Part one of this short series argued that change is a good thing – something we should wholeheartedly embrace.
Why then, do we resist change so vehemently? It’s our brain.
Our brain was designed several millennia ago when we lived in a hostile environment where vicious predators roamed freely. Back then, simply venturing out in search of breakfast was a life threatening event. As such, the brain developed a familiar safe/change lethal default directive specifically designed to keep us safe and alive. And this familiar safe/change lethal default directive did an absolutely spectacular job. Back then, it kept us alive in a very hostile world for a very long time. It’s why we were able to rise to the top of the food chain and dominate the planet.
In fact, the familiar safe/change lethal default directive was so successful, we no longer live in a hostile world. Vicious predators no longer freely roam the neighborhood. An over-exuberant friendly labrador retriever may be the greatest threat we encounter over the course of a day.
I am trying to effect change in my life. In some areas I am progressing (writing – LOVE it!) In other areas, not so much (snacking) Other activities are hit and miss (cello practice) and almost absent (resistance/strength training.) These are all activities I ‘say’ I want to incorporate into my life and activities I believe will help me build a vibrant and meaningful life and a future I love.
And yet the familiar safe/change lethal default directive is unconsciously running in the background of my mind, influencing my daily decisions, sabotaging my efforts to effect change.
Well come on brain! Get with the program. We are no longer living in an eat or be eaten hostile world.
“No brain, it is okay, we are not going to die because I wish to strength train 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 – delegate – that is problematic.
Thinky kindly and patiently delegates the execution of a brilliant, intentional plan to Lizard brain.
Lizard brain nods and agrees. But because lizard brain’s mandate is to keep us alive in a hostile environment, in the heat of the moment – when it’s time to change, the ‘familiar safe, change lethal,’ default directive gets activated and <<BOOM>> “No, that’s not how we do things!” – plan aborted!
Our brain and its familiar safe/change lethal default directive is in desperate need of an upgrade. Which, as far as we know, is not coming any time soon.
While we wait, what’s to be done? It’s not like we can place an order on Amazon for an instantaneous download.
Simply knowing the program is unconsciously running in the background wreaking havoc with our decisions, stirring up unnecessary emotions, can have a big impact. Awareness is often (if not always) the first step. Afterall, if you are not aware of a problem, you are unlikely to fix it. And, once you upgrade from unconscious to conscious, you can choose otherwise.
And choice, is a beautiful thing!