Have you ever determined to do something and then given up completely in the moment?
Set out with a plan, only to get to the end of the day and realize you didn’t do what you said you would do?
Why do you do that?
Why do you ever accomplish or not accomplish anything?
Your brain has two parts - the lower brain and the higher brain.
The lower brain does what all animal brains do:
1. Seeks pleasure
2. Avoids pain
3. Uses the least amount of effort possible
The higher brain is unique to human beings. It allows you to:
1. Plan in advance
2. Make decisions
3. Delay gratification
Notice that the goals of each part of your brain are at odds with each other.
Doing what the higher brain is designed to do goes against what the lower brain wants and vice versa.
It is so much easier to go along with the lower brain’s plans.
With chocolate, phones, and netflix in the world, going along with the lower brain is incredibly pleasurable.
Often your higher brain turns it’s consent over to the lower brain and let’s it take control.
This is so much easier and much more fun than driving with your higher brain.
Any time you delay gratification to achieve a decision you planned on, your higher brain is driving. If your higher brain takes control, the lower brain will not give consent. It will kick and scream the entire time.
I’ve been experimenting with committing to what I want to do in life, starting it, and watching my brain freak out.
It offers me all of the victim thoughts: “This is too hard. It will never work. You shouldn’t have to do this anyways. Your kids should help you. Your husband should help you. This isn’t fair. You poor thing.”
Previous me would spin in overwhelm and give up. Do half of what I said and decide that it was more than enough. I would think “I’m amazing for even trying”.
I realized that I keep wanting my lower brain to give it’s consent to my higher brain.
I want to set the goal, start on it, and not have my lower brain freak out.
Here’s the deal though: It’s not going to happen.
Trying to get my lower brain to consent to my higher brain’s plan is impossible.
It is interesting to watch what happens when I stop trying to get my brain to consent and I just don’t listen to it.
I’m doing the mountain of dishes because I want them done, and my brain is freaking out. The stream of thoughts designed to make me stop doing the dishes is incredible.
“You made the meal, you shouldn’t have to do the dishes too. Your kids are so spoiled for not having to help. You husband should notice this and be super grateful. It’s way too much to do all of this. If this continues you’ll have no time for anything else in life. Now you won’t get enough sleep. Poor you. You deserve a break.”
If I believe any of the thoughts my lower brain offers me, I will give up - either on the dishes or on something else that becomes collateral (“Well that was hard, I really deserve a treat”).
My brain is so incredibly tricky. The sneaky thoughts that it offers me have the power to keep me stuck.
Doing the dishes does not cause my misery. Thinking awful thoughts while doing the dishes causes my misery.
This doesn’t just happen with dishes, it happens with everything.
Higher brain: trying to eat what I planned - lower brain: “No one else has to do this.”
Trying to accomplish school - “No one is listening to me.”
Trying to organize my house - “It won’t last.”
Notice that if I believe any of these thoughts, they cause such negative emotions, that I will stop trying to achieve what I set out to do. I’ll eat junk, give up on school for the day, and stop cleaning and get on my phone instead.
If my higher brain cannot get my lower brains consent, it wants to give up.
So what happens when I stop listening?
What if I decide that I don’t need my lower brain’s consent?
Well I’ve tried it.
It turns out that your lower brain gets louder. It knows that you aren’t listening and instead of telling you, it starts shouting at you. It starts kicking and screaming about how unfair it all is.
I thought maybe I was doing it wrong. The victim thoughts kept coming, so it wasn’t working.
Guess what that is though?
Another thought... Attempting to derail me from achieving what I want to achieve in this life.
If I believe that I should stop having victim thoughts, and that maybe this isn’t working, guess what I’ll do? Stop trying.
So I try again. Recognizing that the thoughts will keep coming. They are not going to stop. They are my brain, operating normally. Trying to keep me safe. Protecting me from the harm of overexerting myself.
My lower brain wishes that I would just lay down on the couch, eat the bag of oreos, watch some tv, and send the kids to public school.
It would be so much easier for my lower brain if I would just believe it.
My lower brain is never going to give it’s consent to do what my higher brain wants to.
It will only consent to things that bring pleasure, avoid pain, and take no effort.
I’ve learned that the thoughts may never stop, and that’s ok.
I’m going to decide what I want out of life and show up anyways.
I am going to homeschool my kids, feed them healthy food, and take care of myself by exercising, and eating well. I’m going to attend to our spiritual needs. I’m going to do all of the things I set out to do, even when my lower brain would rather not.
My lower brain is still going to operate properly, telling me all of the thoughts about it being too much and unfair.
But my lower brain can do nothing without my higher brains consent.
It only gets to take the driver’s seat if my higher brain gives in.
I’m done giving my consent to doing things that do not bring lasting joy.
I have this amazing higher brain. It is what makes me a human being. The capacity to plan ahead and follow through is unique to humans.
What do I want to do with my life? Definitely not what my lower brain advocates for.
I want to care for myself, teach my children, and show up for my life.
I can choose it all.
It will never just happen.
I can decide in advance, but then in the moment I will need to ignore my lower brain.
I have to ignore it on purpose.
I want to stop consenting to my lower brain, and put my higher brain in charge.
After all, being deliberately delightful doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice.
P.S. Check out last week's post about awareness and how it's just plain mean here.