What we practice grows stronger

“We’ve been conditioned to spend an enormous amount of time rehearsing what could go wrong and what has gone wrong.”

Chris Dorris

On Tuesday, we discussed how we frequently imagine and rehearse negative outcomes of significant events. When I’ve got a big proposal presentation or performance review scheduled, I often go over it in my head, and the outcomes I’m rehearsing are the ones I want to avoid, not the ones I want to experience!

But this doesn’t just happen on client calls.

How many times a day do I say, “Wow, Brad, that was stupid!” or “I’ve never been good at this conversation with my wife; this is going to be a disaster.” or “Why do I keep making that mistake.” Or a hundred other ways I rehearse negative outcomes over and over again.

Is it just me, or do you do it too? What does it sound like in your head?

Why does our brain do that?

Our brains are always trying to protect us.

When humans lived as prey, when there was literally a tiger behind every bush, it made sense for us to be constantly watchful for danger. That vigilance kept us alive.

Most of us never lived with actual tigers, but there were times in our lives when we felt unsafe. If not physically, at least emotionally. I’m thinking of my life from age 12 – 15 or so! I didn’t have enough life experience to learn what would happen if I taunted a bully or teased a teacher one too many times… So I created some pretty unpleasant outcomes.

Our brains are finely tuned to sense and prevent danger. So those experiences left a strong imprint in my mind.

Is this dangerous?

The thinking that kept our ancestors alive, and saved my teen self from deep embarrassment, are both solidly programmed into our brains. So much so that when I take a call with an important prospect, my brain wants to protect me from potential embarrassment or punishment, like I experienced in Jr. High.

But I’m an adult now, and the risks are different. If the prospect says “No.” I’m OK. Life goes on. And nothing that happens to me on Zoom will be life-threatening, so my pre-programmed anti-lion stance is not useful here.

Practice works!

Whatever you practice, over and over again, becomes a new habit of thought and performance.

Brian Tracy

The more I rehearse and practice those negative outcomes, the more likely they are to occur — just because I’ve practiced them and I’m anticipating them! If instead, I practice more desirable outcomes, I could start creating different results!

This is a holiday weekend; what if, from now until next Tuesday, we all just tried to be aware of the times when we’re rehearsing negative outcomes? Don’t try to change them; notice them and see how often it comes up.

Write me back on Tuesday and let me know how it went!

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