Occasionally throughout my life I've been wonderfully complemented by a question:
"How can you be so calm/nice/easygoing/patient/thoughtful..."
I call it a complement because all of those are things I strive to be, and it's great to know that I'm having some kind of success from the point of view of people who aren't me.
However, while I've tried my best to explain my methods, I've never had a scientific, brain-based reasoning behind them. Then I watched this video yesterday:
Google Tech Talk
November 12, 2009
Presented by David Rock.
In his new book "Your Brain at Work," coach David Rock depicts the story of two people over one day at the office, and what's happening in their brains that makes it so hard to focus and be productive. Not only does he explain why things go wrong, but how you can train your brain to improve thinking and performance at work. Based on interviews with 30 neuroscientists, he's developed strategies to help you work smart all day.
Learn how to:
· Maximize your mental energy by understanding your brain's limits
· Overcome distractions
· Improve your focus through understanding the nature of attention
· Reduce stress levels with brain-based techniques
· Improve how you collaborate by understanding the social needs of the brain
You can learn to be more productive, less stressed and stay sane by understanding your brain.
David Rock is a thought leader for the brain-based approach to coaching. David coined the term 'NeuroLeadership' and co-founded the NeuroLeadership Institute, Journal and Summit. He is also the founder and CEO of Results Coaching Systems, which helps Fortune 500 clients worldwide improve thinking and performance. He has authored four books, most recently 'Your Brain at Work'. He is on the advisory board and faculty of international business school CIMBA, and a guest lecturer at Oxford University. He consults organizations including Ericsson, Publicis, NASA, Accenture, EDS and the US Federal Reserve. He lives between New York City and Sydney, Australia.
The mental process and techniques he describes are a large part of how I shape my personality. When I hear bad news, I go right into problem-solving mode - how can I fix this, or even turn it into an opportunity? I'm far more likely to use this method of dealing with a problem than to suppress it.
The big part that I wasn't aware of was of how much of our (and my) lives are governed by the threat response. When someone asks you to do something hard, or criticizes your work, BAM! Threat. When think you ought to talk to someone you don't know? Threat. So I guess next I'll work on recontextualising that - I'm already able to handle that response, but I didn't realise how often it occurs.
This ties in pretty well to a long-term line of thinking for me - when I was in my teens, I noticed/decided that I didn't really fear death. I've got a good, logical set of reasons why it's not scary, but I always found it a bit weird that my brain was able to handle that - as my biochemist friend Chris argues, surely fear of death is a survival mechanism, and lacking it just makes it easier to die?
Working from the ideas in the video, it seems to me that accepting death will/has made it easier for me to deal with threatening scenarios, and thus has actually increased my survivability.