Novelty trumps safe and secure!

Why is it, there is a such a huge gap between what we say we want to do and what we actually do?

I am trying to effect change in my life.    In some areas I am progressing (writing – LOVE it!)  In other areas – not so much (decluttering.)  Some activities are hit and miss (cello practice.)  And in still others – precious little (exercise – SIGH!)  Yet these are all things that I ‘say’ I want to incorporate into my life and things I believe will help me build a vibrant and meaningful life. 

So…. What’s with the gap? 

It’s our brain…. It wants to keep us safe and secure… and change to the brain is lethal!

The brain is hard wired to do three things – seek pleasure, avoid pain and be efficient.   These things were all extremely useful to keep us alive ‘back in the day.’  Well brain, we are no longer ‘back in the day,’ living in a life-threatening, eat or be eaten environment….  Get with the program.  Seriously, keep up!

“No brain, it is okay, we are not going to die because I wish to exercise and stretch in the morning.” 

“No brain, it is okay, we do not need to eat until morning…. we are not going to die without an evening snack.” 

“No brain, learning something new is fun, not something that could potentially kill us!” 

That is my pre-frontal cortex (thinky-brain) chatting with my unconscious, primitive brain (lizard-brain.)  Thinky is the CEO part of my brain that can be intentional, make decisions, plan, organize, focus attention and delegate.  It’s the last bit that is problematic.  Thinky delegates the execution of a brilliant, intentional plan to Lizzy. 

Bad plan Thinky!  Lizzy’s mandate is to keep us alive in a hostile environment, and in the heat of the moment will follow the ‘change lethal/familiar safe,’ default and <<BOOM>> “No, that’s not how we do things! – plan aborted!

Thinky can cajole, persuade, and simplify and Lizzy nods and agrees and…. Just like Lucy with the football, pulls out at the last second and Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back…. Again!

Surely there is a solution.  We did after all, rise to the top of the evolutionary food chain! 

Perhaps the solution lies in our desire for novelty.  Novelty trumps safe and secure.  Otherwise, we would still be hiding out in damp, dark and cold caves, not temperature controlled luxury condos! Someone ‘back-in-the-day’ decided an upgrade was necessary and started a ripple, and many centuries later – Luxury condo!  (bet she didn’t see that comin’!)

How can we incorporate novelty into the changes we want to make?  Exercise – for example – bores me immensely!  I KNOW it is an activity that is really good for me and my future health and well-being.  But that does not make it less boring and it certainly does not make it novel!  

When I first starting exploring the idea – novelty is good for your brain – I was really disheartened.  I read a lot.  All kinds of non-fiction stuff – motivation, willpower, learning, perfectionism, mood, and brain neuroplasticity.  New, intriguing and useful info for me and my musings, but as it turns out, it’s NOT novel!  Reading is old hat for the brain.  I learned how to read decades ago!  Hmmmm…..

I did read that learning a new language or learning to play a musical instrument ‘counts’ as novel for the brain.  I tried learning French (I am Canadian after all) but nope, not interested. Perhaps because I took French throughout high school it is not novel.  So, I took up the cello, which I totally and thoroughly love!  I am three years into lessons and of late, practicing can be hit or miss.  Which makes me wonder if the novel bit is over?  Hmmm…. I wonder how long novel stays novel?  

I have yet to find a solution on ‘how to keep novel, novel.’  No doubt someone somewhere has already started a ripple….  I wonder where it will lead centuries from now?  What is the cold cave to luxury condo equivalent?  Hmmmm…..

In the meantime, I will endeavor to engage Thinky in the execution of plans and keep working on changing my unconscious defaults.  As much as I love Lizzy for keeping me safe and secure, the default is out of date.  Time for an upgrade Lizzy!

Buff it up, my friends
Dr Karen

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