Your Brain is Lying to You

How many times have you stopped short of a goal because your brain said you couldn’t do it, you weren’t ready?

I took up rowing two years ago. I found some early success, mostly because I was already in good physical condition and simply needed to apply a new skill set to an already fit body. On a lark, after only a year, I tried out for the competitive team at my local boathouse and, as luck would have it, I made the team. I spent the last year getting better and stronger and finished the season with a bucket full of medals and an ego full of accolades and, most importantly, the respect of my coaches and teammates, all of whom had years (and, in some cases, decades) more experience than me.

But that was last year.

Tryouts are held each March. We had 35 women returning from last year, and 15 new experienced women, all vying for 36 spots overall. All those medals and accolades are wiped off the slate. You have to earn your spot on the team each year anew.

There was a distinct moment in tryouts where I was fairly well convinced I wouldn’t make it. It was harder than I remembered from previous years. My numbers weren’t as strong. I didn’t think I had it in me, despite a winter of intense, focused training to prepare me for this very moment. You see, I had just gotten back from a family vacation overseas, and I was tired and dehydrated and just didn’t feel at my best. And my brain kept telling me to slow down, to quit, to give up.

But, here’s the thing: your brain will lie to you every time. We are so much more fit, so much more capable, so much better than our brain tells us in moments of crisis.

It’s like that with the work I do, too. Each time I get mic’d up to go on stage and talk to thousands — something I’ve done enough times that it shouldn’t wig me out anymore — I get wigged out. I get nervous, I sweat, I shake, I self-doubt. My brain tells me a story, that I’m not ready, that I don’t belong, that I will fail. It’s fight or flight and my brain screams, “FLY! FLY! FLY!”

But, it’s lying to me, just like your brain is lying to you in these moments. I’ve talked to tens of thousands of audience members, I’ve gotten follow up emails about how the things I’ve said have changed their lives, I know what I’m doing. I put in the work, I trained hard, I prepped well. I baked the cake every day, in the dark hours when no one was watching. All I needed to do was silence the self-doubt monkey brain, and serve it up. That’s what I do when I go on stage and rock it like a boss. I remind myself that I’m ready, and I tell my monkey brain to go stuff it.

And, yeah, I made the team too.

2018-07-25T16:23:57+00:00
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About Laura

Laura helps innovators, idealists, and iconoclasts get “unstuck” — and achieve extraordinary results.

Laura speaks with change agents, entrepreneurs, investors, leaders, and donors to get them past the doubt and indecision that consign their great ideas to limbo. She delivers strategic thinking, well-honed wisdom, and catalytic perspective informed by decades of navigating change across the start-up, nonprofit, political, and philanthropic landscapes.

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