Have you ever really wanted to do something but had this strange resistance holding you back?
I've had this feeling all too many times, and I've never been able to understand it, until I read Seth Godin's “Linchpin.” in Seth’s words, a Linchpin is an “…an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen.”
When I first heard about the book, the idea sounded like typical, run-of-the-mill self-help advice – not what I would expect from an original thinker like Seth Godin. I couldn’t have been more wrong – once again, Seth has taken a unique approach to explain some timely ideas.
One key concept in the book is “Overcoming Your Lizard Brain.” Seth explains that the Lizard Brain is our natural instinct that kicks in when there’s a big fear or opportunity. That uncertainty makes us want to free, to retreat to where we feel most comfortable. The lizard in us does not want change and resists any chance of discomfort – even if it could result in a huge success.
Here’s the Lizard Brain in Seth’s words:
The lizard brain is hungry, scared, angry, and horny. The lizard brain only wants to eat and be safe. The lizard brain will fight (to the death) if it has to, but would rather run away. It likes a vendetta and has no trouble getting angry. The lizard brain cares what everyone else thinks, because status in the tribe is essential to its survival. A squirrel runs around looking for nuts, hiding from foxes, listening for predators, and watching for other squirrels. The squirrel does this because that’s all it can do. All the squirrel has is a lizard brain. The only correct answer to “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is “Because its lizard brain told it to.” Wild animals are wild because the only brain they possess is a lizard brain. The lizard brain is not merely a concept. It’s real, and it’s living on the top of your spine, fighting for your survival. But, of course, survival and success are not the same thing. The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.
I suddenly had an epiphany: the Lizard Brain is the reason for the “should-haves” in my life. Every time I wish I had done something – whether it was asking a girl out on a date or starting a new venture – there was always a voice in the back of my head telling me NOT to take the chance. This raw impulse overcame my rational thoughts and clouded my decision. More often than not, I’ve looked back and regretted it.
The effects of the lizard brain are everywhere. We see them in our companies, when we spend months on a project only to decide last-minute that maybe this product just doesn’t make sense any more. We say that we want to lose weight and then decide that it’s an impossible goal – after all, we can’t control our metabolism. We aren’t fooling anyone…except ourselves.
The Lizard Brain exists for a reason. There are times when it’s good to be cautious. But we live in a world where we can’t know all the answers. Are you sure that the product will fail? Are you absolutely positive that losing weight is so impossible? The next time you are trying to resist a change in your life, take a moment and think about it. Is it really that bad, or is it just your lizard brain talking?
So how do we overcome our Lizard Brain? Here are a few ideas:
Stop Procrastinating: It is so easy to put things off until later…especially when there’s a big chance involved. Fight this urge. If you want to do something, do it now. Opportunities are time-sensitive; if you wait too long, it might be too late.
Make a To-Do List: You’ve probably heard this before, but that doesn’t make it any less important. We’re all so overloaded that it gets really hard to stick to your “to-do” lists. The next time you feel like checking the news or your e-mail, take a moment to look at your to-do list first. It’s the single best way to get back on track.
Understand The Endgame: Always ask yourself why you want to do something. For me, I eventually want to write a best-selling book based on this blog. This vision gives me the motivation to keep on putting out the best material I can, even when I feel exhausted or scared of being a failure.
Have you ever wished you’d done something but instead had your lizard brain take over?