The ability to put your mind where you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want, is one of the most powerful skills you can master in your life-building process. It’s an amazing skill to possess, and nothing else can even come close when it comes to being able to really take control of your life.
I’d be willing to bet, though, that many of you read that paragraph and thought to yourself, “That sounds great, but I could never do that.”
Yes, you can, and I’ve mentored countless people who felt the same as you do. Over time, with practice, discipline, and support, anyone can develop the ability to quiet their mind and truly choose the path that’s best for their health and their goals.
You can become the dominant force in your life, and the first step is understanding your brain.
Our Three Brains
Your brain contains three “levels” for processing information and making choices.
The lizard brain is our stone age programming, responsible for automatic functions like breathing, moving, seeing, and your basic survival instincts like hunger, thirst, and survival. Your lizard brain is also largely responsible for habit formation, turning regular choices into automatic routines to help ensure your survival.
The labrador brain is your emotional center. This region allows us to have emotions and much richer life experience. If you have been around a labrador and experienced their senses of loyalty, fear, fight, flight, and a need for companionship, then you probably understand how this part of the brain gets its name.
The last part of your brain, the part that helps to define as humans, is the neocortex – more specifically the prefrontal cortex. Thinking, willpower, and discipline all happen here, and it’s also the area where we think about creating health and make the plans that help to make those goals a reality.
Taking Charge of Lizards and Labradors
The lizard and labrador brains are running their emotionally reactive programs while the human brain is running its thinking programs. The older brains cannot speak and act; they can only feel and act, and that’s by design.
Thinking takes too much time when your life is in danger. If you have ever jumped into the air because you thought you saw a snake or a spider, that’s your lizard and labrador brains at work. The lizard brain observed a shape or a shadow, the labrador brain reacted with fear, so the lizard brain sent a message to your body to activate a flight response, getting you away from the potential threat as quickly as possible.
That automatic response is great if you’re about to step on a snake, but when Habits of Disease become automatic, we can feel powerless. Even though our bodies are taking the action to eat that snack or to hit the couch when we’ve had a bad day, we can feel like we aren’t really in charge.
Here’s the reality: You aren’t in charge, but if you practice self-awareness and mindfulness, you can make your lizard and labrador brains work for you rather than against you.
Instead of letting the lizard and labrador work without input from the human part of your brain, self-awareness brings your thinking brain into the picture. When you do that again and again, the lizard and the labrador brains learn what you really want and replace the old habit with the new one.
Dr. A’s Habits of Health goes into this in more detail (page 133), but I hope this brief explanation helps you to see the path for creating the health you desire.