Our brains are arguably the most important organ. They have served us well but haven’t always evolved to keep up with the times. The brain has three primary directives:
1) Seek pleasure
2) Avoid pain
3) Do #1 and #2 as efficiently as possible
Back in the cave man days this served us well. Seeking pleasure meant eating, keeping warm in the winter and other basic self preservation skills. Today it means binge watching our favorite show, scrolling through social media or indulging in our favorite food. This kind of pleasure is not related to self preservation.
Avoiding pain meant taking extra precautions. Back when we lived in caves, even a simple cut could become infected and result in death. Today avoiding pain often means avoiding situations that make us feel uncomfortable or fearful. We avoid applying for a better job, asking for a raise and other such action just because they make us feel awkward.
I like to think of the primitive brain as an immature and spoiled 3 year old child. It only understands certain basic instincts and throws a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. The primitive brain is undisciplined, short-sighted, uneducated and very strong willed.
With those characteristic traits do we want it directing the course of our life?
There are four steps we can take to manage our primitive brain.
1) Don’t resist the feelings – recognize them and accept them as legitimate.
2) Put it in perspective – Take the emotion out of it and just look at the facts. Would I rather avoid 2 hours of discomfort while asking my boss for a raise or would I rather earn an extra $10,000 a year?
3) Approach your thoughts and feelings in a respective way. Don’t beat yourself down. The primitive brain is just trying to help keep us safe.
4) Move forward with the emotion. It might look like, “Asking my boss for a raise may be scary and it’s OK to be scared. But I’m still going to ask for the raise. I’ll just allow myself to be scared while I ask for it.”