Before proceeding .. Please consider reading this Post from Seth Godin.
We all want to succeed in Business, want to get healthier and we know how to do it… but it doesn’t happen. Business is helping a group of people (niche) better than anyone else out there ( think Apple’s iphone). Health is just a change in diet and doing some exercises. We know this , but we still can’t do it. Why? It is because deep down in our brain.. inherited from millions of years ago is our lizard brain which fights for survival. Anything which causes pain it will avoid at any cost.
By the way, we have many different brains.. I like to call them minds. but let us talk about the two major ones.. The Lizard brain and the Possiblities brain. One (Lizard brain) always takes care of survival and reproduction and the other (Possibilities brain) takes care of possibilities . Both are needed. The lizard brain will save us when we cross the street, so we are not hit by the truck. It will save us when we are walking barefoot and see a nail. Fundamentally it will save us from anything that we interpret as “painful”.
The obvious next question is: How do we interpret “painful”? There are two ways.
- By instinct.
- By our “Past Memories”
In one way, Instincts are also the “default” memories which come along with the package (you) when we are born. Ever seen a new born chicken running away from an eagle? Or consider when you pulled your fingers when you touched a heat source like a stove.. that is instinct. Your body by instinct knows that too much heat is dangerous. After this, now you have a memory that you cannot touch a stove. The next time you are near a stove you will “remember” the danger.
The other brain – The Possibilities brain knows deep down you are a born genius and you have the potential to do what you want to do. That is why you dream about things you want like getting rich, getting healthier etc. fundamentally it wants freedom..
So, anytime you want to make a change like for e.g. if you want to get healthier and you want to change your diet. the lizard brain interprets this as “change” and any change will cause pain which it will try to avoid. How do we get out of this? Simple… by using your “possibilities” brain and changing your interpretation of the situation. Let us take an example to better illustrate this.
Let us say there is a overweight 18 year old boy going to college. If his dad or friends says ..do exercise he “interprets” exercise as boring and painful. His dad keeps pestering him to do the exercise but he doesn’t do it. Let us say after a few months this prince meets a beautiful young princess and thinks that she likes a boy who is strong and muscular. He immediately hits the gym and it (going to the gym) suddenly does not occur as painful but in fact, joyful. What changed? The context. At first, the context was “Be healthier” which changed to “I need to impress this princess with my body”. Now the exercise occurred as joyful.
What happened here is the lizard brain interpreted this as “joy” and not as “pain”. If you see great men and women, they “failed” a lot of times, but kept going and ultimately succeeded. This is because they interpreted “change” as joyful and so failure occurred as positive for their “lizard brain” and they could continue. I agree this may not be the case in all great men and women but fundamentally they made sure that the lizard brain does not come in the way of what they want.. by resisting it by the use of willpower OR by befriending it.
One of the most effective way to overcome the lizard brain is by “befriending it”. Like any good long-term relationship.. issues will arise continuously but as long as we are committed to be friends with our lizard brain for life, it will work out. You can count on the fact that every time the lizard brain senses change, it will get perturbed. At this moment notice it and use your “possibilities” mind , create a powerful and inspiring context and let him know that this change is not painful but a joyful one.
In my life, I recently learned yoga. Everyday my body was aching and I hated getting up everyday to do this. Everyday after the yoga, my pains were more. If fact I quit for a couple of days. Then I remembered the “context” concept after reading it in the “The three laws of performance” book and hearing it in a class from “Landmark education“. I changed my context of “doing yoga for health” to “Spending one hour out of 24hrs with my spiritual teacher”. It shifted completely and my “Lizard brain” interpreted it as a good thing and I haven’t stopped one day from then and I love doing yoga now.
Special Thanks: Seth Godin in his brilliant book “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” talks about the Lizard Brain. For a brief Introduction to the lizard brain check this post , this video and this short e-book
Your brain would not want to read this book because your lizard brain interprets this as painful. Imagine you had lived your whole life being manipulated by a system without you knowing it. Isn’t it painful… Hey, you are aware of it now. But consider changing your “context”… The “context” is “Here is a book which will show me how to live my life with freedom”
—Vijay Peduru is an entrepreneur in the bay area and is the co-founder of a bootstrapped startup. His interests are bootstrapping, leadership and spirituality.