“Take it easy, take it easy. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels, drive you crazy”
“Lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand”
“Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy” ~The Eagles
As you may know, this week we lost a legend in music, a man who inspired more people than he will ever know through the lyrics and soul of his music, as they took us to a “peaceful, easy feeling.” The singer and songwriter to claim fame to the above lyrics was Glenn Frey. He wrote them back when many say life was simpler and people used to let the wind run through their hair more often.
I wasn’t there to experience the 70’s, but for a long time I imagined what it was like. I pictured driving along the Californian coast on Route 1, without a care in the world, the sunset behind us and a lookout point ahead of us. This vision was further reinforced on the last day of my college career, when my Marketing Professor sang this song to us and said “if you remember anything—remember the lyrics of this song.”
Truth be told, I don’t remember a lot from that class, but the rich experience of my Professor singing that song and what it felt like to hear it only days before graduation, stays with me to this day. In my thoughts, I felt I was entering a world that would foster anything but “taking it easy,” and that if I wanted to “take it easy,” I would have to create the road to that destination.
Looking back I truly believed that I had to reach a destination to find peace. Today I see that I forgot to internalize the second sentence in the chorus—“Don’t let the sound of your own wheels, drive you crazy.” I took the lyrics too literally at that time and now see that the sound of my wheels, was the sound of my own thoughts…making me crazy. All this time I had the power to take it easy, but I let my thoughts steal my peace as well as my inner “dictator thoughts,” tell me to follow a path that didn’t always include my heart.
As I learn more about the brain in Martha Beck’s training, I realize that this misinterpretation is no fault of my own. My lower reptilian brain was sending out urges to protect me and guarantee my safety by spitting out thoughts that did nothing else than support this cause. As I fed into the urges of fear based behaviors, this only served to further the patterns of my habits and let my reptilian brain know that urges are good and to send more—to increase safety!
Thankfully I also learned that we have a higher functioning part of our brain, the frontal cortex, which allows us to rise above urges and CHOOSE how to respond to them. This area of the brain controls our voluntary actions and is what separates our brain from those of animals. Specifically, it is responsible “for consciousness, your sense of identity, logic and rational thought, memory, intelligence, and voluntary motor behavior.”
Dr. Amy Johnson’s book Fighting the Urge, eloquently describes the choice that we all have to make on a daily basis:
Do we choose our Lower Brain commands that are purely grounded in survival-based programming or do we choose the logical, rationale and best servant of our truest desires choice, from our Higher Brain?
These choices are presented to us in a million different ways each day. They go far beyond safety and include our choices about food, careers, mates etc. Whichever decision you choose you reinforce in your brain, as the best course of action.
The beautiful thing about our ability to choose is that is serves to allow us to change the actual make-up of our brains through a process called Neuroplasticity. You can research it if you wish, but basically it means that our brains remain changeable into adulthood, allowing habit changes to form sustain-ably different neuron pathways, thereby making the struggle to uphold new habits less difficult.
Experiencing life on the other side of making a choice, not based in fear—following a career in life coaching—I can honestly tell you that this decision has helped me make more choices out of love (with my higher brain) than I did before. Do I still have reptilian based urges? Yup—totally—but they are less often and intense, thanks to not feeding that habit, by making a conscious choice with the Higher mind.
What habits are you struggling with? What is the urge connected to that habit? Is there a different choice you can make this week to use the power of Neuroplasticity to start creating new pathways to dispel the urge?