Brain Fatigue

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This week I received feedback from a customer.  During the feedback, I was present and engaged.  I listened and reflected.  After the call, I immediately began interpreting the feedback.  Instead of being present in the moment my brain rushed to interpretation.  This created some anxiety for sure.  Our brains are hardwired to scan for threats.  This event spurred me to research how our brains react to feedback and anxiety.

Your brain is constantly surveying the landscape looking for threats.  Your brain is utilizing what is called the ‘reptilian brain’ which worked great for us back in the stone age and now it just makes us tired.  This is also called the anxious brain.  It is easy for me to forget that our brain is a muscle.  It accounts for 2% of our body weight, but uses about 20% of our body’s available energy.

The implications for brain utilization for leaders are enormous.  Here are the 3 implications we need to consider:

The first implication is that staying in curious brain mode allows us to be mindful of the present moment.  A mindful leader is one that is completely focused on the project at hand or the person standing in front of us.  We experience situations vs. interpreting them.  This includes Zoom calls too!

The second implication for leaders is that our vision can reinvigorate our energy storage.  This assumes two things, the first being that you have a vision clearly articulated and the second is that your vision is aligned with your values.  I can recall times when I worked for leaders that did not articulate a vision.  This created anxiety because my brain lacked a trajectory for which to focus.

The third implication is that community keeps us out of anxious brain.  We learn in community.  We can exchange and process ideas among people we trust. Assuming the community is productive and healthy, we can work through challenges and innovate in these types of settings.

To complete the story regarding the feedback I received, a friend encouraged me to do two things.  The first was to  ask others for more feedback to build the muscle.  The second was to separate my performance from my identity .  These are great suggestions yet this is an even greater challenge!