We spoke with Yashar Khosroshahi, naturopathic doctor + brain-based executive coach, and co-founder of MINDSHIFT Ninja. (Actually, we connect with him quite often since he’s Megan’s husband — and we look forward to cuddling their new baby boy, born on December 29th, 2015).
Yashar trains the two most powerful muscles in the body that are often neglected, the heart and the brain, and coaches individuals, groups, and businesses how to live and work optimally and mindfully. We found out who benefits most from coaching, why mindfulness is going mainstream, and how to rewire your brain.
You call yourself a Brain-Based Executive Coach. Is that like a life coach?
There are some similarities. But anyone can call themselves a life coach, so it’s important to dig a little deeper when you’re deciding who you want to work with. I’m a Naturopathic Doctor, and a certified Brain-Based Executive Coach from the NeuroLeadership Institute, and I use the latest research in neuroscience, mindfulness, psychology and strategic planning to help individuals create success, passion, and purpose. I spend much of my time analyzing the literature and figuring out how to practically apply it for myself and others. It is the balance of the hard sciences with the soft skills that really allows each person to not only gain a deeper understanding about themselves, but also have a more realistic opportunity to create sustainable change.
Does everyone need a coach in life + work?
I truly believe so. It is imperative to have a trusted voice (outside of your own head) to help you navigate the waters of your daily emotions, thoughts and actions. Often, people stall their personal growth, letting it slip in priorities, and then wonder why they feel unfulfilled, why they keep facing the same challenges, and why they keep working so hard to accomplish so little.
I help my patients + clients gain deeper insights for the challenges they face and the growth available to them, and help them facilitate healthy changes.
Why would someone see you instead of another Naturopathic Doctor?
It really depends on your goals. Every doctor is different, and has their own focus and/or way of practicing. I prefer to focus on counselling + coaching because it’s where I see the best results and the most lasting change. Depending on the needs of each patient or client I also have the other, more common, naturopathic tools to support if needed.
I often say, patients don’t come into my practice because they think candy is better for them than kale – they come because they don’t know why they keep picking candy over kale. Whatever your “candy” or your “kale” is, I can help you understand it and work through it – that is, if you’re ready to do the work.
Why do you focus on the brain + the heart?
Because they are immensely powerful muscles that can change, strengthen, and become more flexible the more we understand how to use them and train them appropriately!
The brain’s ability to change is called neuroplasticity, and it is happening all the time. To take advantage of this incredible opportunity, one needs to be able to cultivate the magic of focus (this is the secret sauce so to speak). It may be fascinating to know, it is much easier to create a new neural pathway than it is to breakdown an old one. Therefore, knowing what to focus on and how to do it will help point your brain in the right direction.
Equally as fascinating, the heart sends far more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart (about 90%-95% of the nerve fibers carrying messages are from the heart to the brain). The heart also produces significant amounts of a hormone called Oxytocin (once thought only produced in the brain). This brain chemical has a strong influence on our emotional, social and stress behaviours. Therefore, understanding how to work with your own physiology becomes invaluable for anyone looking to improve themselves.
Why should we practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness refers to the ability of maintaining a present moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and/or surrounding environment. The practice of mindfulness in the form of meditation has been documented as far back in our history as 3000-2000 B.C., and has made an impact in all major religions. However, we are now living in a very an exciting time because science has helped us understand the value of mindfulness detached from any religious underpinnings and in a language that is accessible to all. Mindfulness helps increase our ability for focused attention, physical and mental performance, creativity, emotional intelligence, immune strength and can even change the structures of the brain!
Can you measure mindfulness?
Mindfulness, in my opinion, needs to remain a very subjective experience that each person has a personal relationship with. That being said, there are many different tools, like at home biofeedback equipment to highly sophisticated scientific equipment, that can help us understand what is going on in the brain and body as we develop the skill of mindfulness. The true measure is achieving + maintaining a general state of calmness and clarity throughout your body even in challenging situations.
With my patients and clients I measure what is called Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback to teach individuals to how to work with their own physiology and the benefits I mentioned, and more.
So who is your ideal patient or client?
I work mostly with business professionals, athletes, youth, and those that are mentally or physically unwell. I love to work with anyone who wants to improve; People who are interested and committed to growing, understanding and developing a way of life that resonates deep within them. I work with people that are ready to work, not because it is easy, but because it is worth it.
You work with people both half your age and twice your age. Is it important to be able to relate to your patients or clients?
I am a human, and I work with humans. I have developed the skill of active listening, I have a deep interest in human psychology and performance, and I believe in people. This is what matters most, age is but a number.
You help people work through and overcome life’s challenges. Is that exhausting or motivating?
Honestly, it can be both. However, without fail I have come to appreciate and respect the human experience the more I do this work. There is no sense in running from our challenges, not because of some moral high ground we must stand on, but because we have the capacity to change and grow. Witnessing others courageously step into their challenges and face vulnerability only further inspires and motivates me to continue my own personal development.
Is social media good or bad for our brains + personal growth?
Like any tool, it depends on how it is used. We all develop relationships with everything that we participate in and with. It is not enough to simply place blame, or categorize as “good” or “bad”, but we need to ask more meaningful questions, such as, “What is my relationship with this tool? What is it giving me, and at what cost?”
Which is your favourite social platform and why?
I think Facebook and Instagram are a tie in my books. They both give me a great look into people’s lives, something I really enjoy, so no surprise there! But I also enjoy finding and sharing great articles on Twitter as well.