The One Thing You Have to Know About Your Mind to Succeed
What would you say if I told you that the one thing that stopped you from achieving the life of your dreams might be inside your own brain?
Crazy, right? But it's true - and what's more surprising is that what's getting in the way might well be right there with you every day, pulling your strings, and you don't even realise it.
This problem is described by Steve Peters - a psychologist who works with everyone from businessmen to sports personalities, and recently published a book called 'The Chimp Paradox'.
Peters explains that the human mind is made up of three independent parts. The theory goes that the human brain has developed in this way, to allow one part of the mind, which is mainly centred around the frontal lobes, to deal with logical thought, reason and calculated decisions.
The second, and potentially damaging part of the mind, on the other hand, resides in the inner part of the brain, and acts on impulse, impressions and in a reactive fashion.
The third part, much like a computer, is the part of the brain that stores information and allows repetitive actions to occur.
The important thing to realise, is that the negative, doubting and panicky voices created by this inner part of your mind, at times, take charge of the brain. No asking for permission, no 'by your leave', just a hijack.
"Not me", I hear you say! "I'm always fully in control of my faculties, I will have you know. No hijacks here!"
So how, then, do you explain the times you fail to stick to the resolutions and decisions you have made? Or the unhelpful thoughts that dart through your brain at times, uninvited? Or the times you act on impulse - and live to regret decisions made in haste.
That'll be those negative voices - hijacking the brain and acting before the logical you has had a chance to intervene.
Take for example, your prospects for this summer coming. Have you applied to complete an internship, or entered competitions which might offer you the chance to travel and learn? Because your human brain knows this is a good idea. Logically, this will be fun. It will help you apply for jobs after graduation. It may even be a life changing experience.
But maybe the inner voice disagrees. The negative attitude says 'what if you fail?', or 'you can't do it, there will be loads of other people better than you'. This part of your mind sees risks where the logical part sees opportunities. But for many people the doubting inner voice will win that face off.
Or maybe you have a 'thing' about exams. You prep. You study. You complete your coursework. But the thought of an exam room causes that tingling sensation down your spine. Your hands go clammy and your brain empties of any useful knowledge that didn't originate from viral videos. Where is the logic in that? Who came off top there? Negative reactive mindtalk, or calm and logical voice?
This inner part of your brain is - at its core - neither good nor bad. It serves an extremely useful purpose of enacting a plan when the logic-driven part of the brain falters, and therefore keeps you safe from danger - part of the fight or flight mechanism. And to serve this purpose it has to be quick. The first reaction you make in a stressful situation will often be controlled by this inner, reactive voice - not the more reasoned, logical part of your mind
So what has this got to do with your success?
The voices from the inner part of your brain take over at times of stress - and these tend to be the very times that are key to your ongoing success. A job interview, a college exam, even on a first date. To thrive in these situations, you need to understand how your inner mind tends to react under stress and have a plan to manage and work with this reaction.
Firstly you need to recognise the times when your negative mindtalk tries to take charge, and slow down your thinking, to allow your logical brain to kick in. Count to ten. Listen to the negative doubting voice talking in your brain - maybe it's telling you it's a catastrophe, maybe it's filling your mind with paranoid thoughts, or denying the obvious. Let the thoughts wash over you, and then, when it's finished, it is time to let your rational brain click back in.
Try to get perspective on the issue - how important is it, really, in the grand scheme of things? Use logic and reason to think about the next possible steps. Quieten the doubts and panic.
And then get a plan, harnessing the power of both your reactive inner mind and your logical rational brain to achieve both speed and accuracy.
Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do to ensure your success is to think about the foundations built in your 'computer' brain. The computer merely stores information, and either the logical or the reactive part can put things into this storage box. So, if the inner, reactive part is feeding the computer paranoid thoughts, delusions and panic, then this is the memory and foundation on which your mind works. These colour and create your values and beliefs.
Building a strong mental foundation of positive values and beliefs will mean that you are mentally strong when the negative voice starts to feed garbage into your brain's computer.
Take your plans for the summer - to apply to internships or not? Believe you are a successful individual, and the voice of doubt will not override this.
That crucial exam that gets you twitchy just thinking about it? Trust that you're great in exam situations, and the nagging heart flutter of panic won't get a grip on you.
And (just as importantly) - the first date nerves. See yourself as a fascinating and fun person, and you won't clam up before you get the first drinks in. Promise.
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