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Podcast: Help Your Brain Learn: Coaching for Leaders by Dave Stachowiak and Lisa Feldman Barrett

  • The brain is one of the most mysterious and amazing organs in the human body, but also one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented. In this podcast, you will hear from Lisa Feldman Barrett, a leading expert on the brain and its functions, who will reveal some of the surprising and intriguing facts and findings about the brain and how it shapes our reality.
  • If you want to learn more about the brain and how it works, and how you can help your brain learn better and faster, you should listen to this podcast. You will discover some of the common myths and misconceptions about the brain, and how you can use the brain’s predictive and adaptive abilities to enhance your performance and well-being.


In this Coaching for Leaders episode, psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett clarifies the brain’s real aim – to keep the body alive. She argues that once you understand its primal purpose, you can strive to create a stable work environment that optimizes brain function, enhances learning and induces positive behavioral change. Coaching for Leaders Academy founder Dave Stachowiak hosts the podcast.

Help Your Brain Learn: Coaching for Leaders by Dave Stachowiak and Lisa Feldman Barrett


  • Your brain primarily exists to keep you alive, not to think.
  • In a stable, predictable workplace, your brain will have more capacity to learn and innovate.
  • To change your behavior, alter the way your brain makes predictions.


Your brain primarily exists to keep you alive, not to think.

Your brain doesn’t exist mainly to engage in cognition – instead, it operates principally to keep your body alive by regulating its functions. It acts like an orchestra conductor, coordinating your body’s activities as efficiently as possible to maintain allostasis – regulation amid various demands and stressors. The brain predicts what the body will do and instantly allocates resources to prepare for those actions, all at an unconscious level.

“Brains aren’t wired for accuracy. They’re wired to keep us alive.” (Lisa Feldman Barrett)

You may believe you’re sensing the world as it exists and then reacting to it, but instead, your brain is simply making predictions; then, it rapidly creates changes in your body to support the responses it expects. Before sense data reaches your consciousness, your brain has already assessed a situation, made a prediction and prepared your body to respond to its forecast.

In a stable, predictable workplace, your brain will have more capacity to learn and innovate.

While maintaining allostasis, your brain has various “budgets” for all the chemicals your body needs, such as salt, water, glucose and oxygen. Your brain also manages your body’s energy budget, seeking the optimum metabolic efficiency to maintain regulation. Uncertainty reduces your body’s efficiency because your brain must prepare for numerous scenarios and reactions. Creating a predictable environment makes it easier for your brain to manage its energy budget.

“If you create an environment where a person’s body budget is reasonably solvent, then they have leftover resources to do the hard things that you want them to do.” (Lisa Feldman Barrett)

In practical terms, this explains why trust in the workplace can enhance innovation and learning: Trust reduces uncertainty and frees up energy. Leaders can facilitate learning – a high-energy activity – by providing an environment that helps workers conserve metabolic energy. In a stable, predictable environment, where time is allocated to maintain the body’s physical needs – such as hydration, sleep and natural light – you’ll have more energy available for learning, teaching and innovating.

To change your behavior, alter the way your brain makes predictions.

You can change how your brain prognosticates by feeding it experiences that alter the historical basis from which it predicts the future. For example, Barrett experimented with creating a feeling of awe, which research suggests can reduce stress. To see whether she could develop the skill of conjuring awe, Barrett adopted a practice of contemplating nature for five minutes each day. By doing this, she created a set of experiences that her brain can now access when it makes predictions. Creating experiences to change your brain’s predictions resembles training a muscle.

“When you practice making experiences…that is training your brain, [you are] basically seeding your brain to predict differently.” (Lisa Feldman Barrett)

Imagine an apple to understand how to control your brain’s neurons firing. As graphically as you can, visualize the apple’s color and how it feels to hold it. Then, envisage the experience of biting into it, hearing the crunch and tasting its sweetness and tartness. By picturing the apple vividly, you caused your brain’s neurons to fire in a particular way. You created an experience that your brain will remember just like an actual memory.

About the Podcast

Lisa Feldman Barrett is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in neuroscience and an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. Her books include How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain and Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. Podcast host Dave Stachowiak is the founder of Coaching for Leaders.


Psychology, Neuroscience, Education, Leadership, Coaching, Personal Development, Science, Communication, Self-Help, Podcasting.


The podcast is an interview with Lisa Feldman Barrett, a renowned psychologist and neuroscientist who has written a new book called Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain. The podcast explores some of the key insights and implications of her book, which challenges some of the common myths and misconceptions about how the brain works. The podcast discusses how the brain is not a fixed organ, but a dynamic and flexible system that constantly predicts and adapts to the changing world. The podcast also explains how the brain is not a passive receiver of information, but an active constructor of reality, and how emotions, thoughts, and actions are all interrelated and influenced by the brain’s predictions. The podcast offers some practical tips and strategies for helping the brain learn better, such as creating stable and supportive environments, cultivating curiosity and openness, and engaging in diverse and meaningful activities.

The podcast is a fascinating and informative conversation that introduces the listeners to some of the latest and most cutting-edge research on the brain and its functions. The podcast is well-structured and well-paced, as it covers a range of topics and questions that are relevant and interesting for anyone who wants to understand themselves and others better. The podcast is also clear and accessible, as it uses simple and engaging language, analogies, and examples to explain complex and abstract concepts. The podcast is not only educational, but also inspirational, as it shows how the brain is a powerful and adaptable tool that can help us achieve our goals and improve our well-being.

Nina Norman is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. She has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Nina has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. She is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Nina lives in London, England with her husband and two children. You can contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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