Being your own boss has been the Holy Grail of business for a long time, but now, there's some science to back up the idea that you'll accomplish more if you don't have someone else calling the shots. According to Dr. Daniel Glaser, director of science at King's College London, your brain works completely differently when you're able to direct yourself and when someone else is directing you.

A look at your cerebellum

The cerebellum is part of the brain located near the back of your skull. Sometimes called the "little brain", one of its major jobs is to control your balance and coordinate your muscles, so it's critical for performing dozens of everyday, voluntary tasks. But another big function of the cerebellum is memory, including so-called "procedural" or "muscle" memory that allows you to perform tasks fairly automatically.

Internally directed versus externally directed movement

Glaser asserts that brain activations for internally directed and externally directed movements are different, with movements being clumsier when someone else is telling you what to do. That's because if the cerebellum doesn't know what's coming next, it's harder for the cerebellum to figure out how quickly a movement should be executed or how long it should last. Muscle memory ties into this control in that, when you use a learned movement, the cerebellum uses what it knows about that sequence to predict what comes next and adjust motor control accordingly.

Connected to this concept, a study from Stanford University discovered that the brain has two different systems for planned (externally directed) and unplanned (internally directed) movements. When you know what to do but have to wait for a cue to move forward, your brain preps for the movement. Your neurons go into a "prepare-and-hold" state, similar to an athlete waiting for the gun to start a race. If you don't have to wait for a cue (say, from your boss), the neurons just "go", bypassing the hold state.

To make it more complex...

As Marilee Sprenger, author of Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action points out, memory held in the cerebellum doesn't just affect motor function. It also connects to things like language or attention. For example, scientists think that you store information like the alphabet or your multiplication tables in the cerebellum.

Putting brain function into context

When you have someone telling you what to do, you're potentially interfering with physical and non-physical implicit memory, and the cerebellum has a harder time controlling your movements. This doesn't mean you can't get great work done. It simply means that, if you're not waiting for cues and your brain can predict what comes next based on classical conditioning or experience, you'll probably adapt to your circumstances better and work more efficiently. In that sense, Glaser asserts, not having a boss or being self-employed can be a benefit. Not everybody can enjoy that luxury, of course, but it's not unreasonable to, say, ask your supervisor not to micromanage you, or to request that there be a limited number of people in authority on a specific team.