This post is an excerpt from Outgrow Your Autopilot, my latest mini-eBook.
As with animals, many of our decision-making drivers are below the surface. An animal doesn’t “decide” to fly or hunt or sleep or fight in the way that we go about making many of our own choices of what to do—it simply follows the instructions that come from the subconscious parts of its brain.
This is the same for the way we make our decisions. Most of our poor, daily, decisions, along with the negative emotional experiences and results that come from it, happen because we’re (almost) fully controlled by the lower-level mind, caused by our inability to engage the higher-level mind in our decision-making process.
Though I’ve often seen these two minds in action in myself and others, it wasn’t until I learned why they exist that I really understood the impact of them.
Separate yourself from your lower-level thinking
It’s your instinctive lower-level mind that’s most dominant. Which makes sense, since 95% of our brain activity comes from the lower-level mind.
Lower doesn’t imply bad btw! In fact, it has stored all your memories and experiences (data) over time. Based on this data it formed your belief system, habits, and behaviours, helping you to keep your body running (all by itself), and simplify your decision making process for everyday tasks.
It’s an incredible machine and essential to our living, but pretty egoic and tricky at times!
The danger of relying on this advanced machine is that it’s biased by your two barriers, your blind spots and ego. As I explained in my previous blog post these barriers make you defensive and prevent you from seeing things accurately. This, obviously, will work counterproductive whenever you’re about to do anything new or challenging.
Your lower-level mind will use all of its evidence (stored data), to create a cycle of disempowering thoughts, feelings and emotions, in an attempt to convince you why you can’t do or have what you want.
“We’re addicted to our thoughts. We can’t change anything if we can’t change our thinking.” Santosh Kalwar
Allow your thinking, but don’t surrender
To give you some (personal) context on the downside of this machine, I’ll share some of my own experience. In 2017, when I was fighting my way through my health crisis, my lower-level mind has been invaluable in its role to help me survive. However, when the tide started changing (recovery process), its thinking turned into my biggest challenge.
After an endless cycle of moving forward, falling sick, moving forward and falling sick again, it started to associate any of my attempts with falling sick. My lower-level mind, in its highest state of alertness, was overwhelming me with an infinite cycle of demotivating comments and tense feelings in an attempt to keep me in the safe zone. Thanks, but no thanks!
‘You aren’t ready to take on a new challenge’
‘You’ll fall sick if you do that’
‘You’re never going to be as good as you were’
And so on, and so forth.
During that time I learned a Chinese proverb from one of my teachers, which opened my eyes and allowed me to change my perspective on all these thoughts and feelings. It says:
“If you ignore the dragon it will eat you, if you confront the dragon it will overpower you, if you ride the dragon you’ll harness its might and power.”
This is also true for the way we deal with the instinctive thoughts and feelings that come from your lower-level mind. No matter how often you tell yourself to stop thinking, or how hard you run away from your feelings, the harder you try, the harder they backfire at you.
So, the first step to harness its might and power is learning to slow down and sit with it. To practice the ability to observe your lower-level storytelling, without attaching to it.
The simplest way to practice this form of non-attachment is to implement 15 mins of meditation in your daily routine.
Slow down & observe your excuses
When speaking about meditation, 9 out of 10 people instinctively go down the lower-level thinking loop and decide to switch off, believing meditation is about spending hours on a yoga matt or going on a 10-day silent retreat, and so not for them.
If that’s you at the moment, it’s your lower-level mind generalising. A way to simplify your thinking, but also the recipe for your poor decision making in life. Because I bet you’ll apply the same response to any other topic or person that’s new or in conflict with your perceived identity. Sorry, not sorry!
To give you some perspective and debounce your excuses for being too cool or too busy, some of the most influential CEOs, executives, and celebrities, such as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington, Athlete and entrepreneur Kobe Bryant, and billionaire entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey, say daily meditation it’s the key to their success.
So, practising meditation has nothing to do with your identity. It’s about learning to allow your thoughts and feelings no matter how tense, uncomfortable or annoying they may be, whilst creating space to engage your higher-level mind and its consciousness awareness.
A pretty powerful executive skill!
If you’re seeking to outgrow your instinctive self-talk and behaviour, I recommend integrating 15 mins of meditation in your daily routine for the next 60 days. I, personally, use the app ‘Waking up’ from Sam Harris, no hocus- pocus language and easy to apply.
If this topic resonates with you, you may as well want to read the article ‘Outgrow Your Autopilot’, in which I share my perspective and learnings, along with evidence-based strategies and 4 daily practices on how to ‘ride your dragon’.
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If you have any questions in regards to this article, feel free to reach out to me.
Furthermore, I’m just a guy sharing his perspective based on my own experiences, along with the studies and work of believable professionals in the industry. I fully expect that I have made a mistake somewhere in this article, in referencing an idea or tool to the wrong person or not at all. I’ve no intention of taking false credits, so if there’s anything not aligned regarding referencing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.