Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess with Dr. Caroline Leaf

This week, we have a very special episode to share with you! In this episode, John Maxwell talks with his good friend Dr. Caroline Leaf––a world-renowned communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist who just released her newest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess.

Dr. Leaf dives deep into her book and explains how properly managing our mind and thinking habits can shape our brain, and even our DNA, in a positive way. She and John discuss the implications of her research on leadership and our own ability to manage our minds instead of allowing our minds to manage us.

Our BONUS resource for this episode is the Mental Mess Worksheet, which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.

READ THE TRANSCRIPT

Mark Cole:       Hey podcast listeners. Mark Cole here, and welcome to another episode of the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Today is an incredible treat for me and I know you will feel the same in about 35 minutes. Because today, I'm joined on the phone with my friend, our mentor, Dr. John Maxwell. He's in studio in Florida and has been impacting and adding value to literally thousands of people today. But he said, "Hey, stop the recordings, stop the cameras. I want to go and do a podcast with my special friend, Dr. Caroline Leaf." Now, that's our special guest today and I've already, John, let the cat out the bag, because we are going to have an incredible podcast.

Now, you may know Dr. Caroline Leaf for a lot of her work. She is a pathologist, a cognitive neuroscientist helping people with communication, but her passion is to help people see the power of the mind to change the brain and find their purpose in life.

You also may know her as an author, but I want to tell you that today she is the proud author of another book, because yesterday, March the 2nd, her book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess hit bookstores and that is what we want to talk about today. Because mental health is a huge topic, especially in today's times, and that is what Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess is all about. Five simple steps for reducing anxiety and stress.

Dr. Leaf, I already feel better just saying that. I'm so excited about today.

If you want to be the student at the top of the class, you can go ahead and go to Amazon, you can go to Dr. Leaf, drleaf.com, you can go to cleaningupyourmentalmess.com and you can pick up the book now. But if you need just a little bit of proof, you're getting ready to hear that from John Maxwell, Caroline Leaf, as we talk today on the podcast.

Now, as always, if you want to download the show notes, you want to take note on what is being talked about today, go to maxwellpodcast.com/mentalmess. Again, maxwellpodcast.com/mentalmess.

John, you have done several things with Caroline. You've been on her podcast, you've had her at IMC, and I know you wanted to have her on today. I'm going to let you introduce Caroline Leaf today.

John Maxwell:  Well, I'm delighted to, Mark. And Caroline, so glad that you're with us. The reason I wanted her on the podcast, as you know, is because she always teaches me something. I love to learn. And every time I hear you, Caroline, I'm taking notes and I'm applying it and it makes my life much better. So, thank you for again sharing with me, and what's valuable to me will be valuable to all of our podcast listeners. So, we're delighted to have you, welcome.

And I want all of you on the podcast now to get ready to learn and listen, because this lady will help you in so many areas of your life. And I'm very excited about your book that's being released and I want all of our listeners of course to pick it up and read it and apply those principles to their lives. Caroline, welcome to our podcast. Mark and I are delighted to have you today.

Caroline Leaf:   Oh, thank you so much. I am so, so thrilled to be with you both and so honored, and I learn from you all the time. One of my favorite people to talk to so thank you for the honor, lovely to be with you both.

Mark Cole:       Hey, let's start Dr. Leaf. What prompted you to write Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess?

Caroline Leaf:   Well, it's the name of my podcast and I just think it's so appropriate because I feel like I'm always cleaning up my mental mess. And having been in this field for 38 years now, and having done mind brain research for so many research, I just want to put a tool into people's hands. Well, not even a tool. The knowledge into people's hands, that the mind is malleable. The mind is trainable. The mind is not the brain, the mind actually changes the brain. Our brain responds to our mind. I think there's been so much confusion around what mind is and what brain is.

So, I wanted to be able to help people to understand what the mind is, what the brain is, and how cleaning up our mental mess is something that's so doable, that mental health is not some scary illness have, but when we are battling with life issues, when we have adverse circumstances, when we have acute traumas or traumatic things happening, we're going to respond. We're always thinking, and therefore the way that we think is very important, because the way that we think and feel and choose is changing the brain and changing our body. And we can manage that.

We're not just dancing to our DNA. We have so much ability to use our mind, to change our mind, to change our brain in every circumstance. Whether it's just the moment by moment, someone sends you a toxic email or you get into an argument, or something happens that's just an acute trauma, or the big stuff like acute traumas from years ago. All of that creates a mental mess. Our mind is always working, and I often say to people, and I'll finish this part of the question with this, is that we can go three weeks without food, we can go three days without water, we can go three minutes without oxygen, but we can't even go three minutes without using our mind.

So, if we don't understand what our mind is and how to manage it, which is what Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess is about, then we're going to live in a mental mess. And if our mind's a mental mess everything else, leadership, everything, everything about how we are as a person in this world is going to be a mess.

Mark Cole:       John, you have talked a lot about leadership. You guys have shared the stage. And this question really is for both of you. What is it about mental health that makes it such a huge topic today? I mean, especially when it comes to leadership. Why is this topic so important? Caroline, we'll start with you on that question.

Caroline Leaf:   Well, only 3% of leaders are actually openly talking about mental health, and a lot of that is because of the stigma around it. And because for the last 50 years, to summarize a big story in a very simple way, over the last 38 to 50 years mental health has been seen as an illness in the same way as cancer and diabetes.

However, the research is completely contrary to that, and the research also shows that if we view mental health as an illness instead of as a reaction to life, then we are going to actually get sicker. So, we see that. We see now that between 2014 and 2015, people were dying, since that time people are dying eight to 25 years younger than they should. Despite advances in basic medicine and technology, people are dying 15 to 25 years younger from preventable lifestyle diseases. Preventable means that you can use your mind to prevent. Lifestyle is driven by mind.

So, people are dying younger through a lack of mind management, then that's a huge issue. If we have 3% of leadership population only talking about mental health, then we're suppressing it and we're seeing it as this very scary thing. Research shows that as soon as we do that, as soon as you look at schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, anxiety etc. as these bad things that you've got to suppress, as soon as you do that you actually cause your body to go into tremendous stress. 1,400 neurophysiology responses will work against you instead of for you.

I showed in my most recent clinical, that I've written about in simple summary in this new book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, I show that basically the way you view the symptoms, the way that you view depression, is going to impact how you function physically and mentally and as a leader and in whatever you're doing in life. And recent research coming out of Japan, and Texas funnily enough, confirm that.

I'm trying to show people in terms of leadership and in terms of everything, but really it's so important in terms of leadership that the way you view anxiety and depression, if you see this as helpful, as a messenger, and you embrace it and say, "Yes, I'm feeling depressed. Yes, I'm feeling anxious," and be honest and open as a leader in the workplace, you then give permission for those that are working with you to also talk about how they are feeling.

And the research shows that when you actually bring it out into the open and you embrace it, and see the depression and anxiety as symptoms of an underlying cause as opposed to a finite illness, that is when we see changes in people's mind and brain and management of mental health. So, there's a synopsis.

John Maxwell:  Yeah. Caroline, again, every time that I listen to you, you expand me. I want to make a comment and then I want to come back to you. I want to come back to this statement you made a little bit earlier on a podcast about the mind and the brain and the differences between the two. But before you comment on that, Mark, you know in leadership I talk a lot about the greatest gap probably between successful and unsuccessful people is how they think. The first book I ever wrote was a book called Think On These Things, and then one of the most successful books I've ever written was a book on How Successful People Think, that's sold plus million copies.

But when I wrote the book Think On These Things, coming back Dr. Caroline to 1979, the catalyst for this book Think On These Things was a scripture reference by Paul in Philippians 4:8 that said, "You will do best by filling your minds and meditating on things that are true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, the best not the worst, the beautiful not the ugly, things to praise not things to curse." And I came to the conclusion, as a total amateur, not a professional like you at all, I came to the conclusion that Paul that we could make these choices and that these choices were going to make a difference in our response. That's why I wrote the book Think On These Things. That's why I wrote the book How Successful People Think.

I tried in that book to try to help people realize that there were certain ways to think that would help them to do better than other ways. Then you talked about the brain and the mind and the difference, and that you were in control of the mind. So, could you just take all the stuff I've just talked about and put it together for us and help us understand. Am I right about the fact that we get to choose and how we choose and what we think on is going to determine a lot of between success and failure?

Caroline Leaf:   You are so spot on. As usual, John, your insight is tremendous and brilliant. It's so spot on because thinking ... Let's answer that question by talking about the difference between the mind and the brain. The mind is how you think, feel and choose. When you talk about Think On These Things and the difference between success and failure is how you're thinking on things, and everything you already said, is so accurate. Because mind is how you think, feel and choose, and mind has been called the hard question in science. I come against that and say no, mind is the easy question of science, because you're always using your mind. Not even three seconds that you aren't using your mind.

So, mind is that thinking, feeling and choosing. Every moment of every day you are thinking, feeling and choosing. Here, you're in your office, or whatever work you're doing and whatever business you're leading, the way you think is going to influence the way you feel which influences your choices. The three go together. See them as three interlocking circles that aren't separated but they're dynamically integrated. And it starts with the experience, whatever you read or hear, then it stimulates thinking which immediately stimulates feeling which immediately stimulates choice, and so the cycle begins. And it happens around about 400 billion actions, the cycle, you're cycling at 400 billion actions on a unconscious level which is the deepest part of our mind. It's where the wisdom, our belief systems ... It's like a huge forest.

If you picture a huge, big forest, and down the middle of the forest you've got this beautiful paradise of green teas and water and beautiful, and then on the outside there's also green trees but in amongst them there are some dead trees and burnt trees and toxic trees. Now, the outside part represents the mind in action, and the middle part, this beautiful paradise part, represents the wisdom part of us. What we see in neuroscience and mind brain research is that the mind is wired for optimism and the brain is wired for love. So, all of that goes towards survival.

In the depths of each and every one of us is this wise, thinking mind, where this tremendous insight is. It's that gut feeling, knowing what you know, whatever you want to call it. What we are able to do as humans, which is what you so eloquently always explain in your books and in your work, in the way that you do with leadership, is quite correctly what you just said, and that's the way that we think and feel and choose is going to influence the next thing that we do. Because as you think and feel and choose, you're either drawing from that wisdom part of you or you're drawing from the outer part and the toxic trees with all the flimsy green trees which aren't very strong.

So, you're either making a very wise decision, so you're either thinking, feeling and choosing, being guided by the paradise forest, or you're thinking, feeling and choosing, guided by the flimsy, green, weakish forest with a lot of toxic trees in between. Or maybe purely from a toxic tree, which is a thought. And that then influences ... When I say that you're drawing from it, let's say that you now have a decision you need to make in your business, that's your experience, as the decision comes before you, you think and feel and choose, think and feel and choose at 400 billion actions per second on an unconscious level. But you experience that consciously every 10 seconds.

So, what we are able to do is assess, "Okay, am I drawing from my wisdom, thinking, feeling, choosing forest, or am I drawing from some toxic thing, the toxic trees, the toxic thought trees, or the flimsy green that aren't very well developed and very wise yet?" We have this phenomenal ability as humans to stand back and observe ourselves, and observe ourselves receiving that decision, that input about the business, how we're thinking, feeling and choosing, how we are accessing our wisdom. We can actually control that every 10 seconds. It's a malleable skill. So, when we talk about mind, we're talking about thinking, feeling and choosing, and we're talking about using our thinking, feeling and choosing to control our thinking, feeling and choosing, which then changes the structure of the brain and changes it right down to the level of the DNA.

I showed in my most recent clinical trials, which I did just a year and a bit ago, and I put the results into this book, and I showed with my experiment ... I showed a lot of stuff but I'm just going to give you a couple of things.

I had an experimental and a control group, and I did what we call a random controlled study, Gold Standard, all the double blind, all the fancy stuff. What I wanted to show was that if you teach a person how to stand back and observe their own thinking, feeling and choosing to manage their thinking, feeling and choosing, and thinking, feeling and choosing being mind, and then that in turn changes the neuroplasticity of the brain, if you can teach a person to do that ... And I've been researching this for 38 years but as I said this is my most recent trial, my most updated research.

When you do that, will there be a change in how they function in their behaviors, their cognitive, emotional, social, intellectual, business, work, their blood, their stress axis, the brain? I looked at all the different levels, the psychology, the narrative, the blood, the brain. I looked at a lot of different levels to see what the impact would be.

What we saw in the experimental group was phenomenal. What we saw was that there was an 81% improvement in how a person functioned in life, as a leader, as a parent, as a friend, as a person in terms of managing things like the warning signals of depression and anxiety and stress, and just day-to-day stuff, just dealing with an argument, or a stress factor at work, or politics or life. There's an 81% improvement in how you respond to those things in terms of your thinking, feeling and choosing, so in terms of your mind, when you manage your mind. It's a skill that you can learn and it even changes your DNA.

Just one more little fact and then just please jump in. I can talk a lot as you know. But one very interesting fact is we often hear about DNA and how our thoughts affect our DNA, and I wanted to really look at that because there isn't a lot of research. There's not enough research showing that direct link. I took something called telomeres. Telomeres, if you cross your fingers, make a little cross with your two index fingers, your nails would be your telomeres. Telomeres basically are a proxy for how we are managing our mind. This is what the latest research shows. Generally, they don't see change in telomeres over a five-year period. And what's significant about a telomere is that you are making, in your brain and your body, you are making over a million cells every second.

And the quality of those cells, which then determine the quality of your whole brain and body and mental health and everything, are determined by the quality of your telomeres. And your telomeres are dependent on your mind. So, we've got this circular thing going on. What we saw was that if people didn't manage their mind, not only was their life a complete mess, but we saw the effect right down to the level of their DNA. We saw significant shortening of the DNA and the telomeres, which impacted how they functioned. That was the control group because they didn't have any mind management. The experimental group had mind management, and their telomeres improved in health.

For example, we had people at the beginning of the study that were totally depressed, giving up on life, this was their last hope, suicidal. We had a whole lot of different reasons why people entered the study. We had some that their biological ages were sometimes 30 to 35 years older than our chronological age, which means that they were maybe in their thirties, 30 or 35 or whatever, but their biology, their cells, the actual age of their body was of a sickly 60-year-old. That increases vulnerability to diseases, it makes you feel awful, it feeds back into mental health.

By the end of the study, chronological and biological ages were matching and the telomeres had lengthened. And their cortisol levels had significantly decreased, and inflammation in the brain and body had decreased. And their narrative of how they were doing life had improved by 81%. I mean, I can go on and on and on. That's why I've written this book. Why I do what I do is because from a scientific standpoint, everything I do is based on a scientific basis.

What you knew instinctively years ago, and what you've been teaching instinctively for all these years as the leadership guru in this world literally, is, yes, if you don't get your thinking right, the way all your little beautiful quotes and things are all mindsets, they're all ways that you can think, feel and choose, to help people to actually lengthen telomeres, increase management of mind etc. etc. So, there's a long answer.

Mark Cole:       Wow. I'm just sitting here, notes flying off of this podcast and onto my paper, Caroline, John. John, I watched you in 2020 as we went through the COVID pandemic, and here we are ... For those of you, we're listening to Dr. Caroline Leaf, she released a book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess. You can go to Amazon, drleaf.com, cleaningupyourmentalmess.com. You need to pick up this book because Caroline goes so much deeper in this. But John, I watched you last year going through some friends of yours, leaders, world-class leaders that went through some of the most difficult because of COVID and other things. Here's the question for both of you, and John we'll start with you. What are some of the ways leaders make it harder on themselves mentally?

John Maxwell:  Well, I think what happens to me and what happens in me don't have to be the same. What happened to us, of course, I say it was a shock and numb year last year. We couldn't even fathom what was happening and part of the time we were just numb saying, "I'm certainly going to wake up from this nightmare."

But what is happening to us during COVID is something that we can't control, but what is happening in me is something that I can control. And I've always said that leadership begins on the inside, not the outside. I've always said that we need to be bigger on the inside than we are on the outside, we need to be better on the inside than we are on the outside. And I think leadership during times of crisis, people are desperately looking for someone who can give security. Not answers always. I don't think answers are always necessary, but I think security is.

And to be able to look at people and say, "We don't always understand this, we don't always like this, but we can make the best of whatever we're going through and I'm going to make that choice. I'm going to make a choice to learn from this, I'm going to make a choice to grow from this, I'm going to make a choice to add value to people in the midst of this." I think that's what has been so desperately needed during COVID is just leaders who would be able to help and add value and lift them up and help walk them through this whole process.

So, when I look at the situations that go around, and I think this is a very insecure time for people, it's a very trying time. And I think we should be not asking when is this going to be over, thinking of COVID-19 and all the exterior things. I think what we have to be asking ourself is, "When am I going to get control of what I know to be real? And when am I going to hold onto the values I know that will hold me?" The values that you hold in regular times will hold you during very difficult times. If I have strong values on the inside, Mark, Caroline, if I have strong values on the inside I think I need less validation on the outside. I think when you think of social media and where it's gone, I think we've lost our way with values a lot, and so therefore I'm wanting someone else to validate me. What happens to me doesn't have to control what happens in me.

In fact, I can't control the outside, but I can control the inside. That's my conversation with the leaders right now. I'm not even saying we have to like it. I'm not saying we have to agree with it. I'm not even saying we have to understand it. But we do have to control with who we are and the values we embrace and what we know, and lead accordingly. Again, I'm the amateur. Dr. Caroline's the pro. She's the lady who I learn from, so help me out here. Take us to a whole new level, okay?

Caroline Leaf:   I think you take us to a whole new level each time you speak John, but thank you for your kind words and I totally back up what you're saying. As you were talking, I was just thinking of all the visual analogy of that forest again, because what you're talking about is the insight. We've got that inner wisdom and it's scientifically shown that if we can access and rely on that, we will become responders and not reactors.

And it's reactions that we don't think through that come from that external forest that I described, which is very often toxic responses to situations. If we react from those, we're not going to have the same level of internal value systems working from intrinsically. We're going to want the external validation, we're going to want things. People are going to make comments like, "When COVID is over and we go back to normal."

Nothing's ever the same. You're never the same. You're not the same now as you were just 10 minutes. Our brain is always changing, our mind is always changing, life is always changing. There is no such thing as normal. We need to start thinking deeply again. I personally think, and I agree with what you've said, because it's actually ... We're saying the same thing. What we've seen in COVID-19 is a change of how people are thinking. We got so caught up in the last 30 years in the advances in technology, which I already mentioned earlier on, which is not a bad thing, but we've got so caught up in them that we've forgotten how to really think deeply. And our brains become very toxic when you live in the outside part of the forest. We are designed for deep intellectual thought. Our brain health comes from deep intellectual thought.

When two people sit down and have totally opposite points of view, but they operate from that internal wisdom and that intrinsic wisdom, they can have an amazing discussion. They can agree to disagree. They can agree to move forward in terms of progress of humanity, what is the greater good for all mankind. Agree to disagree to move forward. But when we see what we see happening around the world and in politics, and the arguments among politicians and even scientists. They've actually been the big boys in the room, the scientists, in my opinion, because they've really focused on deep, insightful facts around for example COVID. What we're designed to do is to have this deep intellectual-type thinking, and that's started to happen. People have had to question. They've been forced to be at home, re-look at their values, re-look at their businesses and get away from the external validation. We can't be intrinsically living, it's not sustainable. What is sustainable is an internal response that is coming from that wisdom part of the forest. And how do we get there? You can only get there through deep thinking.

If you are living in hurry sickness, which is what we had for the last 30, 40 years, where we are doing things so fast and so quickly because of the efficiency of how life has become so efficient, we've lost core values, and we've lost core values, and one of the main ones is thinking deeply. We're operating from that outside, flimsy part of the forest. We're not taking the time to think things through deeply for the good of mankind. Then we'll see what we saw at the capital. You'll see people falling apart and saying things like that mental health is on the rise and we need more diagnoses and mental illness diagnoses. That's not a solution. Mankind has always faced issues. This is just our particular issue we're facing in this period of history, but every period of history, every generation faces something. But what's interesting about this generation is that we're not thinking anymore, or we stopped thinking. No, that's the wrong word. We're always thinking but we've been thinking in a very surface way, a very external, extrinsic way of thinking.

So, COVID-19 is forcing us, COVID-19 and the politics and the awareness of racism and these things, are forcing us to reevaluate, as you said John, our values, our intrinsic depth of who we are. What do I need? What is important? And thinking things through. That way, we become responders because we draw on inner wisdom. We don't react from those external forests and that external tree where there's those toxic trees, and we just go with the literal neural networks that are the ones that we've accessed the most because we haven't thought about them the deep stuff enough and we just react. We need to become responders.

If I just may end with this. I am seeing a shift. As terrible as COVID-19 is, and as terrible as all the things and the deaths, we all wish this didn't happen, as terrible as it is, it's forced us as humans to think deeply again and to reevaluate what is and isn't important. Because I'm hearing this comment, this sort of thing coming up a lot in discussions, which I didn't hear two years ago. I don't know if you heard it, John. But yeah, we've got to go internal and think deeply because that is where wisdom is, that is where we will find the answers. And, as you said John, we may not like it but we have to dig deep to get the cognitive flexibility and the insight of how to navigate each next step, because we can't rely back on old patterns and old norms etc. We have to create new.

In history, whenever you see major changes like the Renaissance and that kind of thing, it's been where the world has been thrown into some level of major global crisis, and it's forced people to get very creative in their thinking and very insightful and flexible. And I think we're in one of those periods now. I think out of this we're going to see the birth of a new type of humanity, which we need.

John Maxwell:  Wow. I hope you're right on that. Caroline, I so completely agree on the fact that with all the social media going on, and all the ... There's just a lot of voices. I can tell you, leaders need to walk slowly through the crowd. They need to listen, learn and lead. But I can promise you, during a crisis when people are emotionally driven, that calls for a leader to go way beyond listening to the people. You got to go inside and listen to your own voice and listen to your own conscious. And if you're a person of faith like me, listen to God.

To me, there are times when what we hear around us are not the way that we should lead. We have to be deeper than that. We have to be bigger than that. We have to see further than that. We have to constantly keep the big picture in front of us. I think one of the things in leadership during this whole process that we've experienced is there are some leaders who can't get beyond the voices of the people around them. And I think if you can't get beyond the voices of the people around you, I don't think you can lead people to go above where they are.

Caroline Leaf:   Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's so powerful.

Mark Cole:       We've got just a couple more minutes here. Caroline, I want to ask you about one thing that you wrote in the book. And again gang, we're talking about the new book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess. John, I'll let you close out today because this is a subject that you are passionate about as well, and it's growth. In the book, Caroline, you write, "Whatever we think about the most grows." What does that look like in real life? How can we use that in a positive way?

Caroline Leaf:   When you respond to something and you think, feel and choose, which is mind in action as we've discussed, you build that into your brain physically in the form of a protein-structured tree, which is a thought. You also build it into your DNA of every cell, and you build it into the quantum nature of your mind which is gravitational fields. I know that's very complex, but the point is you build that response into three places.

Now, the more you think about it, the more energy you give it, that thought tree. And think of a tree's got lots of branches and roots. So, as a tree is made up of branches and roots, a thought, which is a real thing built in three places, is made up of lots of memories. So, the memories and the thought are the equivalent of branches on the tree. What happens is that every time you think about it again, or you read something about it again, or you keep going through, recalling the same, maybe, "This injustice was done to me," and you keep thinking, what you're doing is you're adding more branches onto the tree physically in your brain.

And in your mind you're giving it more physical energy. Like watering a plant, you're giving it more energy. And then in the DNA you are actually strengthening the genetic response. So, the more you think about something, you're actually making three major changes on a mental mind level and physically in your brain and your body. So, then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And anything that's got energy is going to be very dominant.

Let's say it's a toxic pattern of what we see going on around us at the moment. So many toxic patterns of people just not listening to each other and getting completely hooked in one way of thinking. They have spent so much time on that tree that in the forest, in that analogy I gave you in the beginning, there is just this huge, big, black bunch of trees that are so big and so dominant, because that's where the energy is. Energy is never lost in the brain and the body and in the world. Energy is only ever transferred. That's a basic scientific principle.

So, instead of the energy going into accessing the inner wisdom in that middle part of the forest, which is our deep and unconscious wisdom as I talked about earlier, it's being poured into this toxic way of thinking and it's growing and growing and growing. Whatever has the most energy given to it is the thought that will dominate the most. That's basically physically it grows, and then it gets tons of energy, so it moves into your conscious mind all the time. It's popping up. Everything's triggering it to come into your conscious mind.

If, however, with mind management you embrace it and acknowledge that that's a toxic way of thinking, the acknowledgement weakens it, and then basically you can process, "Why do I think like this?" and you can re-conceptualize it. You can deconstruct it and reconstruct it. To do that, you need to access your wisdom. You need to actually stand back and say, "Hey, why am I thinking like this? Why am I in this argument? Why am I caught up in this fight? Why am I doing this? Why am I leading like this?"

It's that desire to stand back and observe your own choices, and your own thinking, feeling and choosing, that then enables you to start taking the energy away from that toxic in the brain, in the body, in the mind, and then reconstruct and build something that's more wise and then rather grow that one. But that requires a decision to use your mind to use your mind.

Mark Cole:       Wow, wow. I'm going to tell you, I hope that you, like myself, like John, are being challenged in your thinking or being challenged in wanting to grow. I know for me, I speak on behalf of John, we're seeing a real hunger, Caroline, for mental health and a recognition that, as you talked about earlier, that we need to see the mind and the brain and the difference and how we need to renew our mind, how we need to control our focus. And so I'm really thankful.

I knew going into this podcast, John, we were going to run out of time for all the questions I wanted to ask Caroline. But I would like, John, for you to just have a moment here to close us out, to thank Caroline, and then I'll wrap up with a few show notes. But on behalf of myself, Dr. Leaf, and literally hundreds of thousands of people that will tune into this podcast and literally countless people that's going to buy your book and begin this journey of Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, I am thankful to you. John, thank you as always for bringing your friends to the podcast community.

John Maxwell:  Well, it's my joy. Thank you, Caroline. My takeaway of course goes back, well, what really got me triggered in the beginning was the difference between the mind and the brain. That was outstanding. But my takeaway was, Caroline, when you talked about thinking, feeling, choosing. And you did it in such a sequential, logical way, that basically what you're saying to all of us as leaders is our primary responsibility is to control our thinking. If we can do a good job on that front end, the feeling and the choosing will just follow. But if we get off track with the thinking, then the choosing, feeling follows that too.

And so the emphasis that I have is that we need to continually think like leaders, which means we are not our own, we are committed to adding value to people and so we have to think beyond our own emotions, we have to think beyond our own feelings. We have to even think beyond our own perspectives and observations and go deeper than that, because the only way that we can help people is to have thinking that is controlled by what's right and thinking controlled by the big picture, what's best. What's right and what's best. So, you've challenged me to work at that sequence of thinking, feeling, choosing. Thank you very much for helping us today. I'm better because of you, as always.

Caroline Leaf:   Oh, well thank you both so much. I am better because of you. I love talking to you, I could talk to you for hours. Thank you for understanding what I was trying to say, because not everyone gets this thinking, feeling, choosing thing. If we can get that, and then we can see depression and anxiety as symptoms of an underlying cause, mental health is no longer scary and doesn't control us and we can then become decent humans and operate in a mind that we should be operating in. So, thank you for the opportunity, to both of you, to share on your podcast. I'm very grateful.

Mark Cole:       Hey, yes, and thank you. And most of all, for those of you in our podcast leadership campaigns, thank you. Because truly, if you heard Caroline just now, we want to simplify and not mystify the mental health and the challenges of so many people. John, I've heard you say that over and over again. That's why you bring people like Caroline.

And Caroline, in your book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, there are five simple steps for reducing anxiety and stress. I'm going to tell you something, podcast listeners. If you don't know, the world needs this message. If you don't know, the world needs this message. And by the way, you and somebody around you needs the message.

So, pick up the book today. Amazon.com, Dr. Leaf, D-R-L-E-A-F.com. Cleaningupyourmentalmess.com. There's places all over the place, but Caroline, I can't wait to do something with you again. John Maxwell, as always, you are constantly looking for ways to add value and you have done that today. Hey podcast listeners, we will see you next week. Until then, let's lead together.

4 thoughts on “Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess with Dr. Caroline Leaf”

  1. Thank you SO much! Great message, so relevant!
    This week, I had to do a personal “Delete” and “Restore” ! Too many negative distractions. It worked! Thank you, John! Nancy Smith

  2. Hi, well this one is timely. I’ve just started my first week of a 4 month mental recovery from work. I think a lot of leaders show they want to acknowledge it but they don’t really get it or have the practical tools to help themselves or team or kids. Sometimes I feel most think it’s some sort of communicable disease. As someone who lost a parent to suicide, I feel this is one of the most important topics facing us a leaders/parents. It scares me. I’ve tried to coach some of my team thru issues but feel I need time to get this figured out to help them. I look forward to listening to this book. Take care and thanks!

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