“Don’t think about pink elephants”. “Don’t ride through the puddle”.
We can’t actually tell the brain what not to do, because drawing focus to something, whether good or bad, draws our energy to it. Neuroscience shows that when we really think of something the neurons fire up and effectively produce this thought physically in your brain, making it extremely difficult to ignore!
So why is it doing this? Well, it’s to help us survive!
The brain is constantly getting bombarded with information every second of every day – from things as subtle as the feel of your clothes on your skin, to an oncoming speeding vehicle, and it must choose quickly what to ignore and what means life and death for you.
This is known as selective filtering, and effectively protects your brain from overwhelm – did you know that a week of reading the New York Times in 2022 is the same amount of information that people received over a lifetime 100 years ago?? Information overload could be an understatement!
The brain will then focus just on the things that matter, known as selective attention, and in the order that it thinks they matter, known as value tagging. Unfortunately the brain will not prioritise your hopes and dreams, but rather what keeps you alive – whether you’re hungry or thirsty, whether you’re too hot or cold…
…Unless you tell it otherwise!
Where your focus goes, energy flows…
How do we take advantage of this phenomenon?
By telling the brain what is important to us, and showing it that even though it’s new, it’s nothing to be feared.
The brain naturally wants to protect us from new circumstances, because the unknown can be dangerous – this is why we get so nervous before public speaking. The threat of being socially outcast centuries ago was literally life and death, and the brain still believes this… unless we tell it otherwise.
So how do we do this?
Ask the athletes.
Visualisation is a wonderful tool to show the brain exactly what is important to us, and that it is actually good for us. See all the things, feel all the emotions, hear all the sounds. So much so that your emotions rise and you are living the experience, with your body responding accordingly.
Before public speaking: imagine the room, the people, where you’ll be standing, how you’ll stand, feel the confidence you exude, hear your strong and steady voice, accept the handshakes and warm congratulations that accompany a sense of pride and satisfaction at a job well done.
Show your brain that this is what you want, you have nothing to fear, in fact it makes you feel confident and gives a wonderful sense of achievement.
Your brain will then value tag this as important to you, and non-threatening, as it has trouble distinguishing strong visualisations from reality (it’s true!), and will support you when the time comes by reducing your “fight or flight” response.
If you find this interesting, check out my video on “The Neuroscience Behind Manifestation” – I go into this in more detail in this great little half hour video. Hope you love it!
So next time you’re tempted to focus on the negativity, fears and challenges before you (another thing the brain loves to do!) try finding the silver lining, grasp hold of it like a kite string, and see where it will lead you ❤️