Sometimes it seems we’re engaged in a series of battles on our way to career success—battling for the best job, battling our competition, even battling our commute.
But in my coaching work I’ve found that the biggest battle each of us have is actually fully within our control to win. It’s the battle of our brain.
To help you win that battle, here’s a 7 minute podcast I made to share some great resources if your brain’s getting in the way of your career success.
Note: I originally recorded this for my spring teleclass, “Should I Stay or Go? Your Guide to the Big (and Best) Decisions of Your Career.” (You can read what we covered here. To get on the interest list so we contact you when our next class opens, click here to sign up–there’s no obligation.)
Listen to the audio below (7 min, 3 sec) or download the MP3 here.
(Transcript; slightly edited for readability.)
We’re going to talk a little bit about what I call “The Battle of the Brain.” This can often be your biggest enemy in making any kind of change.
I want you to think about that for a minute. The enemy isn’t anything happening in the world. It’s not the economy, it’s not your boss, it’s not the state of your profession.
It really almost always is your brain. What do I mean by that? Well, there are two books that I recommend (that explain more).
One is Seth Godin’s book called, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? The second is Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. (Not the Art of War—not the one that you’ve heard about that tells people to be tough and to be fighters–but The War of Art.)
Both of these books talk about the battle of the brain. Seth talks about each of us having what he refers to as the “lizard brain.” What’s a lizard brain? The lizard brain is actually the prehistoric part of our brain, physiologically in the amygdala, the frontal part of the brain.
It was designed to protect us. It was designed to keep us from running straight toward the dinosaurs. It was designed to spark fear and give us a biological response so we react when things weren’t going well, and when our demise might mean the demise of the entire civilization.
Over the years, that part of our brains has stayed in place. Yet, those things that we get afraid of, those things that trigger that part of our brain to respond today, are not going to kill us. We’re not going to get eaten by dinosaurs by having a tough conversation with our boss. We’re not going to get trampled and be the end of civilization as we know it if we make a phone call to an old colleague that we haven’t talked to for a couple of years. Yet we have the same physiological response to these things, and that’s why Seth calls that “the lizard brain.”
Steven Pressfield refers to that part of the brain as being a source of resistance. This resistance is very powerful, because if there is anything that is good for us, anything that can help us move forward whether it be in our careers or in our life, that part of the brain wants to protect us. It will throw up the resistance. The resistance will be the things like saying, “I don’t know what to do,” when in reality, that’s not really true.
We can figure out things to do. When we get quiet and we listen to the whispers, we actually know the right things to do. Part of the resistance is also things like saying, “They won’t let me,” or, “That won’t happen here.” Coming up with excuses after excuses instead of really having a way to talk back to that part of your brain, and to know that you actually can control what that part of your brain is saying and doing, and motivating you to do.
I think I’ve mentioned this before – if you’ve read my book or you’ve heard me speak, then you’ve heard me say that control is something that we all need, but many of us feel we don’t have. But the reality is that you control three things. You control:
- Everything you say
- Everything you do, and
- Everything you think.
So getting control over this lizard brain, over this part of your brain that has just grown up that way, has just been taught to be the way that it is, and has been biologically programmed to hold us back just when our souls really want to move forward –– we can control that lizard brain.
We can talk back to the lizard brain. When the lizard brain says, “Well, that’s alright for other people, but maybe that kind of change isn’t right for you.” We can choose to not hear that as a threat, but we can hear it almost as we would a small, uninformed child. We can say:
“Oh, there you go again with that old-world point of view! But don’t worry, we’re going to be safe. You don’t need to be afraid. You don’t need to worry – even if we fail, we’re going to move forward.“
As you think about the battle of the brain, think about when you hear those negative voices in your head and you hear yourself telling yourself, “Oh, well I’m not young enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not accomplished enough.” That’s just the lizard brain. That’s just all those biological responses that are trying to protect you.
But you’re smart and you’re accomplished and you’re a grown up! You don’t need protection. You need to be putting it all out there, because we’ve only got now. We’ve only got this one life, and the world really needs you to be doing the things that you want to be doing right now.
So, think about the lizard brain. Start battling the brain with talking back to that little lizard with giving it only the amount of voice to recognize that what it says isn’t true for you, and I know you’ll continue to march forward.
YOUR TURN: How do YOU talk back to your lizard brain? Tell us in the Comments below or on Facebook.
(Note: the book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which mean if you click and purchase, Amazon pays me a few cents. But it’s more important that you read them than necessarily add them to your bedside guilt stack, so try your local library, too.)
Lizard photo courtesy Joka200 via Flickr, Creative Commons License