We've been talking about mindset in the recent episodes lets take a deep dive even further and go right into the mental strength game. Join me on this next episode with Dr. Jannell MacAulay. There isn't enough room to list all of her accolades. We're gonna get into how to build and maintain mental strength in high stress situations.
In this snippet of the Modern Lending Podcast...
- Mental Strength is not a soft skill
- What is a mental push up and are you doing them enough
- Mindfulness and how to attain it.
- How often does your mind wander?
[Alec] What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Modern Lending Podcast live. I'm your host, Alec Hanson. And we are going to be talking today to Dr. Jannell MacAulay. Now, before I bring her on and introduce her, I'm just really excited to get to connect to her. I mean, this is the power of digital communities. A friend of a friend connects me to this amazing woman who's doing such amazing things. And we have this great Zoom call and I'm like, "dude, we need to get you on my podcast cause what you're teaching and leading, man, people need to hear about mindfulness and mindset and the power of strengthening our own mental fortitude. And man in our business today, mortgages don't we need some of that?" So let's rock and roll. Without further ado, let's bring on Dr. Jannelle MacAulay.
[Alec] Hey, hey, we're live.
[Dr. MacAulay] Hey!
[Alec] Jannelle thank you for doing this.
[Dr. MacAulay] So excited to be here with you, Alec, thanks so much for having me.
[Alec] Absolutely, I mean, this is privilege for me, I mean, you're well before I dive into all your accolades and craziness, let me give you the stage for a couple minutes to kind of introduce yourself, share some of your background cause I know we're gonna talk about some powerful stuff today.
[Dr. MacAulay] We are, we're gonna hopefully dive a little deep into just mindset, brain chemistry, psychological performance. I think it'll be, hopefully really interesting to all your listeners out there. I grew up in Southern California, and I was part of a family of public servants. So my dad was a police officer, my mom was a nurse, I had an uncle that was a marine and flew Marine One for President Reagan. Both my grandfather's were Marines. And so I kind of always had this calling for public service and serving my community in some way. And I used to go to the air shows with my uncle,
[Dr. MacAulay] and between that and my dad used to do this thing where, he would literally tell anyone that would listen that I was gonna grow up to be a combat pilot, or a submarine warfare commander.
[Alec] So you had that like put in back then?
[Dr. MacAulay] Oh, yes, oh, yes, like and this was early 80s. Like those jobs, like women couldn't do at that time. And I didn't know that there was like a young seven, eight, nine year old and he would just repeatedly say this, and I would watch these strangers faces as they would like light up and be like, "wow, is that what you're gonna do when you grow up?" And so it just, I never really realized that there were societal barriers on me as a woman when I was growing up, I just thought,
[Alec] Of course.
"Gosh, I wanna do something that's bigger than me, that and serve some type of higher purpose." I always just had that thought. And I kind of fell in love with the idea of aviation and serving in the military. And it was going against everything and all the stereotypes for me, as I was a baton twirler and a cheerleader when I was growing up, and I think it shocked a lot of my friends that I would consider, going into the military.
[Dr. MacAulay] Just, which just goes to show you like how powerful messaging is. With what, we how we what we say to our children, and.
[Alec] That's incredible.
[Dr. MacAulay] Like the vision we have for them. And when we're young, we don't know enough to have those visions for ourselves. And so kind of our parents responsibility to help cultivate those dreams and build the, a possibility for the future. And so my dad was really, really good about that. And then, my family kind of instilled, this idea of going into the military. And once I was there, I'm not gonna lie, it was tough. Like the academy,
[Alec] I bet.
[Dr. MacAulay] is where I went. And it was a challenge. But, the greatest thing about it is that I met these amazing people that were all going through the same challenging experience with me. And, it really has made me who I am today, and I spent 20 years in the military, flying combat.
[Alec] That's incredible. That's really incredible.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yeah.
[Alec] I mean, and that's, I mean, first of all, you're way too young to have spent 20 years in the military. Like there's just no way, but I mean, a combat veteran, 20 year Air Force pilot caught up I mean, this is incredible like that's gotta be intense.
[Dr. MacAulay] It was intense. And it actually led me to where I am today, because it was so intense and I had this super drive, and grit, and commitment, that my dad had instilled in me when I was younger, to like really tough it out and get to yes. When someone said no, I found another way to get to yes to what my dreams come true, or what I knew was the right thing to do in the certain situations and it was not without adversity, challenge, struggle especially being a female in a male dominated career field, that had its challenges. But what I
[Alec] I like how you just like just gloss that over like, "I had challenges." Like I'm pretty sure it was hard, like really difficult but okay, you brush it off.
[Dr. MacAulay] Well, I think it's all perspective, And the problem that I grew up with, or as I was kind of going through this career field is, I didn't see many people like me, in senior positions. And so to really build, like this vision for what I could do was difficult amidst, these, these senior leaders that were all either, mostly male, or they were women but they didn't have families and I wanted a family I was, I got married fairly young, and we waited about 10 years to have kids. But when that happened, I knew I wanted to be a mom and I knew I wanted to have a career, and I never felt like I had to choose. But I did feel that pressure to constantly do it all and have it all. I don't think my husband who is also a military officer, really felt those same pressures. And partly it was because of how I was brought up with just this competitive type A personality of not giving up, but also I think that a lot of times as women, we have that, that pressure of like, "well, if you wanna have this career, and you wanna have, the family, like you have to be badass and everything all the time." And that's challenging. And that's actually where I hit a brick wall. And it was right around the same time the Air Force was sending me back to school. So it was kind of perfect timing. And I remember sitting there thinking, "Okay, I'm going back to school, I'm gonna get a PhD, what do I wanna study?" And I looked at myself, I looked around at my peers and the people that I led, and I was like, "we all struggle with the same thing. And that's how to accelerate our professional success without having to sacrifice ourselves and in particular, health and our relationships along the way." That's really what I wanted to kind of dive in and understand and find a solution for, because I knew it was a necessity for me. I needed that answer.
[Alec] Yeah, so it was convenient.
[Dr. MacAulay] Right, and I looked around and I was like, "gosh, if I could solve this for myself, think of all the other people I can help because I know Many of us struggle with this.' And especially those of us in high stress occupations where split second decision making requires like a real focused and disciplined mind, where lives are on the line, mission sets are on the line. And what I was finding is that those same stressors that I would deal with in a combat environment, other people actually were finding in corporate environments in like the corporate boardroom, or I've even felt the same levels of stress in the carpool lane, to school. And so I wanted to, if I was like, "if I could solve this problem for myself in a combat environment, I can also solve it in my daily life, in my leadership, and then I can help a lot of people in a very universal way."
[Alec] Well, this is and this is really why I'm excited to talk to you today because, the fact that you dove into this space, you have all this high stress experience personally, you're solving this for yourself and same time, I think, solving it for everybody else, hopefully. But right now in our world, and we talked a little about this before we went live, our, we're so stressed. And we're stressed for several reasons. Number one, the industry is on fire. So mortgage rates are at historic lows, which is leading for unprecedented volume. And that causes all the stress of the wheels falling off, cause the machine's not built to handle the load, meaning that the industry just we just, were not enough people. Like, you just, it's just crazy. And so we're managing our customer stress, we're not delivering on expectations, and it's, and then in the midst of that, we're in this pandemic environment, where, we're not, we can't do what we used to do. We can't go on vacations, really, cause they're all, everything's kind of closed. And, we can't hang out, like we used to hang out and gather and there's all this stress on that. I mean, my kids are about to go back to school, except it's my wife, who's the teacher now, basically, at my house, and it's like, there's more stress there. So, let's talk about it. And it's funny like, you said you felt the same stress in the carpool lane. But, I think that the I mean, are there different levels of stress? That, combat stress seems to be like really intense life and death stress, carpool lane stress, might be a little lower.
[Dr. MacAulay] Well, here's the thing about stress, stress is actually a perceived emotion. So it is the way we see the environment around us. And when I say that to people, a lot of times, they'll bring me into their organization, and they're like, "oh, Dr. MacAulay is gonna come in and she's gonna take away our stress." I do not take away anyone's stress, but what I can do is I can help you see your stress in a different way. So there was a point in my life where I only had one child, I was leading a small team, I, had really a burnout. I reached this part, this point in my life where the hustle and the grind can only take us so far. And when stress was applied in my life, all I had to rely on were my survival mechanisms. That's really what our brain does. Is when we're in those situations and because stress is a perceived emotion, someone in the carpool lane can feel like it's life the death. You can feel in a corporate setting, in a boardroom where you're making decisions, and there's deadlines, and profit margins. And those types of things can feel like life and death. And that was the only interesting thing to me as I studied stress, and I studied our capabilities and our performance within stressful and rugged environments. As I was, it really all goes back to our physiology and our stress response. And so it's our perception of how this stress is manifesting its way in our environment in front of us, and how we're seeing our ability to match and measure our resources with the demands. And so many times what happens is that we walk in the face of our brain called the amygdala, is that it's tied to our sympathetic nervous system and it's our emotional center, and normally it is where we perceive things as a threat or a challenge. And then we measure our resources based on our past experiences. And we say, "this moment is too big for me." And that's where our stress ramps up. And most of the time we make an emotional overreaction in those moments. The difference with if you see your stress in a different way, when the thought gets to the amygdala, we can actually push it to the prefrontal cortex where rational decision making happens. And instead of having an emotional overreaction, we can actually have a rational response to whatever is, the stimuli in our environment. And so.
[Alec] But that sounds like work, that sounds like I have to be aware, of what's going on.
[Dr. MacAulay] Exactly, this is why. It does need more work. And it requires a hard work to not only become aware that this is even happening to you, but then also building the psychological skills, so that you can make better decisions in those situations. It is hard work otherwise we would have a world full of emotionally regulated, rational decisions, made by people all over the place, but we don't.
[Alec] No, we do not. So you dive into this problem, which is so relevant today to everybody that's listening right now. Like, it's so relevant. And so let's like, unpack it. Like, what are the skills that people can be planning and working on? What is the awareness they can be trying to figure out like, let's unpack it. I'd love to just start digging into, like, I'm a very tactical person. Like, if there's a problem, I wanna go solve the problem, like my wife hates that, cause sometimes she just wants to talk. And then I'm like, "let's solve it." And she's like, "stop solving my problem. Like I my problem is I need to talk about I need to get this out." So let's, how do we tackle this thing? Cause it's burying us like, we're just getting it's just a heavyweight. I see a lot of people carrying it. And then to your point, like, there's blow ups, there's people act out, that they call and yell at somebody who's trying to help 'em cause they're frustrated. And it's it's one of those experiences. So how do we deal with this?
[Dr. MacAulay] Exactly, well, you hit the key which was awareness, really we need to cultivate the awareness that this is even happening. Many times, we don't really even get aware of our actions until after we punch the wall. Or after we hit the horn on an angry driver. And most of that, because we spend a lot of time mind wandering, and what I mean by mind wandering is having an off task thought during an ongoing task or activity. And what that means is, you can read a page in a book, you get to the bottom, and then you think to yourself, I don't remember. I want to go back and sometimes you even have to go back five pages, three to five minutes of your time, you were mind wandering and distracted and not paying attention to what was going on right in front of you. And so when you think about how stress manifests itself, there's, a stress curve. It's called the Yorkie Dodson law, and basically there's good stress and there's bad stress. The good stress is called eustress e[Dr. MacAulay]u[Dr. MacAulay]stress. And that is the stress to get your edge. It's the stuff that you need and you want in stressful situations to help you perform at your best. But there's a point on that curve, where it kind of falls and that other side is called distress. Now, when we mind wander, when we're distracted, our mind isn't fantastic at mental time travel, and it usually will take us to negative places where we have these negative thought patterns. And that really tends to push us into distress, where we're not fully focused, we're not fully present. We're distracted by our worries and our stressors, most of which are cognitive elaborations that we've created inside our mind that have no root in reality. We've all
[Alec] So, what do you mean? Like what?
[Dr. MacAulay] So the story you tell yourself about what is happening in your environment. So prime example. This happens in corporate settings all the time, you send an email to someone and they don't respond. What do we do? We tell ourselves a story about why they didn't respond. Most of the time we'll say something like, say Bob was the person that sent, you sent the email to, you're like ,
[Alec] Oh, Bob.
[Dr. MacAulay] "Frickin Bob like, why is Bob not responding my email is Bob mad at me like, Oh my gosh, Bob didn't respond. It was because I put caps, and I thought I was emphasizing a point he thought I was yelling now like."
[Alec] But I, but you put the winky face emoji and like that should have made it good.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yes, that's what we're and we're telling ourselves a stories and we're excusing what, everything that we've done, and because we know our intent behind it, and then we're just using Bob's actions to judge and not Bob's intent cause we don't know it. So we fill in the blanks. Our mind wants to fill in the blanks when we don't have the answers for things.
[Alec] By the way, too. I always I try this, I try to remember this every time I send an email, that the recipient is going to view that email in the mindset they're in at that moment. So if they're in a terrible, if they're upset and angry or just got yelled at or whatever, and they look at the email that, those are the glasses they have on when they read my email. So no matter how many winky and smiley kissy faces I put an emoji thing, they could be like, "just this is terrible." So, but you're right like we do, we make up stories in our head of what we think is happening in the world around us.
[Dr. MacAulay] We do, and if you think of your mind, I like to use the analogy of an iPod. We, need to think and fast forward that's planning for the future. We also need to think and rewind, which is reflecting on the past. But what happens when stress is applied is, when we think and fast forward we start catastrophizing. We start building up these stories, and I like to say the majority of the catastrophes you will experience and your life will only happen inside your mind. They will what really happened to you, but they will feel so real because that's the power of how our mind works. Do the same thing and rewind when we apply stress, we're ruminating ,we're regretting, over the past, we are worried, yeah we're thinking
[Alec] Stewing about the email and why they're not responding, and, or something that happened yesterday with an interaction with an individual, where that individual is probably not even thinking about that story anymore but wonder whooping it.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yeah, for sure. And so it's this whole concept of how our minds work, and how we spend so much time on that iPod, especially in stressful situations, how much time we wander, mind wander. The actual statistic is that we mind wander almost half of our waking moments.
[Dr. MacAulay] So just think about that.
[Alec] Is that the, that's the stat, that's the deal. Half the time we're in makeup land that doesn't exist.
[Dr. MacAulay] Nope, yeah, 46.9% of your day, you're not paying attention to what's going on.
[Alec] That's terrifying.
[Dr. MacAulay] Isn't it?
[Dr. MacAulay] It's crazy. And so and the sad, well, it's not sad, it's scary. The scary thing about it is that most of us go through our days and we don't even realize that that's happening. We don't realize that we see our stress in a different way. We don't realize that we're mind wandering through most of our days. And what happens, and this is what happened to me, and maybe some of your listeners can relate to this, I found myself in a space where I was so about the hard work, the laboring, the accomplishments, the job and the grind.
[Alec] The grind.
That I forgot how to laugh. And I was so busy trying to be perfect in everything that I did, I lost sight of the fact that, imperfections is how we grow. I couldn't see the love that was around me. And it was because I was living my life on this fast forward and rewind this iPod, stressful moments, to stressful moment, to stressful moment. And, we and the story I was telling myself was, "as soon as I'm done with this degree, then I'll find time taking care of myself. As soon as I'm done with this high stress job or project I will start to pay attention to my family."
[Alec] By the way, right now, there are mortgage professionals out there who are like, "as soon as this refinance boom kind of ends, then I'll do blank." Whether it's their health, their family, absolutely, you're nailing what everyone's going through right now.
[Dr. MacAulay] We all do it. And we make these deals, write these stories in our heads and these deals. But what happens is as soon as that crisis is over, that, intense moment, another one is right behind it, they will always be there. And in the meantime, your mind wandering through your life, you are missing, I like to say the spaces in between, is where we find joy. The spaces in between is, where there's learning where there's growth, where there's opportunity to excel and be great.
[Alec] Okay, so now I'm aware that half of my time is spent on fake things that don't exist. How do we carve some of that back? Like, what are the things we can do to start reclaiming our life a little bit?
[Dr. MacAulay] Well, there are is a cutting edge skill. And I like to make this analogy, if I were to tell you, "hey, Alec, how do you build physical strength?" You would, probably tell me how I can, do push ups, or I can run, or I can some type of physical activity, to build my physical strength. And we have a common cultural understanding today that physical strength can, and physical training can build our flexibility, our agility and our endurance. If I asked you, "how do you build mental strength?" Many people might be like, "well, I'm not exactly sure how to do it, or I don't even know if it is a thing." We're still kind of in a cultural space where that's not necessarily a given that we do physical push ups, and we do our mental push ups.
[Alec] But I mean, you would agree. It's hard to see. Like, if I look at somebody who's physically strong, I'd be like, "how, what happened, how'd you get there?" And they tell me they did this thing and I'm like, "Okay, well, I can correlate this." You said, "I can't look at somebody and be like, are they mentally strong?" I have no idea.
[Dr. MacAulay] Or are doing those mental push ups? Or like, there it is, it's not as tangible, for everyone to kind of understand and see as we can in the physical space. But I will tell you, it wasn't always like that in the physical space, go running and jogging for exercise was not really a thing. And in fact, if you were to tell someone, "hey, I'm gonna go for a run." They probably would have asked, "why, is someone chasing you?" Like, "Why would you go do that?" That just was an abnormal thing.
[Alec] You're right.
[Dr. MacAulay] But, here's the interesting part. The Air Force actually had an operational necessity to get astronauts into space and fighter pilots to be able to sustain g forces in their new supersonic aircraft, so that was 1960s, and they were not physically fit to do that. And so they turned to this fight surgeon by the name of Dr. Ken Cooper. And they said, "help us out with this." And he is actually known as the father of modern day aerobics.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yes, he came up with this concept of like, if we exercise in a way that we're improving our aerobic capacity in a physical way we can extend that to our job professional space and our operational capacity as a military."
[Dr. MacAulay] So now today, people jog, people run, and there's hundreds of thousands of published articles in this space around that. The interesting fact, at one time, people thought that you only had a certain number of heartbeats. And once you use them all up, like that was the end game.
[Alec] And so people were like, "I'm not running or exercising cause I don't wanna use."
[Dr. MacAulay] Not use those heartbeats. That was a common thought. And so Dr. Ken Cooper was a big proponent of pushing against that and saying "no, like, this is good for us. And this is where we need to go as human beings." And so now fast forward to the current situation with stress with our digital devices that distract us.
[Alec] Or that we just live on?
[Dr. MacAulay] We live on these things.
[Alec] They don't only distract us. They're like, I'm doing these, I ask people all the time, "if you're listening, go ahead and join me on this, you can click that little button that says how much screen time you get per day." In fact, people have that button pop up, and they immediately clicked like, close it down. I don't wanna. Take it away.
[Dr. MacAulay] I don't wanna see that.
[Alec] I mean, and it's going up, like it's not going down. So that's crazy.
[Dr. MacAulay] It is. And the sad part is that it is driving our relationships and our emotions, like our experiences on these digital devices. And they are taking us away from being in the present moment. And that's really what it all comes down to, is like how do you live more in the present moment, cause when you're in the moment, you have awareness. When you're in the moment you see what's going on right in front of you and you have a relationship with it. And but you have to train to that, because everything else draws our attention away from the moment. And if you think like have your attention system like a flashlight. It can be laser focused at what's most prominent in your conscious experience, or it can be laser focused internally at our thoughts, feelings and emotions. And we are high performing when it's in the moment.
[Dr. MacAulay] We are not high performing when we're thinking about those worries and those stressors, and how we're not living up to the expectations that are set before us. So really, it's about training your attention system and building mental strength to live more of your life on the Play button of your iPod, and in that moment, and when you do that, you build awareness. And so the skill set that we're finding to be the most effective for cultivating awareness in present moment attention, is mindfulness. And at its root, it does seem like it's meditation, and I get a lot of feedback. Sometimes people are, especially in high stress occupations like, "this is soft skills, you're just teaching me how to take deep breaths." And Like this, taking deep breaths is easy. Don't get me wrong. We can all take deep breath. The challenge with mindfulness is that you're actually doing mental push ups with your mind. To really disconnect from your thoughts, and just see them for what they are and not have like this, let them have control over your decision making.
[Alec] So yeah, I like that. I like that that picture because, you talk about mental push ups and people are like, "I don't know what that means." And so, I definitely have some questions queued up to ask like, okay, like, "let's get into, like, I show me the form of the mental push up." But then from there, I think that that you're tapping into like the why. And it's to gain control of, and not let an external thing drive you into an emotional response or into some space that you might not wanna go to. And I think there's a lot, I think everyone would agree with that. I think that like as a foundation of a conversation, I think people go like "yes, like I want that too, I want to have more control over my stress, my emotion, my decision making. I want mental strength." And so let's, what is a mental push up?
[Dr. MacAulay] Yeah, exactly what, and what you were just saying in especially, in this current crisis that we're dealing with and in your profession, especially, we need to focus on what we can control. What we can control is our internal environment.
[Dr. MacAulay] We cannot, we, all of us spend so much time trying to control and plan for the external environment.
[Alec] Oh my gosh.
[Dr. MacAulay] We can't, we because we have no control there. But what we do have control is our internal one. So how do we do that? And really, again, mindfulness and these mental push ups help us understand what we can control and what we can't. We see it more clearly, we see our stress more clearly. So I will take you through the mental push ups. So the way that I like to teach them is we need to anchor when we do our mental push ups on something that is in our present moment experience. And so the easiest and most prominent thing is our breath. So a space we can focus in on. And so what I like to tell people though, is that our breath can be rather nebulous. If you just say "hey, focus on your breathing."
[Dr. MacAulay] Pick a particular sensation of your breath. So maybe it's the way the air goes in and out of our nostrils, or the rise or fall of our belly, or chest. But pick that sensation and intently focus all your attention on it. And if you're paying attention to like the feelings and sensations for your body, all in that one breathing moment. And you continuously anchor on it. Now what's gonna happen even in the span, cause I teach people to start with a minute. Like a mindful minute. Even in the span of one minute, your mind will wander. I guarantee it.
[Alec] Oh, yeah. By the way, have you ever done a sensory deprivation tank?
[Dr. MacAulay] No, I have not done one of those yet. I've been meaning on.
[Alec] So, it's my favorite thing in the world. And I just wanna give you the small tangent. Cause I think it'll help on this because I went and tried it and you float in Epsom salt water, it's salt water, and it's at room temperature. So I mean, body temperature. So you get this weird feeling where it's the same temperature as your body, and you shut the tank door and you're just in this darkness floating and talk about mind wandering. Like, I went in there, and I'm like, "I, it has been six hours, like, no one has come to get me." And I like get out and it's been 15 minutes. And I was like, "what happened?" Like, it's a crazy experience. And I'm just picturing myself there listening to how you're talking about this going, "Wow." It's just, you should do it. You'll love it. And I encourage everyone to do at least once cause it's wild.
[Dr. MacAulay] For sure and just imagine if you were doing your mental push ups in?
[Alec] That's what I'm thinking. That's where my head's at right now. Like it's just, this I'm now gonna be playing with it. So you say a minute and I love your right. I think in a minute. My head's already I can't focus for a minute anyway. So it's gonna be going everywhere. So what happens is that happens, dive back in tried for another minute.
[Dr. MacAulay] So no, you can. So as soon as your mind starts to wander, the key is catching it and becoming aware that it's even wandering. Cause we'll just start taking these trails of thoughts and then all of a sudden, you're like, "Oh, I'm supposed to be thinking about my breath." So as soon as you, your attention is on your breath. You start mind wander off of it. As soon as you catch yourself you bring right back to your breath. And that's your pushup. That is strengthening your attention to come back into the moment. And then as soon as it mind wanders again, awareness kicks in, I mind wandering right back to my breath. And every time you do that, you're strengthening the muscle of attention to stay focused and more in the present moment. Now, some people in the span of the moment of the minute might do five of those pushups, some people might do 60. It's just, it's a journey and it's a practice that's the other thing. And it's a
[Alec] But are you stronger if you never have to do the push up, meaning you just you can stay on your on it, like, you can stay focused on it for a minute.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yes, ultimately, that would be the goal, is that you stay fully present and focus just on those breathing sensations. And the power in this really is not that I'm in this combat situation and, bullets are flying, engines are failing. And I'm like, "oh, I gotta practice my mindfulness. That's not what it's about. It's that I've done the work ahead of time.
[Alec] Yes, I was just gonna say like, once you're in the actual game, like, you can't be like, "oh guy's I'm gonna practice my free throws, before I take this game winning shot." Like, it's too late, I should have practiced for years.
[Dr. MacAulay] It's too late. But people don't realize it. Like, that's the whole point of having a mindfulness practice, having mindfulness training, doing your mental push ups is so that, that resource's available to you, when you're in those moments and your stress curve is and your stress responses going over to distress where you're gonna make it that emotional reaction, you're thinking negative thoughts, you lack confidence, you are pessimistic, all those things that happen, is about catching it with your awareness and staying on the eustress side of the curve. And when we've done the mental push ups ahead of time, we are better resourced in those moments, to be where we need to be to stay in a high performing space and to cultivate calm. All of those skill sets focus, that you need especially when the pressure is high. So yes it's about practicing this mental push ups and you could do 'em in different ways, people practice mindfulness in a couple different ways. You do it all in one chunk, where you might do, and the science really will lead us to believe about 20 minutes a day is our most effective.
[Alec] Yeah I was gonna say it, like how, when do you, you carve time to do this like just like you'd go to the gym. So you're thinking 20 minutes a day is the prescription?
[Dr. MacAulay] 20 minutes a day, I try to challenge people to get at least 12, but if you can get closer to 20 that's are the optimal amount of training that you need. And yes, you treat it just like I go to the gym, I do these physical exercises, I'm going to do my mental exercises as well because they're both needed, for my overall well being and performance. And in some people I have found, sitting they think, "Okay, well, I can't sit on a cushion in the morning for 20 minutes and do mental push ups. Like it's just not gonna happen," or, they get so easily distracted. They think, "this isn't for me, I can't do it." Well, the first answer to that is everybody can do it. And if you are highly distracted, when you're trying to do your mental push ups, that means even more so you need to practice this. And you need to integrate it into your life. Because you you're, you tend to be a high stress person, if you're that highly distracted. And just think how it is turning you into a sub optimal individual. And think about how much more capacity you have for being a badass. If just in practice, wow.
[Alec] But I could see why you get hit with resistance on this. I could see it, cause, in first of all in the military, I mean, I know there's the masking culture and all that stuff that you're talking about effectively meditating. I can see people being like, brrh, like immediately just, pooh poohing it. But, I had a great podcast with a guy named Renee Rodriguez and he talked about meditating and breathing cycles as a way to gain mental strength as well. And so there are more people talking about it and realizing this is actually a thing that matters, and that you gotta be focused on it. And so I'm just out of curiosity, how often do you practice this? Are you an everyday person? Are you are you hitting the 20 minutes? I mean, what do you what's your life's about it?
[Dr. MacAulay] I am I do at least five to 10 minutes in a single session. But when I.
[Alec] Well I was gonna say can you break up the 20 minutes like throughout they day?
[Dr. MacAulay] Yes, exactly. So I have found this is how my when I first found this skill set. I would do my kind of 20 minutes in the morning. And I am such a high stress individual. I tend to go from zero to 100 really quickly, especially when I have little people. And so what I would find is the 20 minutes that I would do in the morning, I would last until about midday, like two three o'clock I could keep my calm, I could keep my focus. And what I mean by that is as soon as I felt the awareness of my stress response, like sweaty palms, heart starts racing, butterflies in my stomach. I knew that I was ramping up to make an emotional overreaction. I catch myself, take one deep breath, trigger the thoughts to go into the rational part of my brain, and then make a better decision. But by two o'clock, yeah, that was kind of gone.
[Alec] The gas tank is empty.
[Dr. MacAulay] I was back to being like, even one deep breath, I can't do it like I'm losing it again. So for me, what I found is that I can do five to 10 minutes usually in like the first part of my day. And then I do periodic mindful minutes. Like, even before I called you, I just did a minute of just kind of like deep breathing and entering because I had a previous call, and I wanted to clear my thoughts from the previous call and get really set and focused to the conversation I was gonna have with you. And so I do a mindful minute. And then after this call, I do another mindful minute. And so it's one of those things that I have found, I cultivate mindful awareness throughout my day, when I take these opportunities to just do a minute of mental push ups at periodic opportunities.
[Alec] So I wanna go a little bit more into like the people that, crap on this idea. Like, what have you heard? Like, what do people say, them, when you introduce this, and what are the normal excuses that you come up against?
[Dr. MacAulay] So the normal I would say the most common excuses, "I don't have time."
[Alec] By the way, people say that, "I don't have time to go to the gym." I mean, there's the time thing is a big it's a normal excuse.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yes, it is always the primary excuse. And so here's my answer to that. I told you in the beginning of this conversation that you might wander half your waking moments. So if it takes you, just take that at face value, if you're say doing a project or you're working on your notes for a podcast, or with your lending, folks, you're writing up paperwork for mortgages and, that takes a certain amount of time. Say it takes you three hours to do that. You technically are mind wandering for an hour and a half of that. Your focused time, the time it actually takes to get your task done is only about an hour and a half. But because within that three hour period, you have your little email flashing and telling you, "hey, Bob just sent you your email finally." And you're like, "freaking Bobby, you finally wrote me back.
[Dr. MacAulay] Your mind gets distracted. Or your child walks in for a second, you're distracted, and then it takes you, it takes brain power to get back to where you were in the task at hand. So all of those distractions add up and you end up wasting. Again, mind wandering distracted about half your time. So the one way that I buy, or I get people to kind of buy into this concept is, "don't you want that time back?"
[Dr. MacAulay] And if you practice mindfulness, yes, it's gonna take you 20 minutes a day. But if you practice your mindfulness now you're gonna get all that other time that was wasted with mind wandering and distraction. And oh, by the way, unhappy, misery. Like most time, that's where you go with those thoughts. So you'll be overall a happier person and a more focused and productive individual.
[Alec] So I love this and I wanna just echo it because we're, we live in like notification hell. Like, and it's getting worse. And so like, let alone the device that's vibrating every two seconds and dinging every two seconds, but it's like, you got an Instagram notification you got a Facebook notification, you have a email notifications, somebody retweeted your tweet, and all of a sudden, you're pulled in a million, let alone but the family stuff. The kid comes into the room, we're pulled in a million different directions. So I think it's really self evident that people would hear this and go, "yeah, what I am not like I am mind wandering, I am being pulled constantly. And if I can practice some mental push ups and gain some strength here, I can carve my time back. I don't need to be pulled in a million directions. I can gain that awareness and I can reclaim that part of my life."
[Dr. MacAulay] Exactly.
[Alec] That's really cool. That's really powerful.
[Dr. MacAulay] That's some powerful data and everything I talk about, especially with a lot of these populations, it goes through two lenses. That of scientific research, and evidence based practices, and alpha competitive environments. Like I'm not going to pitch anything to someone who's a badass already, that hasn't been researched or practiced. And is there's proof that it works and for high stress occupations, and for high stress individuals. And so that's really where the focus of the message has to come from. Is not about like, "hey, you're broken and you need help, so here's some skill sets for you." It's, "you're a high performing badass, don't you wanna be even better? Because right now your sub optimal with how your mind works if you're not building these psychological skill sets."
[Alec] I like that framing a lot. Like, you're not broken. And by the way, like if everyone listening too like, we're not broken. We're doing the best we can what we got. And so the chance to take in new information to make our own criticize our own viewpoint on it and decide if it's right for us and to plan the space, that's growth. That's not, no one's broken here. I love that framing of it. So you're doing a lot of cool stuff with this information. I mean, I've seen I went and personally watched your TED talk and all that fun stuff you're doing, but, what else, if people are really fired up right now and they write making notes about breathing and all that fun stuff, where can they go to get more information? You have some cool stuff that's going on with your websites and everything else, but share with everybody, like point some people to some resource.
[Dr. MacAulay] I do, so first, while you're on you're kind of mindfulness journey and trying to just integrate it into your life, there's some applications out there apps that you can use, I really recommend 10% Happier, Calm, Headspace. I personally haven't used Insight Timer, but I've heard that a lot of people have found success using that application as well. However, I caution folks with getting kind of tied to the crutch of having to have a guided meditation. Because then they might think, "oh, I don't have access to my app today. So therefore, I can't do my mental push ups." And I don't want anyone to ever think that right. So I say my number one app recommendation is actually nature. And I've literally had people write to me and say, "I can't find this app that you call nature. It's not in the App Store." And it's not in App Store because it's just outside. We, there's such power in nature, there's such, I'm sure you probably have heard of the science and research with respect to grounding. Like actually having your feet on the ground. Sitting outside, in deep breaths I like to call it getting my oxygen for the day. So there's such power in that. And what I found, here is another thing that some of your your listeners need to think about. I want you to think about your favorite activity, like the thing that you do where you feel so, like happy, you almost use, it's like you're coming close to that flow state. Where basically our brain chemistry is wired in such a way where we are fully present and engrossed in the moment, and time either stands still or goes by very quickly. And we all have those activities. Maybe it's hiking, or biking, or swimming, or fishing or, knitting whatever it is. People have those activities. The reason you like those activities is because you're fully present, aware and mindful. So people who say, "I don't know what mindfulness is, I can never do it." When I ask them, "well, what's your favorite activity?" For me, I love skiing, and I live 10 minutes from the slopes here in Utah. I can just go up for two hours in the morning and when I'm skiing down the hill, I'm having an amazing time because I'm fully present. If I was skiing and thinking, "oh my gosh, my life is sucks and there's so much stress. I hate skiing.
[Alec] That's right.
[Dr. MacAulay] So we need to think about those activities now not just as a luxury in our lives, because most people will say, "well, yeah, I do get that flow state and I do understand presence, but I do it once a year. I don't have time for it in my daily life." And my challenge to most people is how do you now integrate that into your daily life? Cause that's where it's gonna be most effective for us.
[Alec] That's awesome.
[Dr. MacAulay] So yeah, so apps, or just getting out in nature. And then I have on my website, there's more information on programming that I have that we can, you can bring to your organizations with respect to cultivating mindful awareness and also building mindset, doing high performance mindset training in particular. I have a partnership with Pete Carroll, the coach that is.
[Alec] Yeah, that's super cool.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yeah, he's just an amazing individual and to see what he's been able to do in the mental space for the NFL, and then before that at USC has just been amazing to learn from and how he drives culture around it. Our third partner is Dr. Michael Gervais, who's a high performance sports psychologist who works with elite athletes and the people who push the envelope on human potential. And so the three of us kind of combined our experiences and our knowledge in this space and really figured out, how much of a gap that exists just in our worlds. Like, I would even say, we have this competitive stress problem, where our value to society as almost based on how busy our lives are, how overstressfull.
[Dr. MacAulay] And we're trying to flip that narrative and say, "you need to slow down to speed up. You need to just learn to engage these skill sets to really build the psychological flexibility so you can face adversity and challenge, and to the best of your ability and the high performing way, showing up in alignment with who you are and what you're about." Like, but it's difficult, and it takes work. And so we have a worriers edge, High Performance Mindset Training Program that's our website,
[Alec] I love it. to help people kind of cultivate those important skill sets. I love it. Well, I mean, so let me I always like to end this kind of question. And by the way, if you're watching right now, and you have a question, drop it in, we'll dive on it if there's time. But I love this question. And I love how people answer it. So, I wanna put you in an imaginary room with two mortgage professionals. One is very seasoned and experience and one is brand new to the industry. And they're both sitting there across from you. And just to frame it up, these are 100% commission salespeople, so they gotta go, they eat what they kill. And we're in a very high stress environment right now. And so what advice do you give them to help them be better at what they're trying to achieve? Be better professionals, produce more et cetera. What advice do you give them?
[Dr. MacAulay] I think anything in sales relates to relationships. And the way we develop relationships, the way we build trust. And this is whether you're a leader, you're a salesman, you're a teammate. Relationships work the same. And it's about connection. And the only way you get connection to be perfectly honest, if you look at the research and how human beings Connect, is that we have to be present. We have to be able to sit with someone, to be an empathetic listener, to be a someone who is actually paying attention, who that other person is. There has to be love there. And I mean that not in this like, those like passionate love, but just like a brotherly human being like I respect you, you respect me, I assume best intent with you to build those that trust and that connection. And the best way to facilitate that is to learn to be fully present. Because here's the thing, I bet most of your mortgage professionals, whether they're brand new, or they're a pro, sit down with someone sometimes and they all of a sudden will catch themselves not paying attention.
[Dr. MacAulay] Right?
[Alec] Absolutely, of course.
[Dr. MacAulay] They're thinking ahead, or they're thinking back.
[Alec] They think about what they're gonna say next.
[Dr. MacAulay] Yes, and that is a common problem. And so, when you build these psychological skill sets to learn how to actually really listen, to be there, I and I'll just tell a quick story, this is from my TED talk, but, this hit me one night when I was giving my son a bath, he was three years old. And I thought, like the dialogue in my head was like, "I'm a badass mom, I'm here for bath. Look at me, look at how good I'm doing for the mom, and a professional, and I do I can do it all." And my son literally stopped me and just put his tiny hands on my cheeks and looked up and just said, "mommy, why are you so sad? I love you mommy." And it was heartbreaking to me because, the dialogue in my head is like, "Oh, what a great mom I'm being," when I was physically present with him, but I was mentally checked up. Like I was not paying attention to what was going on with him, to the laughter, to the love, to like, this is one of the most important people in my life. And I was not fully present. And so when you're trying to make a sale, and that person, that customer is one of the most important people in those moments, how often are we maybe physically there even right now in a virtual environment, but we're not mentally checked into the conversation. We're not engaged with our presence. And so that's probably one of the biggest, challenges your career field is probably facing, especially when, cause what when we're more distracted is when more pressure and stress is applied, which is exactly the situation we find ourselves I. Doing more stress, uncertainty.
[Alec] And not I mean, that's a really important message and it's a great, it's great advice and right now too you hit it too. This digital connection is hard. Like, this is hard this I don't like it. I'd rather you were sitting right here. And we could just talk about what's going on and the problems we're all facing, but now we can't. And so it is with the greatest challenge. But it also is one of the greatest opportunities we have right now is relationships and human connection. And you nailed it. And I think it's wonderful advice. Thank you.
[Dr. MacAulay] Awesome.
[Alec] This has been a blast, I've had it. I've had so much fun. I have so much work to do on myself. So thank you for pointing all that out. The whole time you're talking I'm like, "I need to start doing all these things." But you framed it up really, really wonderfully. And I appreciate you taking the time today to hang out with us, everybody. So if this got you guys value, if you enjoyed it, please share, subscribe, like, let's spread the message. Let's get the mindfulness going. Let's you go got a big job to get it out there to everybody to hear it. So thank you for all you're doing for us. All right, ladies, gentlemen, Mikey take us out.