Trick Your Brain Into Success
People who are about to face a stressful situation will often get advice from others. Some advice is solicited, some not; some helpful, some not. Luckily, brain research has begun to catch up with old Aunt Edna’s sage wisdom and it has provided some useful tidbits when facing a mental or social challenge.
For instance, we have all heard the old adage that, when you are about to deliver a speech and you are hit with stage fright, just imagine the audience in their underwear. I don’t know who first thought of this trick, but not only is it completely ineffective, but it borders on creepy. More importantly, it actually takes the brain in the opposite direction of being able to deliver a great speech.
The trick to overcoming stress and ensuring a successful outcome is to activate the parts of the brain needed in order to meet the challenge. Imagining an audience in their Underoos distracts the brain from the task at hand and inhibits the kind of thinking needed to present well. Instead, just before taking the stage you should imagine with as much detail the last time you gave a really successful presentation. If you take the time to recall the situation in rich detail—the image of the stage, the smell of backstage, the warmth of the room, the sounds of the audience—your brain will engage positive memory activities, helping you stay mentally sharp. Also, remembering positive situations from the past causes the brain to assume that the best is about to happen again; greatly increasing your chances of success.
Distraction is a great technique for overcoming negative or obsessive thoughts, but that is about as far as the technique will take you. For true positive control over your thoughts, you must make a conscious effort to link happy outcomes from the past to lay the foundation for positive outcomes in the future.