Whether considering your personal or professional life most of us look to excel at whatever we do. By excel, we may mean simply an improvement over a previous performance or something far greater. Within the brain there are three different regions that can have a large impact on this. Let’s take a look at each and consider their role relative to your “optimal” performance.
The Amygdala is often called the alarm or what might initiate our “fight or flight”. This is the protective element of the brain that helped our Stone Age ancestors to basically survive. Fortunately, in today’s “safer” environment, it is still highly functioning relative to how we perform, particularly if it is important to us. Most specifically it warns us of what might go wrong, such as forgetting your lines in a speech, hitting into a water hazard in golf or failing to complete a key task at work.
The Frontal Lobes is where the executive functioning happens, where decision are made relative to what might happen as well as controlling emotional reactions. Depending on how the amygdala is processing a certain situation, it is up to this region of the brain to decide upon that appropriate response. If you are in control, then it will work through some options and decide accordingly. However if it is flight or fight, this can result in stress which releases more adrenaline than needed, creating tension that tightens our bodies and makes us emotional. Consequently our performance can become hijacked.
The Hippocampus is the part of the brain which houses your memory center. Every experience of your life is stored here and can be used to work through whatever performance situation you have. This can involve recalling a great speech you made, a perfect round of golf or key tasks you have successfully completed. This gets fed into the frontal lobes which then decides upon the appropriate course of action.
If you learn to use the hippocampus and frontal lobes effectively together you can minimize the effect of the amygdala. This however does require discipline around self-awareness and conscious decision making, thereby fueling a positive energy towards an optimal performance.