Have you ever wondered why you get scared when you set a big goal? Or why living your purpose seems so difficult?
Well, I have good news. The biggest obstacle you will face is your primitive brain. Let me explain.
I am not a neuroscientist, but I have a basic understanding of how our primitive brain affects us and what we can do to use it to our advantage. In fact, I wrote a blog that describes the motivational triad and why our primitive brain seeks pleasure, avoids pain and works to be efficient. There is a biological explanation as well that is called autopoiesis. Biologically we are wired to seek stability.
Solving the obstacle of our primitive brain basically involves engaging our pre-frontal cortex. This is where we make decisions and don’t let our primitive brain override our natural inclination towards seeking pleasure, avoiding pain and being efficient. The way we manage our brain is by managing our thoughts. It is about learning how to be aware of what our brain automatically thinks and then deciding what we want to think on purpose.
“One of the best ways to have a purposeful life is to think purposeful thoughts.” Brooke Castillo
Our brain is the biggest obstacle AND the greatest tool. When we manage our mind, we can create anything we want. It’s up to us to direct our brain to think and believe what we want. That way we can act with more purpose.
The primitive brain will constantly think of reasons why it is not a good idea to take action. There are four obstacles you will encounter when your primitive brain is in charge (which is all the time).
As soon as you begin to recognize when you encounter these obstacles—and realize it is your primitive brain—you can engage your prefrontal cortex to manage your mind and use these to your advantage.
The top four obstacles are:
Let’s explore each of these obstacles and how you can overcome them. The first is procrastination. Keep in mind that your primitive brain is always going to tell you that, “now is not a good time to take action.” You have to be prepared with an answer because inevitably this will happen. The answer to procrastination is two-fold: commitment and courage.
You have committed to yourself that you will take action, and you know it is going to be uncomfortable, so this is where courage is required. If you use your pre-frontal cortex and remind yourself that growing means discomfort, you can feel the fear and do it anyway.
A key skill here is time blocking for results, and then acknowledging that each block of time on your calendar is an appointment. You wouldn’t cancel an appointment with someone else because of procrastination, would you? Consider appointments with yourself as sacred, just like appointments with others. Honor your calendar no matter what.
The second obstacle is confusion. Start to notice how often you tell yourself that you don’t know. This is what confusion does—it makes you think you don’t know.
This is a lie, and it is your brain trying to keep you safe. Uncertainty doesn’t feel good, which is why your brain tries to keep you stuck. Confusion is completely optional. Replace “I don’t know” with “I am figuring it out,” “ I am learning how,” “I am researching,” or “I am experimenting.” Think of it is this way—when you tell yourself you don’t know, you become a victim of the circumstance. You are giving your power away to the situation.
The third obstacle is overwhelm. These days we have so many options, and that can be good and bad. If we are not aware, we use the idea of too many options to be overwhelmed.
Your primitive brain will tell you it’s all too much and will try to get you to hide or seek pleasure. The way you can solve overwhelm is to constraint and making a decision. Remember, there is no wrong decision. Try this: narrow down the options to two choices, give yourself an hour, and then pick one and go with it.
The fourth obstacle is busy.It seems that using the excuse of being too busy is an automatic ticket to avoid responsibility. If you reflect, you might notice that being busy is just an excuse. An excuse is a reason why you didn’t get what you wanted. One way to take responsibility is to tell yourself, “I didn’t want to do it enough.” The way to solve being busy is by taking personal responsibility.
I encourage you to take a few minutes and identify which of these four obstacles shows up the most for you. Then create a plan to solve for it. What will you do the next time you notice that you are confused, overwhelmed, want to procrastinate or are too busy? Write this down, and keep track of how this makes a difference in the amount of action you take towards fulfilling your purpose.
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