Photo courtesy of Nick Land
We Homo sapiens have a complicated brain. Our neocortex controls the higher brain functions of learning and memory. The frontal lobes give us abstract thought for creativity. We have all kinds of smarts in our cranium.
But as you look down the brain stem you will find the older reptilian brain. It’s there under all those grand mammalian folds of intelligence. This brain controls our more basic animal responses. The reptilian brain tells us to fight, flee or mate. It is very powerful. It is your lizard. It controls you every day, nearly every wakeful hour.
Surprised? Sure, we don’t run from predators anymore and we no longer guard our nests. But our urge to flee is always there.
- Do you have a project you’re been avoiding because it’s difficult to start? Maybe it’s not well defined. Perhaps a sponsor is missing, or worse, hostile to your idea?
- How about a customer complaint? You see the name appear on your phone, but you let them go to voice mail every time.
- Or do you ‘somehow’ sabotage an important project by stalling? Maybe adding superfluous requirements you know are impossible?
- Do you insist on spreadsheets and flowcharts? Formality? Do you argue for ‘consistency’ when you really want to avoid a challenging process?
We can see a lot of lizards these days. They’re in the cubicle down the hall. They’re across the conference table. They’re in the mirror. Companies are facing challenging times today, yet our biggest opportunities happen during crises. This is when being our most human makes a difference. Humans are audacious and bold. Lizards want to run away. Lizards blend in. Lizards freeze.
Here’s a wonderful short article ,”Quieting The Lizard Brain,” by the observant Seth Godin. He talks about the contradictions we impose on ourselves. He says “Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to figure out how to quiet it and ignore it.”
If each of us has a built-in lizard, what can we do to keep it at bay?