Remember pop rocks? They came out when I was eight years old. When the candy hit your tongue, they popped around your mouth and you could hear the sizzle. Every kid knew that you had to be careful with pop rocks and not eat them with soda. Otherwise -- boom!
Of course it wasn't true. Looking back, it's clear we often worried about the wrong things. After Jaws, we looked for sharks everywhere, even while we slathered on Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil (no SPF!). We inhaled secondhand smoke everywhere, didn't use seatbelts, and wouldn't have been caught dead in a bike helmet.
The fact is, we're often worried about the wrong things.
It's not our fault, really. The most important job our brain has is to keep us alive. Our primal brain -- the part that makes sure we breathe without having to think about it -- is always on the lookout for sharks and other things that might hurt us.
This is why when our kids are fighting our primal brain worries, I've raised monsters who will never be able to get along with other people.
When we argue with our spouse, our primal brain says, Leave now or Make her like you again so we can feel safe.
When we realize we don't like our job anymore, our primal brain says, Probably best to keep it. It's nearly impossible to get a new job at 55.
When we want to share our poetry, our primal brain says, Everyone will hate it and you'll be so embarrassed. Better not.
We can thank our brain for wanting to protect us while also using another part of our brain to evaluate actual risk. This part is the prefrontal cortex and it's the part that lets us evaluate and plan.
We get to choose which part of the brain we listen to.
The key is to not let the primal brain run the show. We can thank it for keeping us safe and also tell it:
We won't actually die if we share our poetry, even if no one likes it.
We can explore other jobs even while we continue working at our current job.
Arguing with your spouse is part of marriage.
Our kids are not actually sociopaths.
This week, look for ways your primal brain tries to keep you safe. When you find yourself worrying or wanting to flee, slow down and look at the situation from a distance. Approach it with curiosity and use your prefronal cortex to evaluate how much of your fear is warranted. Look for ways to reassure your primal brain that you are safe.
It makes sense that our brains are scared of physical danger but what often scares our brain the most is feeling. Our brain often tells us not to do things that might make us feel disappointed, sad, or lonely. One way to allow those feelings is to remember that they are part of the human experience. Take a listen to this week's podcast to hear why this perspective is so helpful.
Episode #33: Life is 50/50
Do you spend your time in pursuit of happiness? Most of us do. We try to organize our lives to maximize happiness, which makes sense -- but it means that when we are sad, frustrated, disappointed, or angry we can feel like we've failed. We often see those feelings as something we need to fix so we can return to happiness. And this can get intensified as we get older, because we think that by our age, we should have figured some of this stuff out already and should be happier more of the time.
But what if that's not the point of life? What if the human experience is always going to be a mix of emotions, and none of them need fixing? This is the powerful concept I share in this episode -- the idea that life is always going to be 50/50. It has helped me to find greater equilibrium and calm through the ups & downs of life and has also helped me to get greater clarity on my decisions. Really -- it's that powerful of a concept.
Take a listen and let me know what you think!
P.S. On the 15th of every month of 2023, I'm choosing one person from this list to receive a free one-hour session over Zoom. Signing up once enters you for the year. If you haven't signed up yet, why not?
Are you worried that I'm going to try to sell you something? Nope! I'm doing this just because I love to give away coaching.
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