You may have heard the term “lizard brain” before. This is an affectionate term used to describe the most primitive part of your brain, the amygdala. The amygdala is tiny (about the size of an almond) and lives at the base of the human brain. It’s in charge of your most primal instincts: fear, hunger and arousal. The lizard brain wants to protect you and keep you out of harm’s way–which is great if you come face to face with a fierce Honey Badger! However, not so great when it comes to trying new things and achieving your dreams.
The honey badger. Adorable but deadly!
The lizard brain wants to keep us in our comfort zone: safe, cozy, predictable.
Picture this: you have a comfortable job, you’re good at what you do but you no longer enjoy the predictable, menial tasks. You’re bored and wonder if you need a change.
You are also a health nut and have dreamt of opening a health food store in your town. How fun and fulfilling would that be?
And then a small voice emerges: Are you crazy? You don’t have the cash for that! You’ll fail and go bankrupt! You have a family to support, are you nuts? If you try this and screw up your life will be ruined…
Ok, stop. That’s your lizard brain talking. The pesky lizard at the base of your brain desperately wants you to remain static, unchanged, unchallenged. The lizard will go to great lengths to undermine your ideas and stifle your dreams.
How often do you talk yourself out of something? How many times have you begun a task or a project only to let it fall by the wayside weeks later? Is it even possible to get out of your own way?
Step 1: See the Signs
The first step is to recognize when your lizard brain is feeling ornery. Here are a few sure-fire indicators that your lizard brain is gearing up to shut you down:
- You continually postpone a task or project
- You become increasingly self-critical
- You begin to obsess and fixate on the details. Don’t get me wrong, attention to detail is great. However we all reach a point where it’s time to wrap it up and release that puppy into the wild!
- You have an exceptionally long list of excuses
Step 2: Fight Back
The lizard brain will never go away. You need it, after all, to fend off Honey Badgers and the like. But you can get the lizard to chill out a bit. Here are a few approaches to keep in mind:
- Produce something free of judgement. Be it a blog, a drawing, a poem…something creative and out of your comfort zone. Make sure that your creation is complete and has been shared with other humans. Get used to imperfection and releasing an idea without self-criticism.
- Create an epic brain dump. Write down every single ridiculous idea that wanders into your head. Practice inhibition, get it all out and do this often. This is where your best ideas will occur, much to the dismay of your lizard brain.
- Act first and think later. This is a tough one and takes lots of practice, since this is where a gradual rewiring of your brain will occur. Do not give your brain a chance to conjure excuse after excuse. Do the thing!
- Failure is the secret sauce, so don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is your process at work and is the only way to achieve success. So dig in and get to work! Failure is your badge of honor and puts you in the ranks of all the greats.
Resource : Seth Godin
Seth Godin talks a lot about the lizard brain in his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (which I highly recommend).
Below is a video of Seth discussing the lizard brain. If you’re pinched for time, start the video at 9 minutes and watch till the end!