How to Control Your Brain for Optimal Functioning

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As we prepare for major events in our careers, we tend to focus on preparation. When we have a big presentation to give, we practice until we feel comfortable. When we have an interview for a new job, we research the company and its key players to make sure we have answers to obvious questions. When we have a project deadline, we manage our time and team to achieve the best results. However, when we take this approach, we only do half the work to be effective and successful.

How often do you take the time to prime your brain? What do you do to ensure that you keep this central organ in play, not just your body and your actions? It’s fair to say that physical preparation controls the brain, but there are certain things you can do to make sure it’s just as prepared as your body for these important career situations.

The Role of Thoughts

Many people have the misconception that emotions are just happenthat we can’t control how we feel. That leaves us to their whim and reacts purely by feel. The problem with this is that emotions are subjective and usually do not allow for logical or strategic thinking.

The truth is you can deal with emotions, but that starts with controlling thoughts. Every emotion we experience comes from a thought that occurs consciously or unconsciously, then we experience one or more emotions based on that. One challenge you (like pretty much all of us) are likely to have is recognizing the emotion but not taking the time to identify the thought causing it.

In business, this can be harmful at best, dangerous at worst. If you are reacting emotionally, you may not be making the best decision or choosing the most effective path. You may be distracted and unable to focus your energy and attention on productive actions. Instead of functioning at peak levels, you are drawn into a vortex that leaves you out of control and exhausted.

Related: A 5-step approach to treating imposter syndrome

To avoid this, do the following:

1. Clearly identify the emotion you are experiencing, and then ask yourself if that emotion is serving your purpose. For example, you might experience an increased level of anxiety about giving a professional presentation. Instead of sinking into that fear, ask yourself if doing the task well will make the goal easier.

2. If the emotion(s) serve no purpose, identify the thoughts that produce them. Thoughts that trigger fear related to the above presentation might include not wanting to be made a fool of, coming across as a fraud, or simply that people will stare at you and judge you. This fear isn’t just because you don’t like speaking in public: it comes from certain thoughts that you’ve now identified.

3. Take the time to break down these thoughts by replacing them with dates. By asking yourself specific questions, you can replace harmful and anxiety-provoking thoughts with information. For example, consider the number of times you’ve given successful presentations and/or do a quick mental scan of your resume to recall all the accomplishments, training, and education that qualified you for that presentation. You can also consider the people in your audience and identify allies who support you. When you feed your brain with evidence and facts, it doesn’t have to fill the uncertainty with “what ifs?”. By reminding your brain that you have the skills to take on this task—that you have the background to be credible on the subject—your brain will generate emotion consistent with those thoughts and fear through replace confidence.

Related: How to become more confident

The role of words

As a professional, you are probably aware of the power of words. These can be used to motivate or demoralize, empower or undermine, but how often do you think of the ones you use on yourself? Such words can be the conscious ones you say to yourself as well as unconscious ones or whispered things. I find it helpful to ask, “Would I say the same to colleagues or my team?” For many professionals, words they say to empower others are not directed at themselves.

The problem, once again, is that words evoke thoughts followed by emotions that can be detrimental to optimal functioning. These can be obvious, e.g. For example, calling yourself an “idiot” for making a mistake or telling yourself that you are “not as skilled as others think you are”. You might find yourself thinking that you are likely to fail at something important. These words create undermining thoughts, which in turn create emotions aligned with them.

There are also smaller words that can create an inner climate that sabotage your goals. Examples include “should,” “must,” “must,” and “must”—which evoke thoughts of not doing enough, not being enough, or falling behind peers. They also create the illusion that you are being forced to do certain things. And again, those words create emotions: you might experience pressure, stress, or guilt and then, out of desperation, make decisions to prove yourself that don’t allow you to function optimally or healthily.

To avoid creating an internal climate of negative thoughts and emotions, replace these buzzwords with power words — options like “want” and “will” can alter an internal dialogue and put control back in your hands. For example, instead of telling yourself that you must go to work to repeat the practice for the presentation so you don’t screw up, the internal dialogue becomes “I will go to work to practice because i want Having confidence in the presentation.” When you change the buzzword “should” to “want” and “want” and shift the focus from making mistakes to building confidence, you regain control of thoughts and emotions.

Related: Your word matters, so think before you speak

The role of the brain

Ultimately, your brain is lazy: it focuses on what you tell it. Consider this: The last time you went shopping for a car, you probably came across a style or two that you liked. Most likely you saw these styles everywhere you went. Has there been a sudden spike in the number of these models being purchased in your area? Unlikely. Then why did you see them around you if you had never noticed them before? This impression is created through a process called priming. We prime our brain to look for evidence and examples of what we tell it. When you told your the types of cars you were interested in, it found as many examples as possible to reinforce that focus.

How can you apply the same approach when it comes to professional functioning? One way is to decide what perspective you want to take on the work. When you tell your brain you hate your job, it will look for and provide evidence as to why you should feel this way – all you will see is data consistent with that thought. So how do you apply priming so it works for you and not against you?

It may be true that you don’t like your job, but you do can Tell your brain that you appreciate making money as you seek new opportunities. It then looks for examples that support this idea of ​​appreciation and also looks for possibilities. You don’t have to make an inaccurate statement about your job and lie to your brain, you can decide which aspect of the situation it is spending time and energy on. This strategy allows you to function at your optimal level instead of losing focus and strength.

Related: Unwavering focus is the superpower of all elite entrepreneurs

The role of choice

When you work on a project for your organization, do you plan to complete fifty percent of it and hope the rest will take care of itself? Of course not, but it’s likely how you’ll function if you just physically prepare for your professional role. Overall, how you function is your choice: you can determine what thoughts you want to encourage to generate beneficial emotions that then bring you closer to peak performance. You can Decide which words will evoke behaviors and actions consistent with goal attainment, and can tell your brain where to direct focus and energy to achieve desired outcomes. These strategies help the brain become your greatest tool, not your greatest obstacle.

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