The way we behave is affected by the way our brains are wired. What if we took this knowledge and hacked our brains to show up in the world the way we wanted to? Our brains are ancient – thousands of years old, inherited from our ancestors. Having an ancient brain means that we have really old hardware. But that doesn’t mean we can’t integrate new software to kick-ass in the 21st century that we live in. Why should we care about this, and what significance does it play in the way that we show up in this world?
Way back in the days, our ancestors had only one concern: survival. That meant they had their heads on a swivel, and it was an advantage to have a brain that registered and processed negative stimuli really quickly. If they didn’t, that meant death. Because of this, their brains were wired to be negative, pessimistic, and dubious. Being alert to and aware of these stimuli were critical to survival. Fast forward thousands of years, and here we are today with the same old hardware and wiring. The slightest thing that is off or wrong, and our attention and focus immediately shifts to this fact. It’s not your fault that you blame someone else for something gone wrong in your life. It’s not your fault that small, insignificant things bother you so much. Thank your ancestors for this way of being.
Lately, I’ve noticed myself staying in bed for an extra hour – two hours – longer than usual. My alarm would go off, and I’d get up to shut it off and go back to sleep. Sometimes I’d sleep for nine or even ten hours a day. I found myself listening to and believing my mind chatter – I guess I don’t have what it takes. I told you, not everyone is a leader. You must be slipping into depression and trying to avoid the world. If your life overwhelms you today, what could you possibly conquer? The state of low energy had totally drained any momentum I wanted to keep up in creating new standards. Noticing the “wrong” of sleeping in, and continuing to focus on this fact, perpetuated the energy drain day after day. Recently, I noticed that this was the first time in a long time that my brain was able to find what was “wrong” with me and kept me in that state. Once I realized that my historic brain and its negative tendencies had hijacked my life, I intentionally refocused on the benefits of sleep. Then, just like that, my fatigue of weeks vanished.
How can we work to add in helpful software to create an outstanding life?
- Harness Awareness. You have a leg up from your fellow coworker, or the guy sitting at the bar to your left. Simply knowing how your brain is wired is a huge advantage. Train yourself to become aware of your judgments, biases, and interpretations of your world. Catch yourself each time you notice an unhelpful thought or feeling.
- Express Compassion. Now that you know it’s not because you’re weak, or because you’re not good enough that you are so hard on yourself, practice some self-compassion. Give yourself permission to shift your focus without any judgments.
- Practice Repetition. Notice your unhelpful thoughts. Become keenly aware of when you have negative judgments or mind chatter. But don’t stop there. Bring your focus back to your goals. Pull your awareness to the things that make you smile. Put these steps on repeat. Today, tomorrow, and the day after. But remember – when you exercise or train your muscles, but stop for two weeks, what happens to your muscles? They atrophy. This skill is the same way. You don’t get “good” at this and stay there permanently. It requires patience and persistence.
Let me know how you think following these steps will change your life. What would be different if you learned to hack your brain and add new software?