Welcome to episode 3 of Burning Brightly, all about the two main parts of our brains and how they can cause issues when we try to do hard things. Below is an outline or you can click the button below to listen or watch. Enjoy!
Today I want to give you some simple insight into the brain and why it works this way, in hopes of helping you better manage your mind as you begin your path of sharing your talents with the world.
As a life coach, I teach people about two main areas of brain function: the brainstem (or primal/primitive brain, sometimes referred to as the lizard brain) and the frontal cortex (the human or thinking brain).
These two portions could not be more different; one simply cares about the survival of ourselves and the species, and nothing more. But the frontal cortex is what makes us beautifully complex humans!
The primitive brain likes to differentiate between what’s familiar and what’s unfamiliar, labeling one safe and the other suspicious or dangerous. It’s the basis of stranger danger for every aspect of life!
To understand how these portions of the brains work, let me tell you a story of me as a child. My family was in line for a rollercoaster (along with my very young little brother) and for some reason, the primitive portion of my brain just freaked out. I kept seeing the unnecessary danger in the rollercoaster and couldn’t get myself to calm down, even though the rational part of my brain knew everything was safe.
Rollercoasters are a great example of the primitive and rational brains working at the same time. The anticipation we experience waiting in line and thrill we get from dips and rolls came from the fear & adrenaline pumped out by the survival brain, but we enjoy the ride thanks to the thinking brain which tells us that everything is ok, and we aren’t going to die.
Imagine having your car flip upside down without the knowledge that you were on an incredibly safe, tested rollercoaster! There’d be real terror and fear coming from that primitive brain, without the rational brain being able to tell it that we’re safe. See how that works?
The primitive brain is in charge of seeking out things that are easy, give us pleasure and avoid discomfort. The bummer is that building a business is the opposite of all these!
The primitive brain also wants us to focus on feeding ourselves, reproducing, and avoiding unfamiliar or threatening things. Building a business can also seem to go against these as e take time away from our own self-preservation and our families and purposely cause ourselves to feel fear, discomfort and shame when we fail.
Can you see how and why you might be fighting this call to step into the unknown? It goes against everything our primitive brain wants!
Lucky for us, we’re amazing, divinely created humans who have a rational brain in the neocortex or frontal lobe of the brain.
We can think, dream, set goals, forgive, believe and inspire. But in order to do so, we have to not fall prey to the primitive brain’s (unnecessary) warnings.
You will likely start to experience thoughts that seem rational: “I don’t want to fail, I don’t know how to do this, I’ve never done this before, I worry what people will think of me”.
Acknowledge that all this is the primitive brain’s way of keeping you safe; it’s thinking – you haven’t died yet, so why try something new??
This is when the rational brain has to step up and say something, even iff this might feel a little crazy!
I like to think of it like having a best friend with a panic disorder; she wants to try something fun but her disorder keeps her stuck so you’re there to reassure her that nothing’s gone wrong.
Back to your own brain: your job is to assure, comfort and guide your brain to do the hard stuff anyway. You do this in two ways:
1. Never believe the thoughts that come into your brain. Examine them all and decide which to keep!
2. Answer them and find a way to prove that they might not be true.
One very popular thought that your primitive brain might come up with is: “I’ve never done this before”. We can answer it by saying, “Right? How fun! I’d never ridden a bike before my first time and now it’s so easy! I’d never had a baby before my first and now I know all about childbirth and newborns, etc.”
The fact is, unless you want to stay stuck forever, you’ll have to try things you haven’t tried before.
Another popular self-sabotage thought is, “I don’t know how”. Try answering it like this, “And that’s so great! I get to learn cool things and I have Google so I can learn anything. Won’t it be fun in 6 months, or a year when I’m so much better at this?”
The point is, you have to let the frontal cortex drive. You can be feeling panic and fear and nervousness and still go out and do it. Thos emotions do not have to be driving your life.
I know you can because I did. I believe in you! This is what coaching is all about, keeping that rational brain in charge.