I’ve been accused of over simplifying things. It’s a fair criticism but often helps me put what I perceive to be an insurmountable or overwhelming issue into context. That brief moment of simplicity and clarity can buy me enough time to take a deep breath, relax, and realize that maybe things aren’t as bad as I originally thought … and then I can focus on dealing with the problem at hand and coming up with a solution.
I’ve also found this approach helps me interact with colleagues in a more patient and thoughtful manner. There’s nothing like a boss who blows up at bad news to discourage you from ever sharing bad news again … and that’s obviously not a good leadership climate especially if we’re trying to lead with mercy.
It’s clearly not rocket science but it’s amazing how we can lose perspective when the stress of the day takes over. The reality is, however, that we can indeed lose perspective. And that reality is indeed science … not rocket science but neurological science. In cases of high stress we can lose the ability of higher order thinking or reasoning. This is known as an amygdala hijack.
The amygdalae are part of the brain responsible for processing threats. If you’ve ever heard of fight or flight (some literature includes freeze) as threat responses, it’s the amygdalae that dictate this response. Once the hijack occurs it is extremely difficult to do anything other than address the threat. When faced with a physical threat, this is a good thing. But in our day to day lives we encounter stressors that often aren’t physical threats … but upon reaching a certain threshold of stress our body can react to the threat in the same fashion resulting in an inability to think or speak (either not being able to utter a coherent sentence; or saying some things you later regret) in a manner that might be expected in an environment like the workplace (especially if you’re a leader charged with making a decision).
So what does my simple sketch have to do with an amygdala hijack? Well, it might actually help you avoid it! Experts believe that through experience and self-awareness you can actually train yourself to feel the hijack coming on (or perhaps more accurately, know the stressors in your life that might trigger a hijack) … and if you can predict the hijack you might be able to stop it.  And for me, mentally walking myself through the simple flow chart above buys me the time to gain perspective and (hopefully) avoid being hijacked.
So as Bobby McFerrin would say, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
Copyright © 2014 Robert E. Goodson Jr. All rights reserved.
Second image courtesy of Master/freedigitalimages.net
 Palmer W. and Crawford J (2013). Leadership Embodiment: How the Way We Sit and Stand Can Change the Way We Think and Speak. CreateSpace.