After a morning workout, you ate a good breakfast. You drove against traffic for a smooth and timely arrival. Your escort met you in the lobby and you rode up the elevator, engaging in friendly chatter. You arrive at the 17th floor. He invites you to “please take a seat” and you do so. You leaf through an industry rag sitting on the table beside you.
Though a little nervous about the interview, you’re pretty certain you’re the right girl for the job. You want it. Badly. This role has all the right everything. Soon you’re before the panel of interviewers. You settle into your seat, scan the room, and briefly make eye contact with the president seated across from you, but suddenly–
Your belly gets tight, your armpits wet, and your pounding heart is practically audible. The Vice President of HR sits beside you fumbling with her phone; hurrying to send a email before the interview begins. And now, you’re consumed by the dreaded thoughts that have sunk a thousand interviews:
“Do they like me?”
“Am I smart enough?”
“Do I look good?”
Sigh – bad scene. Very bad.
If you’ve been through something comparable, you’re not alone. Everyone experiences this at some point. It’s human; we’re wired for it. The fear of being negatively evaluated in a high-stakes situation can bring even the most competent human being to her knees. It doesn’t matter how successful, intelligent or talented; given the right circumstance, we are all susceptible to being taken down by self-consciousness.
When this happens, when you feel under threat, your brain and nervous system are incapable of making the distinction between a panel of potential future colleagues and a hungry lion. Your amygdala has been hijacked.
Suddenly there is no one home inside to guide you, and everything floods through the filter of your own insecurities. You begin reacting to stories in your own head, as opposed to what’s actually happening. You lose contact with your inner resources.
But don’t fret. You can protect yourself from these episodes of “amygdala hijack.” And it doesn’t require you to become brighter, bolder or more beautiful. It does, however, require that you learn to manage your attention.
The Power of Focused Attention
A Cherokee elder is teaching his grandson about life. “A battle is going on inside each of us,” he tells his grandson. “It is a terrible fight between two strong wolves. One wolf is evil. The other is good.” The grandson thinks about this for a minute. Then he asks his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” The grandfather answers, “The one you feed.”
Being able to place your attention where you want it is key to survival. Pulling your attention away from what’s distracting or pointless (like self-criticism or perseverating on others’ perceptions) and putting it where you want is an act of self-love and personal dignity—two pillars of your personal power. When you’re grounded in your personal power, everything becomes easy. It’s the foundation for changing your experience of life for the better.
You can do this in one simple step.
Focus on Giving. It’s Magic.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you take your attention off yourself and how you are perceived, and move it onto those with whom you are trying to connect, you ward off self-doubt and engage your brain’s best-thinking. Magic happens, conjuring up your intelligence, generosity and ease. You instantly become more compelling because you’re connected to something bigger and more purposeful. When your focus is on giving to your interviewers, you will naturally offer them the information, knowledge and insights they need to determine whether you are right for the role. You’ll also discover if the role is actually right for you. So ask yourself: What can I share to help them get to know me? How can I understand their needs? What useful insights can I offer?
Learning to control one’s attention is the mother of all tasks. It’s a life long practice. Remember the battle between the two strong wolves. One of them will win. Which one will you feed?