Our brains operate with 2 structures, a “top-down” higher brain and a “bottom-up” lower brain. The higher brain is responsible for our logical thinking, planning, decision making and critical thinking. The lower brain is responsible for our automatic responses, protecting us and ensuring our brain is operating efficiently. I have referenced these 2 areas of the brain before, but I have never fully uncovered how they work together to create urges, habits and conditioning. Until reading the book titled FOCUS, by Daniel Goleman.
In a world that more often than not requires us to operate from our higher brain, we can easily let go of the power of our lower brain to guide us. I pride myself in always using my higher brain to not be subjected to lower brain impulses activated by sexy advertising. I use the power of my higher brain to discriminate between what I really need and what my lower brain is attracted to at the moment. I have trained my brain to such a great deal that I rarely succumb to my lower brain’s sensory urges and impulses to have what it wants NOW.
Until reading FOCUS I thought I was totally on top of my mind game. Then I read, the more you use your higher brain, the less you will be able to connect to the creative thoughts that are popping up from your lower brain. Your lower brain is continuously taking in information, you are not aware of. It then connects its observations with ideas from the higher brain to have insights when your higher brain lets go of its need to analyze and process information. If you don’t allow your top brain to let go of control and try to accomplish all your life’s goals through doing and more doing, you fail to open your mind to creative solutions.
Moreover, not only am I inhibiting creativity from my life, I’m also getting in the way of my lower brain running on auto-pilot, making things easier for me! Why?—as you master new skills that meet a demand—your lower brain encodes these skills and takes over. Hence, you no longer have to “think” about accomplishing that task. This frees up additional mind space and allows you to spot details you may been unable to see before.
Random (yet related fact) I have never been good at team sports. The connection here is that instead of letting my lower brain use all my practice to dictate my physical actions, I always let my higher brain take the lead. Hence, as the ball is coming at me, I consciously analyze all scenarios, trying to pick the best one. What this results in is typically missing the ball and looking like an idiot. If only I would had let auto-pilot take over.
Due to the fact that my higher brain was serving me well in school and social interactions, I wasn’t able to let it go, when I needed to do so the most. Through always needing to be in control with my higher brain, I was giving up the efficiencies of my mind and intuition to lead the show.
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein
To further complicate things, the higher brain is always being solicited to learn more information to have more prowess. There are a million informational resources competing for your attention and if you’re leading your life with your higher brain, you will likely be overwhelmed by the amount of data you should be processing.
So what is the solution? Balance—we have both a lower and higher brain for a reason. One isn’t really better than the other, even if society requires one more than the other. The best method of power you have is to be aware of how much you are analyzing/processing/planning and how much you are letting all that go—connecting to your senses, being in the flow/now (walking/playing in nature) and making intuitive decisions. Depending on what leads you most, you will need to challenge yourself to take more time to allow for the other.
If you’re a higher brain directed person your solution may include connecting to something that gets you into the flow state—being in nature, taking a bath etc. If you’re a lower brain directed person it may be actively planning for your week, analyzing what spending is on or off purpose or reflecting on your long term goals and how you are making them happen.
With that, I leave you with homework to build your awareness of what is leading you more often–> your lower or higher brain? Then to determine 2 things to do this week to re-balance the two.