We have three separate brains within us. The first, called the reptile brain is deep seated, quick to react and very slow to change. It controls our basic functions, drives us to reproduce and is in charge of our “fight or flight” syndrome. It is the one responsible when we react with fear or anger. It does not think, it only reacts. The second brain is called the mammalian or dog brain. It’s more complex and layered. It’s where our emotions are. It’s where we form our habits. It also controls hormones and temperature. It also does not think, it only reacts. The third brain is our human brain and it is huge. It takes up 5/6 of our cranial cavity and is what separates us from everything else. It is the reason we can do mathematics and music and abstract art. It is also where our language and reason resides. Interestingly, it is also where we make up our excuses and plan our deceptions. This brain has the ability to think and not just react. The first two brains operate at a subconscious level and most of the time we are completely unaware of it. It is said that we process thousands of pieces of information per second and the bulk of that work is done by the two subconscious brains. Most of your day is also driven by the habits that you learned to help you handle most of the decisions needed to get through your day, and again, habits are the domain of the subconscious brains. And yet we have this huge third brain, waiting to help us if we only learn to tap into it and train it. From a leadership standpoint, it is important that you recognize how you respond to problems or higher levels of stress within the workplace. Are you a total reactor? Do you find yourself acting out of sheer habit? Are you easily angered or do you just shut down when the stress levels go up or things don’t go smoothly? If that is you then you are engaging only your two more basic brains, the ones that are only capable of reacting and you are cutting out the only brain that can think its way out of the situation. With us being 85% habit driven, it is imperative that we train our human brain to be the decision maker and the final say. It’s not that emotions are necessarily bad; they just shouldn’t be the driving force in your behavior. And because emotions come from the same brain as habits, and we tie our emotions to our habits, we need to engage our higher form of thinking to find new processes to overcome any habits that are holding us back. Engaging our human brain requires us to live a life of more intent, meaning we should be more conscious of the habits we have in place to see if our processes (habits) can be improved. If something is not working in your life, look at your habits. A life of intent means we should also question things more, be less accepting of the status quo. I’m not saying you should be argumentative or negative, but you should be curious and interested to see if anything can be improved. Other ways to light up your human brain include going outside of your comfort zone and trying new situations or new processes, playing what if….., taking things apart to see how they work, playing new games, and finally improving your critical thinking skills, which is a subject in and of itself and will be the subject of next month’s newsletter. Our three brains need balance. When we are disengaged with the human brain, we become prisoners to our emotions, driven by habits that even when they are hurting us, we can’t seem to stop doing them. Balance requires us to think more, to question more, to be more. It starts with intent.
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