Your brain can be an enemy or an ally in achieving your goals, but because of the way we talk about our goals we often turn our brain against us.
The average human brain is about 2 percent of our total body weight, yet it consumes 20 percent of the energy we burn daily.
Because our brain is such an energy pig, it guards against threats that could reduce the amount of energy available to it.
At the same time our brain is wired like an animal. It lives in the moment and can only draw from past experiences to predict the future. As Mark Twain said, “If a cat sits on a hot stove, that cat won’t sit on a hot stove again. It won’t sit on a cold stove either.”
This creates a “want/will” paradox when we talk about our goals. Ask a group of friends what their goals are and they’ll likely start off with “I want to…” or “I’d like to…”
We come by the want/will paradox naturally. Think back to when you were a child, were you asked, “What will you be when you grow up?” or “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
When your brain hears “want” as in “I want to lose 10 pounds” or “I want to double my client base” it does a quick calculation and decides that a want’ means we don’t have it and it sounds like we’d need to burn a lot of energy to do that; energy that won’t be available to me so we’ll pass on that idea.
What happens next is you may start with good intentions such as following your exercise program for a few weeks, but your brain will eventually override your willpower, convincing you to “take a rest day” (aka task avoidance), which will cause you to fall short of your goal.
By using more powerful words your brain will respond differently. For example, if you tell your brain you will lose 10 pounds or you will double your client base, your brain does the same calculation and decides a path to achieve those goals.
By willing yourself toward a goal you recruit your brain’s energy into task achievement instead of task avoidance.
On the other hand, the most terrifying word for your brain is “need.” By making a statement like,“I NEED to hire a new assistant” or “I NEED to exercise,” your brain is triggered to response in a severe way, like n “I need to move from the path of that oncoming car.” To your brain “need’ means—I have to give up the energy I want to ensure survival.
Because your brain has no history on an assistant being necessary for your survival it shifts you from task completion to task avoidance by creating a shiny object for you to chase that doesn’t require much energy (e.g. have you ever rearranged your desk instead of working towards completing a task?)
The next time you set a goal be sure to trick your brain by writing your goals as “I will” instead of “I want.”
What are some other ways you try to trick your brain when it comes to productivity?
By: Hamish Knox, Sandler Trainer in Calgary, Alberta.