Lizard Brain vs iBrain

I am a keen observer of human behaviour, particularly my own. It’s not always pretty, but I try to keep it behind closed doors. I went cycling on Saturday – new target – 25 miles. I procrastinated for 10 minutes before I actually got on the bike. I always do. I get my gear on and then…I don’t walk out the door. I mess around for ten or fifteen minutes. I know I will walk out the door – I never give in and decide not to cycle – that would be too horrible to deal with. I always go out, but I do delay the actual departure.

I find something to do – on Saturday it was making sure Match of the Day is set to record; checking the route again on Google maps; having a quick espresso – all classics of the art of procrastination. I could write a book.

Cold blooded…

So why do I do this? Well, there’s a part of my brain that was designed a long, long time ago in a swamp somewhere in a country with no name and the software that runs that part of my brain has not been updated…ever. Let’s call it my lizard brain. And my lizard brain only does two things – it seeks pleasure and it avoids pain. And it much prefers the latter because you cannot do the former if you’re dead.

Oh the pain…

And my lizard brain hates the first two miles of the bike ride. Because it’s hard. It’s the hardest two miles of the whole ride. So there’s a bit of pain and my lizard brain wants to avoid pain. So I procrastinate for 10 minutes, pointlessly.

Introducing iBrain…

The avoidance of pain is actually very powerful and my software updated 2011 brain (let’s call it the iBrain – you heard it here first) can use this to great effect. The trick is this – you need to find the bigger pain, the future pain. What’s the pain associated with not going out on the bike; making that presentation; asking for the raise; saying goodbye? When my iBrain identifies the bigger, future pain and tries to avoid that pain, rather than the smaller today pain favoured by the lizard brain, then we overcome procrastination.

I do think this is one of the real keys to self-management. To put the lizard back in its box. The reason we do not do what we need to do is because we focus on the wrong pain – the small, immediate pain. But if we get our iBrain to focus on the big, future pain and its desire to avoid that pain, then the small immediate pain is just something to get through. It’s a simple discipline issue.

Get some perspective…

The problem with the small immediate pain is that it’s two inches in front of our nose and therefore it seems bigger than the large future pain. Or even worse, it blocks out all sight of the big future pain and we just cannot see what’s coming should we shrink before the smaller pain.

So, although my pre-cycle procrastination is hardly the worse thing in the world, it’s still useless and reptilian so today when the time comes I shall engage iBrain and put my gear on and walk straight out the door and ten minutes later the small today pain will be behind me and the lizard will be back in his box.

, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply