Close call. It seems that procrastination is part of how our brain works. It is not your fault if you choose to read the paper all day, snooze and then break for lunch. Ignoring those chores, the report and starting that project is part of what makes us human. Here I was feeling slightly guilty about not finishing a painting today, but it is okay. I am being normal.
Studies suggest that our brains default to our old wiring system. The limbic system. The reptile brain. You know the fight or flight, eat, have sex and do nothing side of the brain. In fact anything we face in a day passes through the reptile brain for assessment. The default setting is "do nothing unless you will really suffer for it". And it means right now not later. So hanging the picture is a huge waste of energy according to the reptile brain. Do not do it. Unless it means delaying tucking into that slice of cheesecake on the table. Okay then. Picture goes up. Cheesecake is eaten. Reptile is happy.
Then there is the clever-clogs side of the brain. The pre-frontal cortex that developed last week. Relatively speaking, that is, compared to our extremely ancient reptile brain. The cortex takes care of the logical, rational thinking. The planning for a rainy day and complex strategies that make insurance salespeople so annoying. The problem is that the reptile brain is very efficient. Like a thug in the alley. Or a great white shark heading for you. It makes a compelling argument to say the least. How does the cortex stand a chance?
The odds are against defeating the reptile brain. This explains binge-watching TV episodes. obesity, playing video games when you should be working and apathy in the face of almost anything important. Governments are trying to tell us to get our act together. Health issues and economic problems stem from this attitude. Except big brother goes about it all wrong. You cannot punish people and expect them to do better things. You can show the immediate benefits of deciding to change.
There is a way to train your brain. It takes practice and time. It is a victory of the rational brain over the reptile brain. Like a hero outgunned by the villain. The hero has to rely on cunning, training and quick thinking like a ninja. The villain relies on brute force and gets outwitted by the ninja brain. As you train your brain it becomes stronger, better and develops the habit of success. Repeated triumphs, big and small, on a daily basis.
The scientists call this neuroplasticity. The ability to mold the brain to rewire itself and make new habits. Good habits that see the benefits of starting even if the rewards are delayed. Is it not wonderful to know that you can mold your brain into doing amazing things? Highly successful people have developed habits for achievement. There is nothing that makes (insert famous name) that much better than you or I. Even with innate talent. If that person does not get off his duff and start he will remain potential only.
Ask yourself what thoughts go through your head when faced with an idea about starting something worthwhile. Try to stand aside and watch what your reptile brain throws up instinctively. You may be surprised and even shocked at the lame excuses that are designed to keep you down: Start painting? How silly! Childish even when there is so much trouble in the world. I have a real job. Now lets eat some chips.
Forget about New Year's resolutions. You know what you need to do right now. Start. Whether it is for your health, physical or mental. Your income. Your self-worth. Your life. Simply start today. Repeat. Change your reality.
What will you start today?
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