Sometimes, a little brainwashing is just what the doctor ordered. Of course, I would never endorse the surrendering of your better judgments to a person or a cause that attempts to keep you under a spell. Instead, I’m referring to a constructive type of brainwashing— an intentional carving out of your brain’s neuropathways, if you will. In my recent article Rewiring The Brain: How To Use Habit To Regulate Your Emotions, I compared your neuropathways to the routes that rainwater follows down a hill, which become more entrenched or “trained” each time it rains. I went on to demonstrate how, with intentional practice, you can retrain the vital pathways in your brain to crate better habits for yourself, from what you eat to how you respond to stress at work.
The goal is to equip you with better emotional self-management skills for future high-stakes situations in your career. Keeping your cool under stress, as it turns out, is something you can prepare for. Those neuropathways which often lead to flip-outs can be reprogramed to become your saving grace. Let’s now look at a different analogy to complete this picture. Get ready for a little creative roleplay and a lot of transformation!
“Crossing The Bridge”
Imagine you’re standing on one side of a bridge— the side where your cortisol is through the roof, rendering you emotionally “trigger happy”. On the other side of the bridge is a place where you can transform into a put-together professional who exudes Executive Presence. Walking across will require some self-examination.
First, you’ll need to recognize how you typically show up now in high-stakes situations. What comes to mind? What are the stories you are telling yourself? How do they make you feel? Then think about how you will show up in the future. How does that feel? How will you look? What thoughts will go through your mind?
Now consider what you need to do more of and say more of to show up as you desire. While you’re at it, what do you need to do less of and say less of? What will you do to self-regulate when you’re triggered?
Finally, determine what you want to change to help you show up the way you intend to. Incorporate some deliberate practices to make those changes a reality. This will become the rewiring of the brain that you’ll practice again and again to avoid defaulting to your previous patterns.
Reframe The Past, Control The Future.
Do you ever ruminate on things you’d screwed up in the past? Do you keep “beating yourself up” for these missteps, kicking yourself and wondering how you could be so stupid? This shame is full of bad energy that can be converted into a valuable life lesson and a future “best practice”.
For instance, think of a time in a past business meeting when your idea was put down and you were totally embarrassed (We’ve all been there!) Marinate on this scene for a moment and ask yourself what led to the interaction. But this time, as you run the replay, don’t just beat yourself up. Take a breath, give yourself a mental hug, and dig into the circumstances of the meeting. How were you feeling going into the meeting that day? What was your state of mind? Was the vibe in the room hostile or was the insult from out of nowhere? When the put-down occurred, how did that feel? What were you thinking and why? Without judgment, practice a little mining for information about your emotional tendencies, and a productive step in becoming more self-aware.
Now that you’ve detailed your past scenario, forgive yourself for any related stress, and defog your brain. Imagine the future and how you want to show up and communicate. What impact would you like to have? Imagine how your body will feel, and what you will look like on that day. Put words to this. Compose a sentence or two to manage your emotion either to yourself (“My idea isn’t me. They weren’t putting me down, just my idea.”) or to the group (“Thanks for the feedback. What do you think we could do to improve upon the idea?”).
Coming in armed with a vision of how you want to be and how you can make it a reality is the brainwashing in all its glory and promises to stay with you during future meetings. When you make this a practice for a few moments before walking into any high-stakes situation, your brain will be prepared. It has seen how you want to be, and those neuropathways will keep track of it.
The next step in mastering your self-regulation is to build your mental muscle and be able to withstand higher stress situations with ease and clarity. That article is coming soon!
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