According to Paul McGinnis, a coach and facilitator of the NeuroLeadership Group, our brains are lazy. They’d rather be kicked back eating pork rinds on the couch than doing hard stuff like accepting things we don’t already agree with or focusing on the future.
Paul says our brains are more wired to avoid threats—like a bear chasing you down a hallway—than they are to seek rewards—like new careers, healthy relationships, and high performance. Your brain’s job is to keep you alive—not help you self actualize. That doesn’t mean that it can’t help you achieve your potential, it just needs the right environment and motivation to do so. As we say in one of our videos, “your potential is a needy little bugger.”
Think back to your last performance review—do you remember the 17 nice things your boss said to you, or your one “area for improvement?” Chances are you are focused more on your weaknesses (think threats) than you are on your strengths (think rewards.) Again, our brains want to keep us alive, so they spend more time and energy focused on problems, issues, and bad stuff then they do on moving forward. And they are lazy, and not terribly interested in expending energy if they don’t have to, which means we are more likely to try the same old things to solve our problems. Trust a lazy brain to come up with an efficient, but not necessarily effective, solution. (If all I have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!)
What should we do with our lazy, paranoid brains? Learn to enjoy pork rinds and mediocrity? Of course not. We have the ability to make conscious choices, to guide our brains in new directions, to put a little more energy into creating the future we want instead of fighting the same old problems in the same old ways. And we have the potential to do so for others as well—with a little work, we can ignite our potential and help others do the same.