The SCARF model was developed by neuroscientists to frame and address the responses of threat and reward.

Research and findings in social neuroscience, and the potential negative response in challenging situations, has resulted in practical, impactful and sustainable solutions. These are more relevant now than ever before.

These studies reveal that the body’s neurological, physical and emotional responses when facing a life or death situation, or when under other forms of physical threat, are similarly experienced when our personal or professional lives are under sudden, heightened and/or extended degrees of change or stress.

This model comprises of 5 domains which are listed below indicating how they specifically relate to the COVID-19 threat that we are currently experiencing.

Status

This is our perceived position in relation to others in terms of importance. This can be impacted in various ways during COVID-19:

  • losing our position of influence
  • being unable to assert our status when working remotely
  • by not having all the aspects and representations of status present as we would have in our normal work scenario.

Certainty

This is defined as our ability to predict our immediate future. This is impacted by various factors, such as uncertainty about our jobs, the economy and how the well-being and that of our families will be affected by this.

There is little or no clarity of how long this will carry on for and what our world will be like when this eventually passes.

Autonomy

Autonomy is our ability to make our own choices and to be in control. This is severally felt by the lockdown and associated restrictions that were not of our to choosing.

  • How are our choices and freedom reduced due to these restrictions?
  • What can we do to improve each of our situations?
  • Having not chosen this we can easily feel like victims.

Relatedness

This reflects how we value the acceptance of ourselves by others as well as our sense of connection with and being part of one or more groups. Being socially distant can lead to being isolated. However, every person can potentially be a threat of infection for us and us in turn for them.

  • Will we be accepted by others if we become sick?
  • What can we do to keep our sense of connection with others – particularly if we are remote from some of our loved ones during this time?

Fairness

Each one of us is affected differently by this. Some businesses have increased sales due to the epidemic. Some will not survive and many will struggle.

  • Is this fair?
  • Am I losing my livelihood because of anything that I have done or mistakes made by me?
  • How can something that started on the other side of the planet so negatively and profoundly affect my life?

In the future, successful and significant leaders will be highly aware of how they are influencing the brain function and chemistry of others. We share this framework of future leadership which gives stakeholders a heightened sense of awareness of how they act and the influence this has on others, which in turn will increase the social awareness of the group.

Providing insight and understanding of the effects of stress on the brain and how best to introduce and manage change is needed now more than ever.

The 8 Elements for Purposeful Drive are simple enough for anyone to use. It is an effective tool due to its ability to clarify thoughts and personal strategies.

As the year draws to a close, it is often the time for reflecting and planning.

On that note, reflecting and planning should be an ongoing process and not be limited to one time in the year, so whether you decide to use this tool now, later or every month, that is really up to you.

How it works.

The 8 Elements for Purposeful Drive are described below. Consider each one and rate your current position in relation to where you are. A score of 0 would indicate you have not started or perhaps neglected an element and a score of 10 would indicate that you have achieved all your goals in that area so far.

  1. Spiritual

This is not related to religion but rather questions how much joy you have in your life. For some, that means spending time in nature, being artistic or reading a book. For others, it could be the time in prayer and meditation or taking a yoga class.

This is something you do to feed your soul.

  1. Intellectual

When the mind stops learning and problem solving, it is at risk of premature ageing and mental atrophy. However, too much intellectual stimulation can be exhausting and draining and may take away from other areas of life. It is up to you to determine what is too much and what is not enough. During periods of exams or studies this element spikes and can often become our only focus. In cases like this, consider element 8.

  1. Physical

The same applies to the physical aspect. This includes exercise and movement, but more importantly, strength, endurance and flexibility. Again, too much and you’ll deplete yourself, not enough and you take away from the other elements due to lack of energy and vitality.

  1. Family/Relationships

Not all of us are social butterflies but our connection with people is important to our wellbeing. Ask yourself, “Am I making time for the people I love?”

Something to consider here is the difference between seeing people out of obligation and investing the time because you want to nurture the relationship. Do not do something if it’s not serving you or if there’s peer pressure.

  1. Business/Career

This constitutes your work goals and aspirations. It also allows you to consider whether you’re giving your best, have the right attitude towards your job and if you are remaining marketable.

  1. Financial

The key to financial wellbeing is education. The better informed you are the better your money decisions will be. There are many excellent resources to up your financial savvy, help you get out of debt, or guide you in investment decisions. ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki, is an essential read for everyone at any age. A local book to consider is ‘Use Some Common Cents to Build Financial Independence’ written by Chris Sloane, a tax consultant and specialist based in Bryanston. This book was reviewed by Bruce Witfield’s Money Show on 702 in April this year.

  1. Social Investment

This is the element that connects us to our environment and community and asks, “What am I doing to give back?”.

This can include giving of our time, giving of our money through donation, supporting a cause, helping a neighbour or planting a tree.

Helping others through empathy and love has proven to reduce depression and anxiety.

  1. Rest/Restoration

I have purposefully left this for last as it is the most important element. We cannot give from an empty cup and yet many of us are. Performance at work is directly related to wellbeing. If we are rested we are in a far better position to make smart decisions and to think clearly. Taking time out is vital and often overlooked or outright dismissed. What’s important to remember is that rest and restoration are all about your preference. If you get it from TV games, a night out, alone time, the beach, the bush, a book, a glass of wine or a dance class, who’s to tell you you’re wrong.

Discover for yourself what you need for self-replenishment, and then permit yourself to do it.

The Score.

Once you have established your baseline score for each element, you can make changes where necessary by asking 4 questions about any or all of the elements:

“What do I need to…”

  1. Do more of
  2. Do less of
  3. Start doing
  4. Stop doing

By writing down your results and plans, you’ll have a far higher success rate. There is more efficient stimulation to the brain by seeing something on paper than keeping it in your thoughts. Thoughts, much like data, can easily become corrupted, erased or lost.

Last points.

Not all of the elements may be a priority in your life right now, but they all form an integral part of it. The key to a healthy, balanced life is to become consciously aware of all the elements and how they play out in your decision making, planning and doing and ultimately, a purposeful drive.

Neuroscience has given us incredible insight into how our minds and brains work.

We are not our brain. We are just the user of it.

The greater our understanding of it, the better we can use it.

Take neuroplasticity for instance. Simply put, it is the brain’s ability to learn and develop at any age. This is great news for us because it means that learning isn’t exclusively for the youth (but perhaps only for the “young at heart” then).

Neural pathways develop by the constant firing between synapses in the brain. These are electrical charges that send information throughout the nervous system. When these charges happen continuously, a permanent link is formed the way a river is carved out through the land by the consistent force of water.

The opposite is also true. If there is a link that remains unused, the ‘river’ dries out and the connection is broken.

Thus we can physically change our brains through learning and creating habits. The old adage that it takes 21 days to instil a habit is possibly where this came from.

What then does it mean to be able to change our brain?

The possibilities are endless.

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and ensure longevity  – to create new connections or ‘rivers’ in your brain – try incorporating some of these tasks into your daily routine:

  1. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand
  2. Learn how to say “hello” in 5 different languages
  3. Building physical balance is key to a healthy nervous system, so stand on one leg while waiting for the kettle to boil.
  4. Stir your coffee or tea in the opposite direction
  5. Read out loud

The more we can utilise our brains, the better our overall health and wellbeing will be.

“You need to find something you’re passionate about and do that.”
“What legacy are you going to leave?”
“You’re older now, why haven’t you figured it out yet?”
“What are you doing with your life?”
“Set better goals for yourself”

Many people are not born with just one thing that they’re passionate about. Some are made a little differently. They have a diverse range of interests and also tend to move from one to the next.

They try a little bit of this and discover it’s not really their thing, and then move on to the next thing. The aim is not a destination – an ultimate discovery that will prove to be the one thing they’ve been looking for their whole lives, and when it’s found, that is their purpose. This idea is romantic and lures people away from their natural tendency to explore life.

The problem with passion

When people become passionate about something, they give everything they have to it. Their time, money, energy, focus and even sanity. Passion like a fire, it needs to be constantly tended to or else it will die out. And sometimes it does because the energy to sustain it is exhausting. What’s left is reality.

The alternative – a Hummingbird and a Jackhammer

In a public presentation, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray Love) shared a letter she received from a very upset fan. The letter was in reference to a powerful talk she gave about passion and why it is so important to have one.

The letter read as follows, “I have never felt worse about myself than what I do after listening to your talk”, the letter read. “I am in my early 50’s now and have worked very hard and given everything I have to find what my life’s passion is, and I’m sad to say that I do not have one. I have never felt more of a failure than I do right now.”

After receiving that, Elizabeth scrapped all her content and produced an “anti-passion” campaign. She tells a beautiful story about a hummingbird and a jackhammer.

Those who have a burning passion for something are like the jackhammers. They put their heads down, work hard, invest a lot of energy, time and focus into it and tend to make a lot of noise whilst doing so.

Then there are the hummingbirds. They flit around from flower to flower and from field to field sipping the nectar from different types of floras. They don’t favour one flower over another; instead, they enjoy all the varieties. They are curious creatures and therefore often lead rich and wonderful lives because of their vast experiences, interesting journeys and a wide range of skills.

Curiosity opens the doors for new possibilities.

Unlike passion, curiosity doesn’t have a price tag. It is free, honest, pure and available to everyone at any time. Not only is it a great quality to possess, but research has also proven that it has some amazing benefits. It is also one of the three key predictors of academic achievement.

In a study published in 2013 through George Mason University, it was suggested that curious people tend to be:

  • more tolerant of anxiety
  • humorous and playful
  • emotionally expressive
  • non-defensive
  • non-critical.

Curiosity appears to be a force within us that not only enhances learning but opens us up to more positive perspectives and experiences.

According to another study done in 2014 through the Centre for Neuroscience, University of California, our brain chemistry actually changes when we become curious, which helps us to learn and remember information.

Whether you are a determined jackhammer or a curious hummingbird, don’t let mere labels hinder you from living an extraordinary life.

And maybe while you follow your curiosities you will eventually discover your passion.

Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting…” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Nobody said it was going to be easy, or be smooth sailing, or that success was guaranteed.

There are hundreds of thousands of books in the world covering topics such as business, entrepreneurship, success, power, wealth, leadership, influence, branding, and marketing.

The resources that are available and the access to information are abundant and instant. Social media platforms have made global networking easy and convenient. If there is a question, there is certainly an answer; if there is a problem, there is a solution to be found. And yet, despite all of this, there are still major challenges faced by entrepreneurs and business owners.

At the start of any initiative, be it training for a marathon, birthing a new business venture or deciding to get engaged, there tends to be an air of positivity and hopefulness – otherwise, why would one even begin? Excitement, even though a positive emotion, can cause a number of blind spots.

Let’s explore this for a moment.

Michael is training for an ultramarathon; a gruelling 100km trail run along the remote terrain of the Witteberg Mountain range. It is the toughest trail run in South Africa. Runners are expected to navigate the trail themselves with the aid of a map, a compass or a GPS unit. There are no refuelling points along the way to fill up on food and water, so each runner must take a full supply of what they need to sustain themselves whilst taking note of how additional weight will affect endurance levels. They are also running at a height of between 2200-2500 meters above sea level.

In preparation for this, he has spent the last 9 months working closely with sports nutritionists, performance coaches, trainers and previous ultramarathon winners. He also has past experience to assist him, having a huge passion for endurance sport since he was a child having spent the greater part of his teen years at competitions and races across the country. He is fit – mentally, emotionally and physically – and ready to pursue his dream of finishing this race.

The race starts at 4am and the participants have 30 hours to complete the race. With the best intentions and armed with a positive mind-set, Michael starts off well and continues strong for the first 25km. After the 30km mark he starts to notice a pain in his shin and a cramp developing in his shoulder from a previous injury. This slows him down substantially but he carries on. A few more kilometres into the race he slips on some rocks and falls hard on his hands and knees. This further aggravates his injuries. During the fall, one of his water canisters crack and he loses half of his water supply.

The race has now become more of a mental challenge for him as he struggles just to keep pace.

A sense of hopelessness and despondency start to rear up and he realises how alone he is out in the wilderness. There is no one else around him. It’s just him and the cold mountains. He knows that the finish line is over 40km away and with very little water left, blisters on his feet, a sharp pain in his leg and a heavy feeling of breathlessness from the lack of oxygen, he sits down on the cold gravelled ground and puts his head in his hands.

It’s at this point where one can justify reasons to give up. Sometimes things are just not worth the pain, struggle and hardship. The alternatives always look more appealing and becoming seduced by them is easy. As he sits there, he can feel his heart pounding, his ears ringing and his muscles throbbing. In this moment he takes a deep breath and remembers the reason he started this journey: to embrace the adventure that is life.

Manage expectations

At what point did you think it was ever going to be easy?

Things will get tough. There may be a time of prosperity and there may be a time of recession, nothing can be guaranteed. What makes the difference between a pro-sportsperson, a great entrepreneur or a business leader and the rest is their resilience and absolute tenacity to see through the struggles and trials, no matter what. The key is not to fall into any illusions of security or predictability.

Redefine things

What does success look like for you?

The way to rise above any situation is to reframe the thoughts and language around it. Emotions are, after all, just a physical response to a story created in the mind.

If your idea of success is just about being ahead of others, you will definitely not explore the full potential of who you are.

Let it go

When things get hard, (and they will) how will you keep your head above the water?

Learn the art of detachment. Detachment does not mean carelessness or not being fully present. It means not obsessing or holding on too tight. Have a plan and a goal and then let it go so that there is room for adaptability and agility; two things that are essential to survival in today’s world.

And above all else, just keep going!

Never before has so much information been available to us and so much learning and discovery being made. Yet all of it collectively constitutes what would be a tiny fraction of how much we don’t know – and don’t know that we don’t know.

We rush from year to year, with bolder resolutions of personal shift and change, whilst working in an increasingly demanding world that wants more to be done with less and within shorter timespans.

We are expected to make decisions extemporaneously. These decisions can be critical ones and have to be made without having had the opportunity to interrogate and calibrate the full array of criteria.

This is often exacerbated by the absence of a clear set of plans or goals and we then do so on the basis of face value in a framework of avoiding loss or making a gain.

Our brains are programmed to have twice the propensity to avoid loss or respond to fear and threat than pursuing something meaningful or positive.

A big step in the right direction is to foster our inner child.  Not only to reflect on it or ponder on memories – which for some may be blurry and difficult to go back to the early days in our lives.

The reality is that our inner child is still at the core of our being, and we need to step into that space and entertain the magic of its curiosity, creativity, spontaneity, sheer passion for life and most importantly the natural pursuit to love and be loved.

At the heart of true love, we find the origins of mercy which we can build upon. It is a quintessential quality, which helps define great character, particularly in the current times of increasing paradox, uncertainty, and social polarisation and prolific demonization that prevails.

It is easy to sit upon the seat of judgement – often in the hope of directing focus away from our foibles and sub-standard performance – and blame individuals or groups who are different from who we are.

Ponder on the realisation that we all have the same blood, flowing through our veins – categorised as types A, B, AB and O (positive or negative). At the heart of each of us, lies the longing to travel through life building relationships of love and trust with our families and friends, and imparting value and contribution to this profoundly amazing life and the world.

Let us pause and embrace our inner child and become at one with the authentic and unabridged people we are and can become, and encourage and respect that in those around us.

It’s a choice, let’s choose well.

The month of February has arrived. There is no escape from the flood of marketing and the ostentatious displays of objects that aim to represent a concept immensely complex, messy and often misdiagnosed.

Love.

“If it is conditional, it is not love.”
– Jagadish Vasudev

Not loving is much simpler and far less complicated.

It means not having to answer to anyone, not having to be sensitive to the needs of others and not having any restrictions.
In a way, it is complete freedom.
The idea does appeal.

Why would we want this mysterious force in our lives? There is no logic to it. We cannot prove it, contain it, or even explain it and yet, the capitalist world we live in thinks it can be sold in the form of various objects of affection. We are encouraged, and perhaps in some cases coerced, into spending our hard-earned credit on items that cannot touch the depths and complexities of one of the least understood forces in the universe.

To try to understand love is near impossible. However, to experience love and to fall into its enchanting world is as easy as reaching out and touching the air. Once love has taken its hold, there is very little chance of getting free without a struggle.

Never has there been a more mind-blowing, sense-distorting, heart-aching, stomach-churning, spine-tingling sensation than that of love. It is calm yet chaotic, mad yet perfectly sensible.

Love can seem like an alien emotion.

It almost doesn’t fit into the world – and yet, it is the only thing whereby humans can create beauty.

In the words of a song…

“I’ll be your dream, I’ll be your wish, I’ll be your fantasy.
I’ll be your hope, I’ll be your love, be everything that you need.
I love you more with every breath, truly madly deeply do
I will be strong, I will be faithful ’cause I’m counting on a new beginning.
A reason for living. A deeper meaning.”
‘Truly Madly Deeply’ by Savage Garden

In the words of a poem…

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

…And when words aren’t enough to fully express our love, we build monuments and create beautiful pieces of art.

Love will find a way.

You can try to run from it, or hide from it, perhaps you can even outright deny it, but one thing that is known about love is that it is the bridge that connects everyone and everything. Once you’ve experienced this magical connection, life becomes far richer and more meaningful. This is due to love’s amazing ability to break down the walls we build for ourselves.

This Valentine’ Day, consider the ways of expressing love to those closest to you and around you. Open up to the endless possibilities and opportunities that come with falling in love, being in love, making love, accepting love, appreciating love, giving love and, ultimately, exemplifying love.