The Motivational Triad
I don’t know about you but I want to make the most out of my time here on the earth and grow to be the person that I was born to be. I want to be the person that my Heavenly Mother and Father know I am capable of. I think we don’t have an inckling of an idea of our capacity for greatness. But we will never know if we don’t learn how to overcome our desire to constantly run back to the cave for safety and comfort. The cave? Let me explain.
We saw Alpha this week. I absolutely loved it.
If you haven’t seen it, it is about a boy named Keda, some thousands of years ago, who was separated from his tribe. He forms a bond with a wolf and together they overcome many trials.
The whole time I was watching it I was thinking about the human brain. I know; strange huh. We can understand so much about why we do the things we do by understanding that our brain is wired for survival; exactly like portrayed by Keda in Alpha.
When humans first roamed the earth, and up until maybe a century ago, survival looked very different then it does today. Survival meant being aware of dangers: wild animals, other humans, natural disasters, etc. It meant knowing how to hunt and forage for food. It also meant learning how to be efficient and use your energy wisely so that you had the strength to protect and provide for yourself and your family/tribe. And it meant seeking pleasure, sexual pleasure, so that you were motivated to reproduce and grow our species.
Our brain is still wired to do the exact same thing. The major difference is that wild animals are not lurking around every corner. We can go to the grocery store any time we want to buy food. Providing for our family means sitting at a desk, hardly expending any physical energy. Here’s the kicker, our brains are still wired to survive just like primitive times however.
Our brain is motivated by three things:
1. To protect us
2. To seek pleasure
3. To be efficient
Let me give you some modern examples.
Our brain wants to protect us. I am working on a new project in my coaching practice. It is something I have not done before and my brain tells me that this is so not a good idea. It is way too scary to try. You have no idea how to do it. You have no evidence that you can do this. You should not even try because you are probably going to fail.
Primitive brain is thinking, “you are getting way too close to this cliff. There is no way you won’t fall off if you take one more step out of your comfort zone. You will die. You should just run back to the cave and protect yourself”.
Why is it important to know that my brain is motivated to protect? Because unless I am aware of this, I want to give in to that fear! I want to quite! I want to just keep doing what I have always done and when I do I will always get the same results. I just want to run back to the cave and hide. But I know better. I can say, “Hey brain, I know you are trying to protect me. But, I am going to try this and we are going to be just fine. Sure I might feel fear, but fear is a feeling and no one ever died from a feeling.”
Our brain wants to be efficient. We are always looking for the easiest way to do something and sometimes easy doesn’t equal success. Sometimes we are asked to do things that are hard. We are asked to walk through trials in our life that we think we shouldn’t have to. We hold ourselves to a high moral standard. Often times in order go for easy and efficient we think it would be easier to lower those standards.
Primitive brain is thinking, “ya know, tomorrow we are going out on a long hunt. I could be gone for a week. I should just do the easier thing right now so I can save up my energy to do that.”
Why is it important to know that my brain is motivated to be efficient? Well, when you feel overwhelmed because your brain is telling you it is too hard so you want to lower your standards or look for the easier route in anything you do, you can remind yourself that it is OK to do hard things. No harm will come to me by putting in this effort. In fact, only good can come from this.
Our brain seeks for pleasure. Most of us have long lists of things we would like to accomplish. Ever notice how easily you get derailed from getting them checked off. “Oh, that show I have been wanting to watch just came out on Netflix. I’ll just watch one episode.” Before you know it you have watched an entire season and accomplished nothing (I wouldn’t know anything about that:). The list of pleasurable distractions is huge!
Primitive brain is thinking, “this feels so good. If it feels this good, I should definitely keep doing it.”
Why is it important to know that my brain is motivated to seek for pleasure? When you get that euphoric feeling and your brain thinks it is a really good idea to sit and watch hours of tv or to eat that whole chocolate cake (once again I would not know anything about this:), I can remind myself that I am feeling pleasure. My brain likes pleasure. But this pleasure is very short lived. I am seeking for pleasure that lasts.
Pleasure that lasts is what I call JOY. Joy only comes from learning how to handle discomfort. And understanding the motivational triad of the brain is how we start to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable.