Our personal choices often go unnoticed when we get busy with life. Work, family, friends, everything is pulling our attention away from ourselves. Are there things you’ve always wanted to do, but you never seem to have the time? Focusing on yourself first (for once!) isn’t something to feel guilty about. In fact, it’s required if you want to maintain a healthy brain.

Personal Time Is Brain Time

Innovative people are curious by nature. There are probably lots of things you’ve wondered about and times you’ve asked yourself “what if?”. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy with life (personal, work, etc) that we put these “what ifs” on the back burner...and then they are usually forgotten.

However, there are many benefits to spending time by yourself and learning or doing activities you’ve been interested in, such as1

  • Preventing burnout at home and work
  • Finding your own happiness, which is unrelated to others
  • A healthier mindset, which is needed to improve your overall health

As a society, we tend to frown on time alone. Everyone is connected to everyone, but we’re often buried in our devices checking emails, tweets and updating our statuses. Ironically, we usually do all of this...alone. Why are we spending this time online, though, instead of pursuing something we have an interest in?

Think of it like exercise. We all know we need to exercise to be healthy. But, many people don’t take the time to actually engage in physical activities. We’re forced to sit at desks, we have to drive to commute, or we have a million things to do before and after work. Taking time to follow your curiosity should be a priority, just like exercise. Maybe you can combine them both!

Research states that people have around 40% control of their own happiness (10% is due to circumstance, and 50% is due to genetics). While there is a strong hereditary impact on happiness, we do have some element of control. Money, power and fame aren’t everything, and even millionaires report unhappiness.2 

Our brains have the capacity to dream, to imagine and to explore curiosity. Give your brain a chance to follow its desires, and you’ll probably feel a lot happier.

The knowledge of all things is possible. 

Leonardo da Vinci

5 Ways To Actually Do What
You’ve Always Wanted to Do

You want to show innovation at work, a cutting-edge realisation of new technologies, and you want to shine in everything you do. While this is a fantastic vision, it’s not always grounded in reality. But, what if you could be more innovation, more relaxed, and be a better leader and employee? The good news is, you can, but only if you take some time for yourself first.

  1. Make goals and then work towards them. What is something you’ve always been curious about trying, but it seemed so out-of-reach that you abandoned the idea? Maybe snorkelling or scuba diving? Maybe learning a new language? Working towards your personal goals isn’t a waste of time, it isn’t something you should feel bad about, and it IS a worthwhile investment.
  2. Write it down. Keeping a journal can help you think out what you want to do. Maybe you’ll come up with other things, too. Why stop at one mountain when you can climb two while you’re there? Writing things down gives you something to physically look at to check progress, which leads to point number 3.
  3. Keep yourself accountable. Life will still be busy. Your kids or dogs will still get sick. Someone will need something from you--right now! While we can’t ignore our other obligations, we should put value in working on ourselves and pursuing things we are curious and passionate about. You are worth it.
  4. Stop and enjoy the breeze. Going right along with the whole life-is-busy theme, you have to take time to slow down. The feverish pursuit of anything is going to result in burnout, and probably sooner rather than later. If you’re not happy with your progress regarding your personal “to-do” list, take a break outside (bring your journal, maybe!) and relax. Breathe, clear your mind, and try to find some peace in nature.
  5. Find something you like that requires motion. Moving is one of the best prescriptions for your brain and your body. If you hate the idea of “working out”, then find an activity you enjoy that forces you to move. Like gardening? Perfect, keep your tools in a set location away from where you are working so you get up and down every so often. Like to play the guitar? Get a shoulder strap and try playing while walking around.
  6. Drop the guilt. The guilt can be difficult to escape. If you are spending time on yourself, it means you AREN’T spending time doing something else, or devoting that time to someone else. Remind yourself that you deserve to satisfy your personal curiosities and that your brain health is as important as any of your other obligations.

Becoming A Neuroleader With
The Encouragement of Science

The strategies that have been successful in the past, those based on 5-10-year analyses of markets, products and competitors are no longer sufficient. Leaders must have the ability to imagine, and they must possess a curiosity that will energise their employees. By being curious, we trigger dopamine production, which is a chemical in the brain known as a “reward neurotransmitter”. Dopamine allows us to have the lightbulb moments of true innovation.3

If you are ready to learn more about how to incorporate neuroscience into your leadership methods, check out the i4 Neuroleader Methodology. Being curious is the driving force behind almost everything we do, after all, so why not give in to your curiosity now?


1. Carter SB. Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Stealing a Little Time for Yourself. Psychology Today, 2012.(2012, accessed 17 June 2019).
2. Bok S. Exploring Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science. First Edition. Yale University Press, 2011.
3. McLennan K. Building Leaders for the Imagination Age: The Case for the i4 Neuroleader Model.

Originally posted on: 16 July 2019
Last updated on: 20 May 2024

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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