Some days you look out and see several different futures in front of you.
The first future is normal. You’ve been doing it this way for a long time. Familiar colors and people. It’s quite comfortable; really doesn’t take much more effort than you’re used to expending.
Then you become aware that just off in the periphery is another possibility. Your mind’s eye only sees that it is dark and foreboding, filled with murky pitfalls you spend way too much time imagining. You don’t perceive a clear path through, only the first few steps are visible. As fearful as it is, when you look closely at those steps, you realize they’re covered with sparkly fairy dust and unicorn glitter. The promise of something better lies beyond your own fears and bleak imagination, but you have to take that first step … make a commitment to the new future.
Seth Godin talks about our Lizard Brain – the almond-shaped amygdala – a cluster of nerves at the base of our brain. Now, not only is the amygdala useful for protection – it stops us from running out in front of moving traffic – it is also where our anxiety, depression and fears reside. And as small as this sucker is in relationship to the rest of our brain, it has power.
Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art calls it Resistance. We face it down every day in order to accomplish our goals and achieve new heights, but it never stops fighting us. Whenever we’re presented with something new, Resistance shows up to tell us that the easy way out is the better way.
Chip and Dan Heath write in Switch that will-power: self-control, self-supervision, change, decision-making, on and on, is an exhaustible resource. One reason change is so hard is that people have worn themselves out. They’re exhausted at continually being in charge, being on top, being aware. So when it comes time to change, it is sometimes nearly impossible.
I’ve been gearing up for something, that while it will make no difference to all of you (I’m never going to stop writing the Bellingwood series on a regular schedule), it offers changes for me. Not big wild changes or anything crazy-nuts radical, just something that requires me to refocus some energy. I know that I’m going to do it. There’s no question.
But I fear failure or making a fool of myself or tripping over my lack of understanding or doing something really stupid or not knowing enough to handle mistakes … on and on. My Lizard Brain has taken hold.
The scary ghosts in that murky darkness have gained too much power in my head and it’s time to beat them back.
I’m really not asking for anything here (especially advice or preaching – I’ve got this) … just expressing what’s going on. When I get like this, I find it really helpful to write things out; to express what’s going on in my little brain – the one that should be in control – not the Lizard Brain.
Feel free to talk about your fears or the way you handle the Lizard Brain. I think we’ve all been there and I’m pretty sure we’ll all face it again and again. Prayer, planning, preparation. And a severe beatdown of that stinking Lizard Brain. Who’s with me?