel threatened, which brings in the fight or flight response. And like you say, people don’t have access to their brain. They’re operating in the reptilian brain. Yes. Or even if they’re not threatened, though probably more acting from their limbic brain, which is the emotion of the guilt of other people, how other people are feeling as this goes. Whereas really what we need to do is if we’ve joined together as a collective to achieve something, we need to be focused on the thing. Our bond together is on whatever the purposes of the group that we formed.

Rob: So we need to transcend both the fear and the obligations and responsibilities to the emotions of other people. And we need to be able to make those decisions, which means that [00:42:00] we need to be in that heightened state. Isn’t it? 

Niki: Yes. And such amazing things there. And actually to continue what you were saying or add to it is that in the past, let’s say a hundred years, but especially the last 50 years, not to mention the past decades is The religious communities in the West more or less have disappeared, or that it’s certainly not a strong thing anymore, while over a hundred years ago, that’s where people got together.

Niki: People are a lot more disconnected from other people, their communities, friends, families. And now, since especially in the West so driven, we are attaching so much our self worth and value into how we are doing at work, is that we are bringing in the workplace like impossible dynamics, like the workplace should be like, It should be family therapy purpose, like it should be able to give everything but it’s not able to do it.

Niki: It doesn’t even need to be able to do it. So I think [00:43:00] that’s one of the things that is very difficult in workplace as I mentioned already and to my understanding along the lines of you are saying that it’s like the dynamics are just impossible. There are a lot of children, parent dynamics. The leaders are supposed to respond like how difficult it is to manage our own emotions.

Niki: To be in harmony with ourselves is a huge task. I don’t know if any of us, I know there are people, but to be 100 percent in harmony with ourselves is an amazing achievement. What about when there are two people? What about when there’s 10 people and one person is supposed to be responsible for the harmony of the 10 people?

Niki: It’s it is impossible task. So I think that conversations about leadership ideally would have a lot more balance around it is a collaboration between the leader and the team. It’s too much responsibility at the moment on the leader side. 

Rob: Absolutely. My theory is that a leader is like the container for the group.

Rob: It’s the one that keeps the group and moves the group together best. [00:44:00] And I don’t think the leader should have to have the answers. The leader should be the one who can get the answers. The ideas and Innovations can come from anyone. My job is just to create the atmosphere get people working in the same direction and to coordinate and support that.

Rob: The more that the team can work together. So this is why I feel everyone needs to know how to build good relationships, how to deal with conflict. And then the other part which is, I think individually, we need to be stable before we can, because otherwise, when people are unstable, they’re looking for something from the group, they’re draining energy for their own, what they want, to be recognized, to be validated, to be sympathetic, whatever it is.

Rob: And all of that is taken away from the team. 

Niki: Exactly. Yeah. Like you said, and then what are relationships other than communication? And then if that communication, which is in some way, everything is communication, even when we don’t do something, we are communicating something.

Niki: But if we can understand exactly what you said, [00:45:00] relationship communication, and then it’s coming from a stable place, Then we are in a good place to operate from. 

Rob: To finish up, so a leader or someone who’s stressed in their work, if you could give them three to five general tips of what 

Niki: to do. Yes. Three, three things Really make it clear to yourself, what is the importance of being a leader to every area of your life? 

Niki: How is it impacting your wellbeing? How is it impacting? 

Niki: How do you want it to impact other people? How do you want it to impact all the different areas of life?

Niki: Why do you want that impact? 

Niki: What and why am I saying that is that dopamine is directly connected to meaning and purpose. When we go out to work and we really emotionally feel that there’s purpose, and we are curious and it’s interesting and growing, then dopamine gives us energy and resilience. The amazing thing about dopamine is that it blocks cortisol from attaching into the body.

Niki: By the way, of course, we need cortisol we die without it, but too much cortisol attaches to the body. The body needs to wash it out and it doesn’t have time to [00:46:00] regenerate more energy. Without that, there’s no real direction. There’s not enough dopamine. Second thing is have some sense for the longterm month, week, and daily what am I doing, how we will be doing it.

Niki: And because then we are connecting what I’m doing today is connected to my long term vision. That means that I can relax because what I’m doing right now here is important. It’s taking me where I want and I have some image in my mind about what to do today and definitely don’t try to do too much. 

Niki: I would say most people try to do in a week they are trying to do months worth of work in a week, and it doesn’t work. And why I’m saying this is a plan that supports the vision, is because then we have more serotonin. And serotonin allows us to not only calm down, but we can choose behaviors. So we are not so reactive to things. We are not falling into impulses and distractions, because we’ve given ourselves a path, an [00:47:00] image, a vision, and we’re given our steps towards that.

Niki: And then, of course, we’ll move towards that, because it’s clear that we want to go. If we don’t have that, nothing, not many of the other things will matter because our mind will be all the time, looking for something, wondering about something, trying to protect against something, trying to hold on to something.

Niki: And that’s a very distracted, reactive life. And then as a third thing to have a ritual, a routine. A practice that really allows us to get into that mental state, but also something that we know that like for me, it’s not the only meditation, but running. When I struggled with my business a lot on the financial front, it was very difficult, but always helped me at least I’ll be running in the forest, come up with some new ideas and come back for us, like something that we can rely on something consistent.

Niki: Like when you have those three things as a leader, then. Then things then we’ll be in the right state and very likely we’ll be, because the interesting thing about dopamine is that it [00:48:00] sparks up more curiosity and curiosity, of course, makes us all the time better asking questions or wondering about things, learning new things.

Niki: So those would be my three things to focus on. 

Rob: Okay. Thank you. And if someone was looking to go deeper what actually would it look like working with you? 

Niki: Oh, first when we both meet, we’ll have one hour session where I really understand clearly the present situation. What are the challenges?

Niki: What is it they don’t? What is it that they want to change? And then go into why do you want to change those? How do you want life to look like? Who do you want to be? What’s the gap at the moment? And then I’ll ask the person, if you were to work with me what three things would you need to gain from it?

Niki: That it would be truly worth the investment, that it would be valuable. And then I will honestly say, if I can help them with that, it’s means I need to believe in them and I need to see that I can help with them. And I will always tell the people that this we can do because if this is possible, this possible because of this.

Niki: But for example, sometimes people might say, [00:49:00] I want to double my salary in three months. And I say, I really can’t promise because I don’t know where you are at the moment. And from there I’ll build a program for that specific person based on the experience. And also I am certified neuroscience based coach.

Niki: So I know how to build the program in a way that it actually fits that person and it’s one to one coaching. 

Rob: And if someone wants you to find out a bit more. 

Rob: LinkedIn is the best 

Niki: place. That’s where I’m active. LinkedIn.

Rob: Okay. That’s been fascinating. 

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