Day 13 – The Sassy Fundo

THE BRAIN’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS

I was reading while cycling this morning and I came across an interesting explanation for understanding the human brain. 

When I describe the brain to one of my clients, to help them understand how the mind works, I compare it to a board of directors with the main players being – the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system and the primitive brain. 

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for all of our executive functions – planning, organizing, problem solving etc.  I call the prefrontal cortex ‘Thinky brain’; the limbic system is the emotional part of the brain, which I explain very broadly as a hippopotamus and a porcupine – more on that another morning; and the primitive brain that controls the things that keep us alive and safe – breathing, heart rate, etc which I call lizard brain.  There is also the frontal brain, which stores our memories, but that part doesn’t offer up opinions during discussions of my inner board meeting – it just keeps the minutes – so to speak.

At my inner board meetings – Thinky, Hippopotamus and Porcupine, and Lizard brain with the frontal brain keeping notes – the negotiations can be intense.  Hippo and porcupine argue, lizard wants only to stay safe without any change and thinky keeps recommending something new.

In his book, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert talks about designing the human brain.

“Rather, their most crucial functions were designed first, and their less critical functions were added on like bells and whistles as the millenia passed, which is why the really important parts (e.g. the ones that control your breathing) are down at the bottom and the parts that you could probably live without (e.g. the ones that control your temper) sit atop them, like ice cream on a cone.”  

In essence, Gilbert poses that the brain was designed to ask “What should I do? before answering “What is it?”  Your brain is designed to keep you safe – it triggers your fight or flight response, before you have even figured out what is going on – Run – figure it out later.   

Historically, this is true.  Our brain is designed to keep us safe in a hostile world and it did that extremely well. 

When you understand the negotiations of your brain’s inner board of directors, you can understand how to influence those negotiations and facilitate change for yourself.  

Live Life, Love Life, Always,
Coach Karen

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