Before you start reading, make sure you read Part 1 of this blog!
The Power Of Our Brain
We all have expectations. About many things. Sometimes we expect the best, other times the worst.
Did you know that our expectations influence how we feel and behave? And did you know that our expectations can affect a future outcome? No, it’s not magic…it’s the power of our brain! Let’s consider the following scenario to clarify what I mean.
Just imagine for a moment…it’s the day before your driving test. You expect it to be a disaster, you expect to fail. How does that make you feel? What do you do?
Most of us are likely to feel anxious, down, or physically tense. How might this emotional state affect your performance on the driving test the next day? That is, if you bother to go at all… What’s the point, right?
Now let’s consider another scenario, in which everything is the same (day, time, place, weather, amount of practice, driving skills etc.), apart from one thing: your expectation. In this scenario, you’re optimistic about the outcome of the driving test, you expect to pass, even though it may be tough. You believe that you can do it! How does that make you feel? What do you do? And how might this affect your performance on the driving test?
To put it in a nutshell: having optimistic expectations and believing in our own effectiveness have been found to be powerful predictors of future success.
The Power Of Positive Emotions
Positive and negative emotional states affect our wellbeing and performance differently. The negative emotion of anxiety, for example, causes the ‘fight-or-flight-response’. It’s purpose is ‘survival’. Our brain switches to a primitive survival mode: we don’t think, we act.
When it comes to performance on cognitively demanding tasks (like the STAAR or a driving test), this could be a problem. We need our ‘thinking brain’ (neo-cortex) to be actively involved, so we’re enabled to analyze situations, solve problems, think of strategies, and be creative in the process.
Barbara Frederickson is a renowned psychologist who conducts research in emotions and positive psychology. She identified the 10 most common positive emotions as: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love.
Experiencing positive emotions not only increases our wellbeing and happiness. It also activates parts of our brain that support us to be more resourceful, more creative, and ultimately more successful. Our brain performs significantly better when we feel positive emotions!
To summarize, when we feel more positive in the present moment and adjust our expectations about future situations accordingly, than our brains work even more successfully, which will positively impact our performance on cognitively demanding tasks.
No need to say that this would be beneficial to students during the STAAR test. And to people trying to get their drivers license :-)
Curious to find out how you can ‘Train Your Brain’ to support your children in preparing for the STAAR test? Check out Part 3 of this blog!