Why is it that when we try to achieve something that's really important to us we go into a state of overwhelm and our brain seems to just shut down?
We've all experienced this when we pulled an all nighter studying for that big test. But on the day of the test we seemed to freeze up and couldn't remember a thing!
Why is it that when we're faced with having to give a speech we go into that same state of panicked overwhelm?
You can blame it on your amygdala. The amygdala is a part of your brain that developed about 500 million years ago. It is your fight-or-flight mechanism. It protects you from harm.
When you are faced with a life-or-death situation, your amygdala goes into action and shuts down all brain functions not necessary to your survival. Rational thinking, creative thinking, appetite, digestion and sexual desire all get shut down so that your brain can direct all of its energies to your survival.
The problem, however, is that the amygdala views any new situation as a threat to your survival. Thus, when you are faced with the unnerving prospect of having to give a speech, the amygdala does what it's supposed to do and comes to your rescue. In this case, however, your amygdala does you more harm than good.
At the mere thought of giving a speech you lose your appetite. You get an upset stomach. You certainly can't even think about sex! Your rational thought process now results in thoughts of failure and embarrassment which is certainly not rational thinking. And creative thinking – the thing you need most to do a speech – gets shut down.
Just know that there is nothing wrong with you. Your overwhelm and panic at the prospect of having to give a speech is biological, physical and chemical. Also know that there is a technique to quietly tiptoe past the amygdala and never awaken it when you're faced with overwhelm. In our next lesson, the technique known as Kaizen.
Kaizen is a centuries-old Chinese technique used by psychologists and even business and industry. Kaizen is the art of taking small steps – so small they might seem ridiculous and meaningless at first glance – with the bottom line being the accomplishment of great things one small step at a time. As many of history's great visionaries have said, "You don't need to see the whole staircase. Just the first step."