I’m an avid reader of Seth Godin and one of the recurring themes in his writing is the “Lizard Brain”.  The Lizard Brain (also called the Resistance by Steven Pressfield) is the amygdala, the part of our brain that produces fear, anger, hunger and lust. 

The Lizard Brain can be our enemy.  It consistently holds us back and we don’t take charge of it, we will forever be mediocre without ever realising why.

Seth does a much better job of describing how it works, but I want to just share a few of the thought processes that the Lizard Brain uses to sabotage our efforts to go to the next level.

I just need to check my email, Facebook, Twitter.  These tools are great slaves, but terrible masters.  Do we really need to check them that often?  What did we do before they were invented?  That’s right, we worked.  Checking your email is so seductive because it seems like work.  There could be something important in there and it can look impressive to others if you have a full inbox. 

If you’re in the middle of something genuinely important, when the creative juices are flowing and you’re making real progress, ignore the distracting voice to check your email and keep working.

No-one else is doing it.  The Lizard Brain is fearful and likes to play it safe.  That great idea that you have can be sabotaged because the LB looks around and sees no-one else doing it.  It’s risky being different, people may scoff or be critical.  You may set the bar high for yourself and have an expectation to repeat your efforts.  Better to stay back with the pack. 

Greatness is different.  Greatness stands out.  Greatness understands that criticism comes with the territory, but prefers to push through it to the glory beyond.  Take the road less travelled, it’s paved with gold.

It’s someone else’s fault.  If you’re a manager, it’s your staff’s fault that your group is unproductive.  If you’re an employee, it’s your manager’s fault that your career has flat-lined.  The LB will have you believe this as it’s easier than actually doing the work (the meaningful work, not the busy work) to change it.

If you’re a manager, become a better leader.  Don’t blame your people if they’re struggling to do what’s required, understand that when there’s a problem, leadership’s the problem.  Don’t take the soft option and play the blame game, take responsibility and make a difference.

If you’re an employee, take charge of your career.  Don’t settle for the KPI’s that are set for you, challenge yourself to be better than that.  Do the sort of work that people notice and want to hire in their department.  Stand out and aim for excellence.  No-one can stop you from doing this. 

On this point, I’ve seen a lot of people who are doing great work, but get frustrated because nothing’s happening.  Perhaps your manager is hampering your efforts.  The Lizard Brain would have you stay there for the next ten years complaining about your situation but too fearful to do anything about it. Don’t fall for it.   Take life by the scruff of the neck and move. 

There are more examples than this, but I just wanted to get the ball rolling.  Are there any other sabotaging thought processes that you can think of?

Previous post – Keep the F – A Story About Following Your Dreams

Next post – 100,000 Hours