How To Optimize Your Brain’s Functioning

When we are preparing for significant career events, we frequently focus exclusively on preparation. If we are tasked with a large presentation, we practise until we feel comfortable. If we are scheduled for an interview for a new position, we conduct research on the company and its key players to ensure we are prepared to answer all pertinent questions.

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If a project has a deadline, we manage our time and resources effectively to achieve the best results. However, when we do this, we only do half of what we need to do to be effective and successful.

How frequently do you prepare your brain? What steps do you take to ensure that you retain control of that critical organ, not just your body and actions? While it is true that physical preparation controls the brain, there are specific things you can do to ensure that your brain is as prepared as your body for those critical career situations.

The Function Of Thoughts

The Function Of Thoughts
The Function Of Thoughts

Many people believe that emotions just happen and that we have no control over how we feel. This leaves us at their mercy, reacting solely on the basis of our emotions. Usually, people don’t think logically or strategically when they have strong emotions.

The truth is that you can manage your emotions, but you must first master your thoughts. Each emotion we experience begins with a thought, whether conscious or unconscious and is followed by one or more emotions. The difficulty you (and probably the majority of us) face is that you recognise the emotion but do not take the time to identify the thought that caused it.

This can be detrimental to business at best, and dangerous at worst. If you act emotionally, you may not make the best choice or take the most effective path. You may be distracted, unable to direct your energy and attention toward constructive activities. Instead of being at your best, you get sucked into a whirlpool, which makes you feel out of control and exhausted.

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To Avoid This, Follow The Steps Below:

The Function Of Thoughts
The Function Of Thoughts

1. Clearly identify the emotion you are experiencing, and then consider whether that emotion is beneficial to your goal. 2. For instance, you may experience increased anxiety when preparing for a professional presentation. Rather than succumbing to that anxiety, consider whether it helps the goal of performing well on the task.

2. If the emotion(s) serve no purpose, identify the thoughts that cause them.Concerns about making a fool of yourself, coming across as a fraud, or simply that people will be staring and judging you may contribute to anxiety about making a fool of yourself in the above presentation. This anxiety isn’t just because you don’t like public speaking; it comes from specific thoughts that you have now found out about, which are the reason for it.

3. Take the time to deconstruct these thoughts by substituting data for them. By posing specific questions to yourself, you can replace harmful and anxiety-inducing thoughts with information. Consider how many successful presentations you’ve delivered in the past, and/or perform a quick mental scan of your resume to remind yourself of all the accomplishments, training, and education that qualify you to deliver this presentation.

Additionally, you can consider your audience and identify potential allies. When you provide evidence and facts to your brain, it is relieved of the need to fill in uncertainty with “What if?” By reminding your brain that you possess the abilities necessary to complete this task—that you do possess the background necessary to be credible on the subject—your brain will generate emotions consistent with these thoughts, thereby replacing anxiety with confidence.

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The Significance Of Words

The Significance Of Words
The Significance Of Words

As a professional, you are probably aware of the persuasive power of language. These can be used to motivate or demoralise, to strengthen or weaken, but how frequently do you consider the ones you employ on yourself? These are not only the conscious words you speak to yourself but also the unconscious or whispered ones. I find it beneficial to ask myself, “Would I say the same thing to my coworkers or my team?” Many professionals are not aware that the words they use to empower others are directed at themselves.

Once again, the issue is that words generate thoughts, which in turn generate emotions that can be detrimental to optimal functioning. These may be self-evident, such as labelling yourself an “idiot” for making an error or telling yourself that you “are not as skilled as others believe.” You may come to believe that you are doomed to fail at something significant. These words elicit negative thoughts, which in turn elicit negative emotions.

Additionally, there are smaller words that can sabotage your goals by creating an internal climate. Should, “have to,” “need to,” and “must” are all examples of words that evoke thoughts of not doing enough, not being enough, or falling behind peers.

Additionally, they create the illusion that you are being compelled to perform certain actions. These words can cause you to feel pressure, stress, or guilt, which can cause you to make decisions out of a desire to prove yourself, which will make it hard for you to function optimally or stay healthy.

To avoid creating an internal climate of negative thoughts and emotions, substitute power words for these pressure words—options such as “want” and “will” can alter an internal dialogue and reclaim control. For instance, rather than telling yourself that you should report to work to review and practise for the presentation in order to avoid making a mistake, your internal dialogue becomes, “I will report to work to practise because I want to be confident about the presentation.” By replacing the pressure word “should” with “will” and “want” and refocusing on building confidence rather than making a mistake, you regain control of your thoughts and emotions.

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The Brain’s Functions

The Brain's Functions
The Brain’s Functions

At the end of the day, your brain is slothful: it will focus on whatever you direct it to. Consider the following: When you were last in the market for a car, you probably narrowed your options to one or two styles. You have almost certainly begun to notice these trends everywhere you go. Was there an unexpected increase in the number of these models purchased in your area?

Unlikely Then why were you noticing these things around you when you hadn’t before? This impression is created through a procedure known as priming. Our brains are trained to look for evidence and examples of whatever we instruct them to. When you told it what kind of cars you were interested in, it came up with a list of as many examples as possible to back up your choice.

How can you apply this same philosophy to your professional life? One way is to decide on your desired perspective on work. If you tell your brain that you despise your job, it will look for and provide evidence to support that feeling; all you will see is data that supports that thought. Therefore, how do you apply priming in such a way that it works for you rather than against you?

While it is true that you dislike your job, you can communicate to your brain that you value earning money while you search for new opportunities. It will then look for examples that exemplify that concept of appreciation, as well as areas of opportunity.

You are not required to fabricate an incorrect statement about your job and deceive your brain. However, you can direct your brain’s attention to which aspect of the situation it spends time and energy on. This strategy allows you to work at your best instead of being tired and focused.

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The Preferred Role

The Preferred Role
The Preferred Role

When you work on a project for your organisation, do you intend to complete half of it and then hope the rest falls into place? Of course not, but this is likely how you have been functioning if you have been focusing exclusively on physical preparation for your professional role.

In general, how you function is entirely up to you: You can choose which thoughts to encourage in order to generate beneficial emotions that will bring you closer to peak performance.

You can choose which words will elicit behaviours and actions consistent with goal attainment, and you can instruct your brain on where to focus its attention and energy in order to achieve the desired results. These strategies help the brain become your best friend, not your worst enemy.

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