Brain scans can show us exactly which part of our brain is active. One thing that these test have uncovered is that the brain will be almost as active when someone thinks about doing a task as it is when they are doing the task. The motor cortex that controls movement is not active but the rest of the brain appears to be as engaged in the activity as it would be if you WERE engaged in the activity.
Now take a second to think about that. The brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is thought. What is the difference between doing something and thinking about doing it? I think only the movement portion, and the motor cortex is the only portion of the brain that shows a decrease in activity when we only think about something.
Have you ever had a dream that impacted the rest of your day? No matter what you do you’re left with a lagging feeling that started with the dream. Would having that same experience in real life have create a similar impact, maybe not the same but one as equally profound? I’ve had dreams that stayed with me because they felt so real – it was as though I had actually had to run for my life or jump from a building. That’s because my brain DID response as though I was running for my life or jumping from a building. Technology shows us that this is how the brain works.
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of thinking about something that makes you angry and gets your blood boiling. The response is exactly the same as the real thing, you get an adrenalin spike as you charge up for action. You’re having a real physiological response to a mental stimulus. You can create whatever emotional response that you like by thinking about things that evoke that response.
It really is a stimulus response world. No matter what it is, it you are old enough to read and comprehend what I’m saying here, you probably have had enough experience to create 10000’s of response / stimulus pairings. Very rarely will you be faced with a situation for which you do not have a response.
If this is how the brain works, how do we put it to work for us?
Start changing your thought patterns. Stop thinking thoughts that create negative emotional reactions. Think of kittens, or stake, or something that causes you to respond in a positive way. Start thinking thoughts that foster the emotional state that you need to perform at your best at every moment. I do my best blog writing when I think of things that give me hope and optimism. My best song writing comes out when I’m feeling down or heart broken. When I’m at the gym trying to lift heavy I need to manufacture feelings of personal injustice to give me something to rise against. When I’m engaging someone in a discussion, I’ll picture myself being open and receiving their knowledge. Whatever it is, if I can perform better in a different state of mind I’ll work to find that state.
It only makes sense to do this. Find what makes your performance better and hack your brain to manufacture the emotional state that will allow you to tap into it.