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October 12, 2010
Vol. X, No. 5

"I Can Do This and It's Going to Be Great"
I had to give a big presentation at work last week and I thought I'd offer some insights from my experience. I don't know what goes on in other people's heads but I can tell you what was going on inside mine. As I was preparing in the days before the meeting, I noticed I was entertaining a lot of self-doubt. What if something goes wrong, what if I don't do well, imagining the embarrassment and awkwardness if I forgot what I was supposed to say, and on and on.

I had been reading a book called "The War of Art" that had a lot of interesting things to say about what the author calls "Resistance," the unseen force that is always trying to undermine us in life. The author mentioned Henry Fonda, who at 75 was still getting physically ill before performances. I had heard a similar thing about John Lennon. Basically the author's point was that no matter how much experience you have, it's normal to be nervous and afraid.
"The War of Art" --

But I'd been reading a lot about the power of mind and I decided that I didn't want to buy into the whole "being nervous" thing. It seemed like that was what opened the door to all the self-doubt stuff I was experiencing. So I decided to find a mantra and I used it to block out any and all non-positive thoughts. The moment I found myself even slightly beginning to waver, I repeated the mantra until any hint of negativity was blanked out.

On top of that, I kept assuring myself that my presentation was going to be perfect. Period. What's wrong with saying, I can do this and it's going to be great. The problem is, we're just not used to doing that. We've been convinced that it's better to be humble and self-deprecating. Well, maybe for getting along with other people but not for performing!

In the end, it all worked. The presentation went great and I wasn't nervous at all. I actually enjoyed myself. So, once you prepare to the best of your ability, the final challenge is in your head. This experience confirmed for me that it pays to think like a winner.

I came across the following article that was related and very fascinating:

Meditation Rewires Your Brain: Meditation and other forms of relaxation and mindfulness not only change your immediate state of mind (and, correspondingly, your biochemical stress level and gene expression), they also can alter the very structure of your brain. "Stimulating areas of the brain that handle positive emotions strengthens those neural networks, just as working muscles strengthens them," Hanson says, repeating one of the basic premises of neuroplasticity. The inverse is also true, he explains: "If you routinely think about things that make you feel mad or wounded, you are sensitizing and strengthening the amygdala, which is primed to respond to negative experiences. So it will become more reactive, and you will get more upset more easily in the future."

Just for good measure, I'm going to add this article from the same magazine issue. The article is actually a brief summary of a book titled "Happy for No Reason." An excerpt:

Automatic Negative Thoughts: Shimoff points out that "our minds -- made up of our thoughts, beliefs and self-talk -- are always 'on.' According to scientists, we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. That's one thought per second during every waking hour. No wonder we're so tired at the end of the day!

"What's even more startling," she continues, is that "of those 60,000 thoughts, 95 percent are the same thoughts you had yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. Your mind is like a record player playing the same record over and over again....Talk about being stuck in a rut....

"Still, that wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the next statistic: For the average person, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative. That means that every day most people have more than 45,000 negative thoughts."

Stay positive!

I'm quite delinquent in announcing this but Sue Burkhalter has posted an excellent write-up of her trip to the National AGO Convention in DC this past July. It's a good read and a fresh perspective:

I finally posted my photos of The Wanamaker Organ at Macy's in Philadelphia.

Have a great week!

Dan Long

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