The Purposeful Leader

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You Have a Human Brain

Motivation, Productivity, Values

Remember the time you told yourself you weren’t going to [fill in your blank], but when the time came you did the opposite?

Remember the time you had a great idea, “slept on it” and then it didn’t seem so great anymore because you could see all the potential pitfalls “more clearly”?

Remember the time you avoided doing that thing you really “should” do because you mysteriously hated the very idea of it?

And of course, remember that one time you bought a pair of shoes because you had a shitty day?

You absolutely said yes to more than one of these. You have fought your own behavior, acted out of alignment with your own long-term interest, avoided obligation, and tried to quick-fix your way out of negative emotion.

You know what that says about you?

It says you have a human brain.

Nothing more.

The human brain is — bless it — behind the times.

We walk around the planet with the most powerful supercomputers in existence inside our skulls.

And those supercomputers are running on some seriously outdated software.

We, all of us, are descendants of the people who survived. And to our ancestors, what survival meant was eating, reproducing, not dying, and using only enough energy to do those things, in case we needed a sudden burst of energy to not die sometime in the future.

This evolution, this biology that once protected us, made sense in a time when “not dying” was the prime directive.

But thankfully, for many of us, that no longer needs to be the goal of our day-to-day.

If you are reading this, you likely live in a house, have a job, drive a car, make a very decent income, and have food on your table.

Rather than “not dying,” you likely have the luxury of a prime directive of “living well.”

But your brain hasn’t caught up. And neither has anyone else’s.

We are all wired to:

  • Seek pleasure. We’re rewarded with pleasure in the form of dopamine for doing things that help our species live, like eating or having sex. Now, our brain creates dopamine rewards for other things that aren’t required for living — spending, scrolling social media, bingeing TV, overeating, overdrinking . . . 
  • Avoid pain. We are naturally averse to things that might hurt us. Pain is bad. Pain is closer to death. So unless it’s in the pursuit of something that promotes not dying, we really don’t want to do anything that might risk harm to the species. We’ll risk hunting, but only because there’s eating at the end.
  • Use the least amount of energy as possible. Don’t waste. Use energy for not dying, and even then, use as little as possible. If you need to notch an arrow on a bow over and over again, the brain creates a pathway that allows you to use much less energy, to do it without even thinking about it. Just think about driving from your house to your usual grocery store.

Think about it this way. Any time you face uncertainty or pain, or any time you attempt to break or form a habit, this wiring is at play.

This is why our behavior sometimes feels mysterious to us, why it feels like we sometimes act against our own will, or like changing is so. Damn. Hard.

What I see in so many people, is that they hold this human programming against themselves. Two examples from the last week, quotes directly from clients:

“I don’t know why I keep doing this. I tell myself I’m going to not let it get to me, but I do. What’s wrong with me?”

“I have a terrible habit . . . I procrastinate when work is uncomfortable . . . I have developed some bad habits when I avoid and procrastinate which come in the form of . . . short term distractions . . .”

Here’s what I want you to wrap your brain around, before trying to change anything: there is nothing wrong with you.

You just have a human brain.

You have a human brain, which means you’re far more skilled at finding threats than you are at seeing possibilities.

You have a human brain, which means cookies will always sound better than celery.

You have a human brain, which means that despite your best efforts, you might pick a fight with your uncle Leo. Again.

You have a human brain, which means you’ll want to avoid things sometimes.

You have a human brain, which means you might suddenly be filled with anxiety when you start planning for the studio you want to open.

You have a human brain, which means you are human. It means you are a descendant of the people who stayed in the cave, where it was safe, unless it was necessary to go outside.

Which honestly, thanks, ancestors. I’m so grateful to be here, to be alive, and it’s all thanks to you.

And if a bit of outdated software is my payment for being here, I feel like I got a deal.

Because I also have the tools to watch that software at work and bypass it. 

Only when you accept your programming can you hack the system.

Only when you stop judging your wiring can you rewire.

Here’s what I think is so fun: the human brain also figured out how these brain systems work. The human brain is curious about itself. The human brain wants to evolve.

Let’s help it.

This is the work my clients and I do every day. Join us? What would visibility into your brain give you? What would it mean to you to know how to overcome both the programming that doesn’t serve you AND the story you tell about that programming? What might you be able to achieve? Schedule a consultation, and let’s find out.