YOUR BRAIN AND THE UNKNOWN
We all have different levels of tolerance for entering the unknown, but one thing is for sure, it’s never a doddle when you have a human brain.
Your brain is designed to avoid the possibility of physical danger and death. It also likes to avoid the possibility of psychological ‘danger’ in the form of uncomfortable emotions. Just think for a minute about all the emotions which could come up in the unknown, uncertainty = fear, failure = sadness and frustration and rejection = shame. The potential for experiencing uncomfortable emotion is rife, and to your brain, that spells danger.
The ‘danger’ of exposing yourself to the unknown triggers your body’s sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of chemicals including adrenaline to prepare you to take immediate action – fight or flight, freeze or fawn. Even when there is no tiger in the corner of the conference room, your brain will either try to get you to avoid the unknown by whispering, “what’s the point? do it tomorrow”, or prepare the chemical and physical response you need to deal with it, complete with sweating and trembling.
Quite frankly, with all the potential for uncomfortable emotions, your brain would rather you avoid the unknown altogether and sit on the sofa eating crisps.
So what to do when desire is calling you into the unknown?
HERE IS WHAT WOULD GO IN MY CURRICULUM:
KNOW WHAT YOUR BRAIN IS TRYING TO DO
i.e. protect you and prevent you from danger and death; good work, brain!
UNDERSTAND YOUR WHY
You are going to need to know why you are doing what you are doing and remind yourself of it often because you can bet your bottom dollar your brain will automatically be reminding you of all the reasons why you shouldn’t.
EXPAND YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Your brain is perfectly adapted to be a pain in the ass. It is also perfectly adapted to re-wire. Neuroplasticity means that your brain is able to build new skills, habits and tolerances. The tenth time you pitch for new work, it probably won’t feel quite as bad as the first. It takes courage to do things outside of your comfort zone, but each time you do, your comfort zone expands.
LEARN HOW TO CALM YOUR BODY
When our stress response is activated to a level where it’s difficult to do anything else, we need to treat ourselves like we would treat a child who is really distressed. Maybe give it a hug, get it a warm drink and whisper some soothing words to it about how it is all going to be ok, wrapping it up in a blanket and rocking it back and forth.
BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
Beating yourself up will make it worse (I promise). When you are procrastinating or afraid because your brain is reminding you for the tenth time that you’ll never figure it out, think ARSE:
Acknowledge the feeling:
I am feeling scared and frustrated (me nodding, I can appreciate that this is tough).
Remind yourself why:
I am doing this because I care about this work, and I have a great idea I want to share.
Support and Encourage yourself:
I know it’s a bit tricky, but you can figure it out; let’s have a little look, you can do this! (Anna opens the laptop).
And yes, I did figure it out, and you will too.
Behaviour / neuroscience
Knowing where to start