Ever since she was a child Amy loved to swim. She was one of those water babies that just seemed at home in a pool or in the ocean. As Amy grew up she went to swimming lessons and from a very young age, began to excel. Amy spent most of her spare time in the pool, she loved it. The feeling of weightlessness brought back memories of summers at the beach; even the smell of chlorine or salt water reminded her of happy times.
Amy began to train long hours early in the mornings with a coach who saw her obvious potential. She got up everyday at 5am and trained before school. Some mid winter mornings it seemed like madness to be up at the crack of dawn doing laps in a freezing pool. She was often so tired that homework took a back seat. But Amy never faltered, every time she took to the water she felt alive.
Failure didn’t stop her
Although she began competing at a young age Amy never really won anything. She always made the finals but throughout her adolescence she just didn’t have the physical speed of some of her peers.
Sometimes she felt like giving up but her love of swimming drove her on through countless failures and hours of training. Even when it seemed she couldn’t go on, something inside her pushed her forward. She trained harder, spent longer in the pool and at the gym. Her goal to be the world’s best was an obsession and she would not let anything stand in her way. She was so afraid of not being able to achieve what she so desperately wanted that she fought harder at every turn.
Amy was devastated when her coach and her family finally persuaded her that although she was fast, she was not fast enough to have a future career in swimming. In fact they were worried that she might not have a career at all if she didn’t spend more time on school work. Amy felt like her world had come to an end.
Now in her limbic system, her amygdala (greek for almond) interpreted her failure to be a top competitor as a threat to her survival. So in true fight or flight reaction, she just stopped swimming altogether. After years of fighting fatigue and disappointment, Amy did a back-flip and took flight. In fact Amy didn’t go back into the water again until she had her own children and knew, for their safety, she should teach them how to swim.
Passion drives performance
Our dreams and goals are born out of our strongest and most productive emotional responses. We pursue these goals with unwavering determination and in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We are often so afraid of not achieving our dreams that we push ourselves beyond our limits to avoid it. The Almond Effect® is what makes us stay and fight when it seems logical to quit. It is also The Almond Effect® that makes us give up (flight) when we simply cannot rise to the challenge.
Employees’ goals impact their performance and your bottom line
So do you know what your employees’ passions are? Their dreams? How do you support them at work to achieve these goals even if they are not work-related? And why should you? Well, for the very reason that you run the risk that their amygdala perceives everything that is not supporting their goal, as a threat to it. And this perception, however inaccurate it might be, may well cause your employee to react with fight or flight and their work performance suffer.
Even a genuine enquiry on progress may be all that’s needed. Remember The Almond Effect® – the amygdala will react before the thinking brain clicks in. It’s a smart move to reassure their ‘almonds’ that you are a supporter not a threat to their goals.