Fear, The Lizard Brain and Your Inner Dialogue
I must have been thinking about writing this piece for close to 2 months now.
I’m sure that, if you’ve stumbled upon this article, you’ve likely either experienced this yourself, or you’re going through the same spectrum of emotions as I am at this present moment in time.
To be frank, I’m scared.
Not so much of writing.
I’m not afraid of saying what I want to say and I don’t particularly care about what people think in regards to my “writing style.” I’ve been made very aware that there’s much left to be desired in the way I relay my message but I’m content— actually, I’m proud of the opportunities my writing has afforded me up to this point.
So why have I allowed ‘fear’ to prevent me from producing, what Seth Godin would refer to as, my art?
It’s quite simple really, but it’s something that so few of us ever consider when we stop ourselves from doing the things we want to do. We’d rather live in the comfort of the safety measures our subconscious has developed, during a long career of whatever the number of years we’ve existed currently sits at than take action on the things we truly want to do with our lives.
My dad, who I love and respect more than words can justify, and who you’re likely to become well acquainted with if you choose to follow this blog, tells me he would have been a lawyer if he could have his time again.
Admittedly, training to become a lawyer is no walk in the park and the risks associated with pursuing a new career path can feel out of reach the older you get. However, there’s something to be said for those that fly in the face of these risks.
Harlan Saunders famously bloomed late with KFC, having only promoted his secret blend of herbs and spices from the age of 66. He would later sell his business for $2 Million. Likewise, Samuel L Jackson and the late Alan Rickman didn’t score their first major Hollywood roles until the ages of 46 and 42 respectively.
So what is stopping him?
And what is stopping us?
The Lizard Brain
For those of you unfamiliar with this phrase, I’d like you to harken back to any time that you’ve thought “I knew that was going to happen.” or “I told you not to do that, but you did it anyway.”
Those words are not your own and are instead a frequently rehearsed recital designed and performed by, none other than, your Lizard Brain.
This reflex is the result of 365 Million years of evolution and, to put it simply, conditions you into a state of predictable and instinctual behaviour. It attunes your body into believing that there’s a so-called safety zone and that anything you think about doing, that doesn’t conform to The Lizard Brains rules, could lead to your untimely demise.
Imagine our close relative, the caveman, growing hungry and choosing between hunting in the wild or laying a trap. His Lizard Brain would choose to lay the trap because that would pose less danger. Despite there being more choice and sustenance if he had hunted, the Lizard Brain would rather conserve energy.
The Lizard Brain would rather settle for a rat when you could have caught a boar.
The Lizard Brain would rather convince you that no food is better than the risk of death even though there’s a chance you might starve anyway.
Except we’re not cavemen anymore and our job security doesn’t generally correlate with life or death consequences. Sure, we might not live with luxuries that our current job affords us, (especially not initially) but if we’re not happy in said job, then what is our end game?
Are we just holding out for retirement? Or worse, are we simply waiting for death?
I’ve had multiple opportunities to write this article before now and each time I’ve managed to talk myself out of it.
I am both the defendant and the prosecution in a case of pseudo-work procrastibation. A term coined by Tim Ferriss in ‘4-hour workweek’ that is, I’m ashamed to say, all too accurate a description of my past few weeks.
Each time I sit in my chair.
Each time I focus.
And each time I somehow convince myself that I should be working on my social media accounts or learning to play a new song on guitar or watching videos of dogs breaking up cat fights.
All things that could quite easily come second on my list of priorities.
What’s worse is that I’m aware of The Lizard Brain, I’ve acknowledged its existence and I know exactly what it takes to overcome it.
So why has it taken me so long?
Your Inner dialogue.
There is an inner dialogue in all of us.
Of all my friends and family, acquaintances and strangers that I’ve spoken to, not one has rejected the idea that the voice in our head telling us not to do something, the one preventing us from daring to venture outside the constraints of the safety zone, is in fact not our voice at all.
Many of us are subservient to this voice, unaware that we are living our day-to-day based on its every desire.
Many of us push this voice away, denying its existence altogether, and continue to lead the very same lifestyle as the previous demographic.
And then there are those of us that actively oppose the voices. We quietly disregard anyone that tells us to stay in the safety zone. We turn our noses up at the idea of conformity and by doing so, are the ones who are sure to find real success. We are the ones who are truly alive.
“To be living is not the same as what it means to be alive.”
You see, to be living and to be alive are two separate notions.
To be living is to do what you do because it works and it’s safe.
You go out on the weekend and feel alive in a nightclub, but you’re not.
You sip on your $5 coffee and feel alive on a morning, but you’re not.
You have 48 seconds of “amazing sex” and feel alive for the first time in 6 months, but you’re not.
You died a long time ago.
When you are living, you live by the mantra of another day, another dollar and you are accepting of life’s shortcomings.
“Shit happens,” you say, after a bad day at work, making no effort to change your current situation.
You walk or ride your bike or drive, the same route every day. The same speed. The same radio station. The same smell of stale french fries lingering from the night before.
When you are alive though, you’re actively trying to fail.
You’re constantly venturing outside of the safety zone looking for new ways to develop and grow and when you do inevitably fail, you revel in it.
You love to fail because it makes you stronger.
You celebrate your failure with others and you move on in the pursuit of new failures.
When you’re alive, risks are part of your day-to-day and you understand that failure is a part of the process, as is the bounce-back.
When you’re alive, you’re playing a game of cat and mouse but you are both the cat and the mouse.
You set unattainable goals and you hit them frequently.
When you’re alive, you work for the love of what you do and the paycheck is largely irrelevant.
During my 9-5 I’m living.
During my 6-1 I’m alive.