Young children tend to draw people with big round heads and sticks for bodies and arms. From a young age we focus on our heads and brains as the centre of our being, but we are not brains on sticks.

Our minds and bodies are not two separate entities. They form a single integrated neurological whole.

We can affect the way we feel by the way we move and vice versa — it’s a two-way street. This connection is reflected in the language we use to describe our ‘thinking’. We have gut feelings, stress headaches, heartache, butterflies in our stomachs, cold feet and so on.

Our state of mind drives our physiology, both in terms of musculature and internal wellbeing, through a complex biochemical messaging system transported through our bodily fluids and nervous system to all parts of our anatomies.

When we are UP…

…we get an adrenaline, endorphin, dopamine, serotonin or oxytocin release whereby we feel good. Adrenaline is the alert chemical that gets us excited and ready for action.

Endorphins mask physical pain but also give a sense of euphoria — endorphins are the marathon runner’s drug.

Dopamine is the reward chemical. We get a release of dopamine when we achieve a goal, whether it’s finding food in the savannah or hitting this month’s sales target.

Serotonin is the leadership hormone and it makes us feel good about status and pride in achievement.

Oxytocin, commonly called the love drug, rewards trust and helping others.

These chemicals combine to create the reward systems that make us act like human beings. We need to take action to survive; we like to feel good despite physical exertion and pain; we need to achieve goals to get food and drink and pay the mortgage; and we strive for social status, respect and love.

When we are down…

…we have a lack of positive hormones and feel physical fatigue. We may also have an excessive level of cortisol in our systems caused by stress. Try feeling happy with your head down, shoulders slumped, breathing shallow and your facial expression gloomy with a down-turned mouth. Now sit up, alert, breathing more deeply, shoulders back, smile, looking up. Feel the difference?

Our posture affects our state of mind and our state of mind affects our posture. If you want to change the way you feel in an instant, change your posture and your breathing.

Some performers pump themselves up before going on stage by reciting a mantra and breathing deeply, talking themselves into a high state of awareness and getting the adrenaline rushing. Others calm themselves by meditation and concentration to get into the ‘zone’ and be fully focused on what they need to achieve.

Our energy flows where our attention goes

Business school professors have long taught that focus is an essential ingredient for success. The more we focus on something, the greater we can comprehend it and, if we wish, try to change it or achieve mastery over it.

The same applies to our own attention systems: Our energy flows where our attention goes. We pay attention and the coinage is our energy. Whether we get a good return on our investment is a question of where we direct and allow our attention to be focused.

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Chris Martlew’s new book, Changing the Mind of the Organization — Building Agile Teams, is available at,, and other good bookstores.

#mindoftheorg Article was first published on Linkedin. Image copyright (C) C.J.C. Martlew 2016