“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the reason why so few engage in it.” Henry Ford
We are taught the science of how things work in our world but sadly, how our brain works, which is thee most important thing, is not in the school curriculum unless you specialise in that particular field later on. I studied engineering, management theories, applied statistics, applied mathematics, project management, financial management and many others but never how my brain works. This led me to dive into different fields of science not to pass exams but to understand my brain. These fields are: Neuroscience, Evolutionary biology, Psychology, and Psychoanalysis.
From these fields, I’ve learned three main discoveries that are very fundamental, that sort of ground off the understanding.
- In neuroscience, it’s estimated that 95% of human behaviour is unconscious. In other words, 95% of what we do never reaches the level of consciousness, we never get aware of it. We’re not aware of what actually motivated our behaviour. I thought this was rather startling. It’s as if we possess a stranger inside of ourselves who’s governing our behaviour.
- The second fact uncovered was that there are many kind of forces that came from evolution hundreds of thousands and millions of years ago that are wired into our brains and how we operate. And a lot of these things came about evolutionary for very adaptive purposes for where we were 500,000 years ago but that don’t have much purpose for where we are right now in the 21st century. These elemental forces that are very primitive, are called human nature. These are the forces that determine a lot of what we do and so much of this very primitive stuff is actually intersecting in the 21stcentury and determining a lot of the problems that we are encountering now.
- The third thing discovered is that, basically, the human brain that all of us possess is remarkably similar, in each of us. In other words, there’s very little difference between the brain you possess and somebody in some other country who has a different cultural background. And the reason is that we all evolved from the spreading out of humans all around the globe. So, the qualities, these forces that are referred to here, human nature, they are all within all of us. They are governing all our behaviour and nobody is exempted from these laws.
These three discoveries cleared a lot of misconceptions I had about the brain and humanity as a whole and helped me claim my brain power to live my dreams.
How the brain works:
The brain is the most complex and fascinating part of the human body. It’s main function is simple: to keep us alive and achieve our goals. It does this by helping us breathe, eat, walk and talk: the basic essentials to our survival.
Our brain requires a great deal of energy to operate, particularly when we have to concentrate and think about something. Problem solving, or making a decision not only uses more brain energy, it also can be a slow process. So, our brain seeks to conserve energy by developing efficient ways of operating. One way it does this is through conscious and subconscious processing. Our brain seeks to automate much of what we do to save us time and brain energy, these are our brain’s subconscious processes. They take care of our basic life functioning, our fight or flight response and our learned behaviours and habits. We don’t really think about these things, they just happen on auto-pilot or it becomes second nature. In fact, as indicated earlier on, up to 95% of all our behaviours and reactions happen at the subconscious level, it’s automatic. For the most part, our subconscious processes help us navigate the world efficiently. Yet, sometimes, we might develop unhelpful habits or attitudes that prevent us from achieving our goals. This is where more conscious thinking can benefit us. Our conscious processing involves our higher thinking capacity where we can be more mindful and considered in what we think, feel and do. We can use conscious thinking to reprogram our subconscious and change thoughts, attitudes and habits. While thinking consciously takes more energy, it’s how we take greater control of our brain and achieve our goals.
Two important things to note about the brain:
- It is wired to keep us safe;
- To work efficiently: saving energy by automating our behaviours and habits hence 95% of what we do daily is automatic, habitual.
How does it keep us safe? It achieves this by sticking to its number one priority: Safety above all else! So, if there’s a real or potential threat, either because of a past experience, a person, something you’ve read, seen on television, talked about with a dear friend that went through something similar to that, that pattern in your brain around that issue is called the memory and that’s what your brain will rely on to determine if the situation is safe or unsafe.
So, anything that relates to what you want to do or achieve, the brain quickly scans for anything that could cause any physical, emotional, mental, financial and spiritual pain or discomfort and if it picks up anything, in a billionth of a second, it activates the fear centre in the brain. What do most people do when they feel fearful? They stop or procrastinate. This is where FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) takes centre stage.
Thinking the most difficult thing there is because your 5% of the brain has to work against the 95% that is automatic, that doesn’t think but relies on memory. Thinking is so difficult because it uses a lot of brain energy which is the thing that the brain is trying to conserve, it is one of its major priorities!
I teach people on how to understand the brain, it’s power and how to win this battle and reclaim their power!
Veli Ndaba is a Professional and Motivational Speaker, Life-Coach and Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner, Author of four books (You Are Born to Win, Your Dream is Calling You and SWITCH ON! And Set Your Soul On Fire!), Newspaper Columnist and Entrepreneur. To book him to speak at your next event or to help you and your team unleash your greatness, contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org , www.velindaba.com or +27 83 304 9773