Over the years, I've been exposed to so many life-changing ideas. It's difficult to trace the origins but, years ago an idea was planted in my mind. The idea came in the form of a question:
WHY DO WE DO WHAT WE DO?
The question seems simple enough to understand, right? Of course, we do the things we like to do or have to do and we try to avoid the things we don't like to do or don't want to do. In other words, we operate on a sliding scale of Pleasure (reward, comfort, stimulus ) and Pain (fear, uncertainty, discomfort ). If we get more Pain from something than we do Pleasure, we'll pick the more pleasurable option. This is a simple idea that largely goes unnoticed during our day to day because it's been drilled into our primal brains since the time we were cavemen, if not much, much earlier than that. That pre-programming allowed our ancestors to escape the time of dinosaurs with their life and offspring. As our species evolved, we gained deeper cognitive abilities allowing us to create everything from spoons to large scale agricultural systems in ancient Egypt, to Google's search engine.
With the new technology and the evolved brain we've used to create with, you might think our primal instincts are long gone. Well, they're not. We've still got our primal brain and for the most part, it runs the show. So what does that mean for you and the rest of humankind? It means that we've got a deeply rooted system of operating, of making decisions based on intuition, using a system rooted in survival instinct. This system worked great when we were running from wild beasts, but isn't as applicable to our 'Work then Netflix & Chill' lifestyles. This primal brain kicks in whenever we feel uncomfortable or afraid. It's what's powering most of our decisions to do something or not do something.
This week I went to the gym for a leg day. We started with some front squats and then moved over to a circuit of kettle bell swings and box jumps. We were pushing to do the sets as quickly as we could without compromising form, when I noticed something about my own behavior. After about 8 box jumps, I'd slowed down. Why was this happening? Was I lacking willpower? Was my body exhausted? Whatever it was, my body seemed to be putting the breaks on my exercise. It's widely known in the fitness world that our thoughts can impact our fitness performance.
It's widely known that when we push ourselves hard in the gym, our body issues a protective response. That protective response is the same response we'd get if we were running from a lion; the survival instinct. Our bodies inject a feeling of fear during these 'stressful' times in order to put us in a state of that triggers us to protect ourselves. During my workout however, I decided to look at my Fear response from a new perspective. "Am I really having Fear about this box I'm jumping on?" I asked myself. "No, I'm not." With this selected mind shift, I busted out my remaining two sets in record time...and I survived.
What does this have to do with you? A lot. What my story showed me and hopefully I was able to show you, was that our Fears, when put into an objective perspective, can be analyzed and selected using our smarter brains rather than our primal one. It means if we can cultivate the awareness of our feelings, we can gift ourselves the freedom to choose our fears. So whether you're feeling uncomfortable about going on a date with someone new or afraid to reach out to the CEO of a company you want to work with, we have the choice to choose if we should be afraid. Most of our life situations aren't life or death.
Most of the fears we hold, don't serve us well in our pursuits of a better life. That's why, from now on, we must choose our fears wisely.
Think about today? Was there a situation that felt uncomfortable or stressful? Was there a situation that seemed to risky? Let me know in the comments below!