Oh Brain, Where Art Thou?

I am a kind person…

until someone tries to cut in front of me as I stand waiting to board an airplane.

I am a friendly person…

until the guy next to me in line at the grocery store wants to talk about his work when I had other plans for my attention, like reading the gossip magazine covers.

I am a patient person…

until the woman driving the car in front of me who was talking on her cell phone was a little slow seeing the light had turned green.

I judge when other people are rude, like I never am. I’m annoyed when people don’t notice me and stand in my way, as if I were always aware of my surroundings. I also criticize the criticizers.

The good news…

I’m not a bad person. I’m just a normal person with a human brain.

No matter how angelic you can be, your brain will always deliver you a lesson in humility. Why can’t we always be good?

THE TRUTH: The brain reacts to our surroundings long before our capacity for logic, compassion and principled thoughts can be formed.

However, it’s not how you instantly react, but how you then choose to act after your brain has prompted you to act like most humans that matters.

Do you just justify your behavior (since logic follows reactions, we are masters at finding the logical excuse for our bad behavior. Even children master the arts of justification and rationalization early on)? Or do you beat yourself up for being so inconsiderate? Either way, you are giving more power to your brain than you should.

Brain control is a difficult skill. Better you work at being aware of your silly thoughts, and then tell your brain what you would like to think and do differently.

Know this about your brain…

The brain is paranoid.

Since the primary job of the brain is to protect you, it tends to first assume people are trying to hurt (ignore, cheat, disrespect) you, take something from you or not give you what you want unless you trust from experience that the person you are with is a friend with good intentions.

The brain is judgmental. You are kidding yourself if you claim to be a non-judgmental person.

In order to discern if a situation is safe or not, the brain must make immediate judgments about people and situations. We naturally discriminate and judge, thinking negatively or positively when neither judgment is justified.

BRAIN TIP: Notice when you assume bad intent or when you are expecting the worse to happen. Catch yourself focusing on the negative possibility. Then..ask what else is possible. Consider that the person you are with has good intentions in the end. This person is doing the best they can with what they know. Maybe you know better. Choose peace instead of conflict.

BRAIN TIP: Listen to the nonsense your brain is feeding you. Notice when you exclude someone or blindly believe in people just because some person or group told you to think a certain way. Choose to laugh at your criticisms of others, open your heart to compassion, and research what people tell you so you can make informed decisions on your own.

Also, forgive yourself for being human then put your brain on time out. Choose to feel differently about the task in front of you and the people who are struggling with this thing called “life” just like you are.

Finally, know that your brain is uncooperative.

Unless you solicit the advice, you don’t like to be told what to do, even if the advice or direction is good, right? Well, this reaction, too, is your brain controlling you. The brain loves status quo. Change is hard. Even if you practice these tips today, you will go back to doing the same silly things tomorrow if you don’t create a discipline of awareness by practicing EVERY day.

Who has time for that? There your brain goes again…being the master rationalizer.

BRAIN TIP: Stay alert. Check in frequently to see what your brain is doing. Set an alarm on your desk to go off a few times a day (or an appointment in Outlook if you use it), reminding you to check into your thoughts. Then make a conscious choice about who you want to be in that moment, how you want to think and most importantly, how you will then act.

If we all outsmarted our brains, wouldn’t this be a better world to live in?


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