How our brain is our biggest barrier to growth

First, the obligatory disclaimer. I am not a brain Dr. or a brain scientist or a psychologist or any of those things. Not even a little bit. I’m still going to talk to you about the brain in a way that you can understand and make use of.

I talk about the brain in terms of two brains. One is the “lower brain” “lizard brain” “unconscious”, etc. Picture the part of the brain that starts at the top of the spine and the bottom of the head. The other brain is the “upper brain” or “conscious brain” or “prefrontal cortex” if we want to sound important. Which I do.

So, why is it we DON’T do the things we want to do in our lives. Why do we repeat the same patterns, eat and drink things that aren’t good for us, find it difficult to improve our relationships? The answer is that lizard brain. It is perfectly created to set us up for failure in our modern life.

Our lizard brain is responsible for keeping us safe and out of danger. Even though it really does a number on us in today’s modern world it really IS doing it’s job perfectly well and means no harm. It’s like a toddler with a knife. Means no harm, but if you leave it unattended, or worse, IN CHARGE, there is going to be some collateral damage. Of course we would never intentionally leave the knife wielding toddler in charge, but that is what most of do, most of the time. I’ll explain.

This part of our brain, designed to keep us safe, has three primary motivations. This is called the motivational triad. It’s job is to seek pleasure, avoid pain and expend as little energy as possible. So, picture it as being on alert ALL THE TIME looking for danger and trying to keep you comfy cosy. Let me show the way these three points of the triad are now causing us some trouble.

Seek pleasure – Our modern world is chock full of false, easy and over the top pleasure. These come in the form of alcohol, sugar, social media, unlimited Netflix and pornography just to name a few. These substances and activities are so stimulating to our brain that the lizard’s brain desire to seek pleasure is now actually harming us with overconsumption of substances and activities that have all kinds of negative consequences.

Avoid pain – This was designed to keep us safe from actual physical harm, but in our modern world, most of the pain our brain is working so hard to protect us from is emotional pain. The avoidance of and inability to deal with emotional pain keeps us absolutely stuck in everything from pursuing our dreams to having a difficult conversation with a spouse or co-worker.

Expend as little energy as possible – This drive keeps us from doing the work we need to do to move our lives forward and explains why all the self help in the world is nothing without application. It’s easy to consume information and then avoid the actual work to change. That takes conscious effort and energy.

The kicker to all of this is the absolute power this lizard brain has over us. Without conscious development of our prefrontal cortex we are at its whim. Tomorrow I’ll share with you the motivational triad we need to adopt to thrive in the our modern world.