I’ve contemplated the notion of self-sabotage for many years, and during that time I’ve concluded that you really can’t trust your brain.
It will play tricks on you. It loves you, but it will deceive you and think nothing of it.
Stay with me here, and take a look at the device you’re reading this on. Do you remember why you got it?
My guess is that whatever you used before had slowed down, didn’t have enough memory or features, or maybe you wanted a better camera or video function? Perhaps all of the above with a juicy layer of “I’m a gadget-freak – upgrading my smartphone is in my DNA”? Most of us can relate to parts or all of this.
But… why not stick with the thing you were using ten years ago? Ha!!! I know, I know… the very thought of it!
It’s fair to say upgrading a device or updating software is a perfectly normal and frequent occurrence in today’s multi-connected world. Nobody wants to be left behind for too long on the tech journey that most of us have embarked on, whether we like it or not.
So consider if you will that grey matter between your ears… your brain.
Your brain is, to all intents and purposes, wired in the same way as those of our prehistoric ancestors who had one goal to aim for every day, and that was to survive. Basically, they just needed to not get eaten by a passing dinosaur. It was that simple.
Whenever they sensed imminent danger, the brain would send out a “Dude! DINOSAUR!” message and they’d do what the heck they could to avoid Mr T Rex.
And given that our species has survived, you’d have to conclude that those prehistoric brains worked pretty well. I’m sure there was the odd mishap when a passing velociraptor came out on top, but heck- we’re here now and they’re not. Boom.
But here’s the thing: we’ve never upgraded our dinosaur brains.
They’re still wired to look for danger and keep us alive. And they’re still darned good at it.
The dinosaurs are long gone (yes, it’s safe to come out from behind the sofa), but such a mere trifling fact doesn’t stop our brains from constantly looking for danger. Remember – survival is everything!
So what does your brain now see as a potential threat?
Anything that might put you in harm’s way, or in other words: anything unfamiliar, or any situation that might make you feel uncomfortable.
That new business idea you want to pursue? Your friends have told you for years to get started… but whoa! Unfamiliar territory! You could fail… the economy might tank… Better to switch your inner narrative to something safe and tested. Maybe it’s just better to carry on as you are.
Dinosaur brain doin’ its job. Self-sabotage steps up and high fives you!
That round-the-world trip you want to take your family on? That would be the experience of a lifetime… but whoa! Unfamiliar territory! The kids would miss so much school… would you have a job to come back to? Who’s going to look after the dog/cats/fish, for goodness sake? Let’s just park the idea, shall we?
Dinosaur brain doin’ its job. Self-sabotage grins knowingly at you.
How about running a Facebook Live customer update session? You keep being asked to host one, and the technology doesn’t seem too overpowering… but whoa! Are you crazy? That’s not just unfamiliar, that’s scary beyond belief! Talk to an inanimate camera? With all those nut job internet trolls out there? With those puffy eyes from not enough sleep and (ahem!) too much wine with the girls last night? Better to curl up with Netflix and a cup of tea.
Dinosaur brain doin’ its job. Self-sabotage lights a cigar and strolls off into the night…
There is a way to break the cycle, you’ll be pleased to hear.
All you have to do is identify that the irrational dangers you keep telling yourself are there, actually aren’t there at all. Remember what you were worrying about a year ago today? I’d wager you don’t remember – because none of it came to fruition. It’s time to start swimming against your tide.
Will it feel painful? You bet it will. But those who keep battling against their dinosaur brain will start to slowly rewire it, make it redundant and stop the cycle of irrational self-sabotage.
Why settle for survival when your potential is primed to take you so much further?