Get to know how your brain works to solve problems and communicate effectively
The book is written in four acts, just like an opera, and every act “stages” a narrative in which our main characters, Emily and Paul, all too easily lose control of situations at work and at home because they do not fully understand how their own brains work.
Emily, who has just received a promotion and has to meet new colleagues, struggles to get organised and is easily distracted. She often feels exhausted and gets overwhelmed by performance anxiety whenever she fails to come up with new ideas. Paul, her husband, is a freelancer and has a problem with procrastination. He tends to argue with work associates and family members, and struggles to regain concentration and remain calm under pressure.
If we want to change the way our brain works, we need to change our behaviour: by making little adjustments to our habits and with a few sacrifices, we can, in fact, achieve great results and optimise not only our work, but also our daily lives.
There are some biological limits to the proper functioning of our brain. Basically, it cannot carry out several tasks at the same time with the same efficacy: making decisions and solving problems are activities regulated by the region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for such actions as goal setting, planning, impulse control, problem solving and creative thinking.
The prefrontal cortex is somewhat like the stage of a small theatre, which shines the spotlight on what we choose to focus on at any given time, and where all the actors have a specific role. In this metaphor the actors are the information we need to retain but, just like in the theatre, sometimes they will enter the stage from the wings, and this happens when we receive outside stimuli, whereas other times even members of the audience might jump on the stage and join in, and that symbolises when the stimuli we receive come from within us in the form of thoughts, memories and our imagination.
Making a decision, remembering concepts, memorising new information and inhibiting other information are all essential to be able to plan, solve problems and communicate.
Not all activities are the same: some actions are less taxing for the brain and don’t need to engage the prefrontal cortex, they instead require the use of the basal ganglia and can function almost automatically (such as when a truck driver drives his own truck that he has been driving for years).