In this post I'll share some general information on the brain. Next week, in Part 2, I will share some specific techniques for how to optimize our brain's energy. So, stay tuned for some practical, easy to implement tips to maximize your daily output.
Caroline Webb contends that our perception of reality is way more malleable then what we think it is. She believes that we can turn a cycle from a vicious one into a virtuous one. Here in lies the hope, we have more control over how our day proceeds than we might think.
She also states that whatever is top on your mind will dictate the trajectory that your mind continues to take and it will drive what we see. Our conscious mind can only handle so much information, but our subconscious mind is working behind the scenes and it is looking for whatever syncs with what's on the top of your mind.
Here's an example of how this works. If you anticipate that someone is going to be a jerk to work with then your brain will automatically search for things that prove that the person is a jerk to work with. The invitation is to ask yourself, "Where do I honestly want to put my intention?" You can acknowledge that this person has been annoying in the past, but then consciously make the decision to look for signs of collaboration for instance. Magically your brain will then look for options of collaboration. This is a much more optimal and productive mindset and will lead us to having a more positive day and interaction.
Our brain at any given moment is scanning the environment around us for any possible threats or rewards. Threats that we want to defend ourselves against and any rewards we seek out and want to discover. The brain is primarily about safety. It's not just concerned with physical threats, but also anything that speaks to our self-worth, sense of autonomy and harmony, or our social standing. Anything that gives us those things serves as a reward and anything that threatens to take them away serves as a threat.
You can be triggered into perceiving a threat when somebody interrupts you speaking, when you feel excluded in an email, etc. These perceived threats shut down part of our brain that is responsible for reasoning, for self-control and for planning. When under pressure it's very easy to become "dumber". When we are on the defensive were simply not capable of being the full version of ourselves, the best version of ourselves. It helps to know how to get yourself off the defensive, so you can bring the most sophisticated, the most thoughtful, the optimal part of yourself back online.
The emergency application to damper the threat response is to ask yourself a distancing question. Questions like..."What will I think about this when I look back on it in a years time?" "What would my wisest closest friend say about this?" "What would my best self say?" "In a years time what will I be glad that I learned from this?"
The next big thing that is helpful is to get your brain focused on the rewards of the situation. The more your brain focuses on the reward, rather then the threat, the easier it is to get off the defensive. Learning new stuff is deeply rewarding to the brain. So, say to yourself, "How fascinating, what can I learn from this?" This is super helpful because this gets you learning which is very rewarding to your brain. This does double duty because it reduces the sense of threat and increases the sense of reward.
If you are having a challenging interaction or an interaction that was supposed to be positive that is now turning negative ask truly curious questions and then actively listen to the response. Don't listen with the intent to respond, to debate, etc. simply listen with the intent to learn and to understand.
Interpersonal relationships and rewarding relationships are critical to having a good day. One tense interaction can sink how you may feel about an otherwise good day. That's why it's so important that we are intentional about how we look at people and interactions.
Marianne Williamson suggest that each morning we should meditate on and set our intention for every interaction that we will have, both planned and unplanned. Being intentional is truly a practice and can be a challenging one at times! It's a muscle that strengthens with practice.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Please drop me a comment or send me an email. My hope is that this served in you some way. I will post part 2 next week.