What does it mean to “make up your own mind”? For most of us, this means that you have to make a decision or a choice between several options based on the information you currently have access to. It seems like a simple enough task, but it can often prove to be incredibly challenging. This is because the human brain moves back and forth between various states of consciousness and tends to prioritize some things more than others.
The task of making up your own mind becomes complicated when we realise that our brain is not always in complete harmony with itself. There are certain parts of our brains which get activated at different points of our day and throughout different parts of our life. It is in these moments that it becomes difficult to make up your own mind about even the littlest thing.
We typically think of our brain as one, united organism, but the truth of the matter is that we are constantly under the influence from various forces within the brain. While this may be a huge oversimplification for people in the field of neuroscience or brain science, I like the description of three brain types outlined by Dan Priestly in his book Entrepreneur Revolution.
1. Lizard Brain
What is the lizard brain? The lizard brain is the part of the brain that is responsible for protection and self-interest. It is looking to store up as much energy as possible while working as little as possible to avoid risk or punishment of any kind. When our minds are being too strongly influenced by the lizard brain, we are more likely to look for ways to avoid conflict and hide from our responsibilities.
We look for self validation for our own actions while shying away from negative feedback. Just as cold-blooded lizards gain energy by lying in the sun, so too do people under the influence of the lizard brain require regular attention and positive reinforcement to do their jobs. And in just the same way, those influenced by the lizard brain are much less likely to do well in “cooler” environments where feedback is negative.
To counter the threat posed by the lizard brain, focus your energy on strengthening your sense of security and protection around work. We slip into the lizard brain mindset when we are unsure about our future or we are encountering a period of change. When we fear for our job or our livelihood, we are much more likely to slip into the defensive, lizard brain like state. Safety and security are the name of the game when you want to keep the lizard brain away.
2. Monkey Brain
So what about the monkey brain? The monkey brain is interested in chasing positive feelings and living in the moment. It wants to spend time with friends and experiences positive things without being challenged. The monkey brain seeks out these positive experiences by looking for the easy work or the job that will bring them passive income while they can sit on the beach eating coconuts and bananas.
Those influenced heavily by the monkey brain spend much of their days looking for ways to escape the rat race to spend time with their friends, but they don’t put in the effort necessary to achieve real success because they lack lofty goals. To train the monkey brain, you must start to look beyond your day to day routine to build habits which allow you to plan for longer term goals.
Training the monkey brain can be a challenge, because the monkey mindset is playful and is always looking for a good time. Unfortunately, in order to train the monkey brain you need to be your own parent. I’ll say that again, you must be your own parent if you want to get out of the monkey mindset. Many of us leave the house at or before the age of 18 to go to university.
After that, we rarely have direct contact with a parent or guardian figure. When we slip into the monkey brain state before that, our parents are often there to guide us in the right direction. Learn to be your own parent and you will be much better able to deal with the monkey in your head.
3. Empire Builder Brain
The empire builder brain is what many of us aspire to nurture and cultivate in our day-to-day lives. The empire builder brain looks outward and is interested in helping others as much as in helping itself. The mindset brought on by this part of the brain is one of growth and discovery, and it is integral to those who want to succeed in their personal, professional or spiritual lives. In the empire builder mindset, difficulties are not barriers to be slowed down by. Rather, they are challenges to overcome.
People that cultivate this train believe in lifelong learning and taking action on a daily basis. They also have a long term goal for their future that they keep coming back to day over day. And no, this goal doesn’t have to remain the same month after month, or year after year. Rather, that habit of thinking about your future goals must be formed, and those goals must be reviewed regularly and holistically.