You’re stuck with your brain - so make it your servant not your master
We all do it and suffer the consequences.
We pursue things expecting accomplishment, fulfillment, peace of mind, and certainty. We spend years chasing these things. For people like myself, driven and curious, the vehicle is usually an accomplishment.
More often than not, for people who are driven, we get what we want only to find ourselves disappointed because the goals we pursue don’t deliver what we actually wanted in life. We’re find ourselves chasing the wrong things, basically.
Peace of mind, certainty, and fulfillment ( or whatever version of this you’re chasing) are simply not at the end of this particular rainbow. Of course, there are so many layers to why this happens. One of them is actually quite straightforward if we care to learn about it and train it. It’s our brain.
I’ve been brain-hacking for years and I love it. All it requires is an intense curiosity, the practice of self-awareness, and a training plan for our ancient brain. I don’t care how smart, educated, and accomplished you are - you need this skill to flourish in life. Don’t be offended, one of the most influential people in history, the apostle Paul wrote this, so you’re in good company.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. - Romans 7:15
Don’t we all have that same frustration with ourselves? Our ability and inability to master our brains into constructive, unifying, loving, innovating, and building channels in life result in a life of flourishing or a life of many disappointments.
Does that describe you? If you’re human and self-aware - it does.
I seriously geek out on this, not just as an intellectual pursuit but because of how life-changing mastery in this field can be for us. Yes, Paul was writing of the part of the human psyche that he calls Sarx ( flesh). This lower dimension of human nature which we share with animals, was well observed by most teachers and ancient wisdom traditions. The Greek giants of thought, Socrates and Plato, write extensively about this. The Buddhist tradition has a lot to say about it as well. In the end, does it matter how we explain this, metaphysically, spiritually, or just biologically? The point is, we’re stuck with the brain we have, and the best thing we can do is to train it and not have it train us. This is precisely what’s happening, with close to 50% of the US population suffering from anxiety and depression. It does not take a genius to track the spike of mental health problems, not to legitimate sources, but environmental, cultural, and (good news) entirely preventable ones.
Also, imagine being one of the very few clear-minded people in any setting to realize how much good you can do with that on every conceivable level.
It may not be easy in the beginning, but it’s tremendously gratifying and even more rewarding once you develop those skills. This is, of course, just one of the many things I work on with my clients in my coaching program, Xponential Life, and to serve them well, I both study and speak to some of the top experts in the world.
I recently spoke for a bit over an hour with Dr. Loretta Breuning, the founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and author of ( among many other books) Habits of a Happy Brain. Dr. Breuning focuses exclusively on the brain chemistry side of things. These chemicals and how they affect us are all the rage these days, discussed in countless podcasts, books, and blogs. Sometimes it’s good to talk to one of the OG researchers in the field. Dr. Breuning talked about Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphin before it was cool.
As I offered myself and some of my real-life situations as guinea pig material for her clear-minded analysis, I was challenged in my assumptions and had a very productive talk with one of my daughters as a result of it. In the interview, I asked Loretta about a recent conflict I had with her and how to explain it from a brain chemistry perspective.
If you’re curious as I am about the ins and outs of how our brains can boss us around unless we train them, watch this episode of Headspace, and consider the real-life importance of this. May you learn to be the master, not the servant, of this wonderful and mysterious brain of yours to serve all of us with your unique contribution.