Post By Jennifer Drean, Deliberate Directions Success Strategist
Have you ever wondered how highly successful people accomplish so much? How can someone who appears to be equally (or maybe even less) intelligent or capable than yourself become a super achiever while you work very hard, many hours a week, to achieve less? One of my favorite sayings is to “work smarter, not harder.” Many people can become successful with a lot of hard work and amazing time management skills, but rarely do these people become insanely successful super achievers. The reason… hard work and time management are not the keys to success. Sure, we need to do both of these things well, but they will only get so far. So you are probably wondering, if these aren’t the keys to success, then what is? The key that unlocks our potential for astronomical success is the ability to manage our emotions!
Paul MacLean, an American neuroscientist, developed the concept of the “Triune Brain” in the ‘60s, which provides an excellent understanding of human behavior even though the model is grossly oversimplified in terms of modern knowledge of neuroscience. Darren Hardy calls these three brains the Robot Brain, the Monkey Brain, and the Sage Brain. The model basically states that we have one part of the mind that is designed to instinctively respond to stimuli, the Robot Brain; we have one part of the mind that is designed to respond emotionally, the Monkey Brain; and we have one part of the mind that is designed for higher level executive thinking and decision making. Let’s dive into each of these a little deeper.
As mentioned, this part of the brain is instinctual. It’s sole purpose and focus is survival! This part of the brain controls all of our automatic functions and controls the flight, fight or freeze response. The Robot Brain is the part that resists change, to be lazy and encourages us to skip workouts and overindulge in carbs. It is the part of our brain that wants us to stay in our “comfort zone” so as to mitigate any possible risks (all of which it sees as life threatening). Controlling close to 95% of our behaviors, the Robot Brain is also the part that likes routine and structure so once we develop a habit and stick to it for so long, it converts from something we have to think a lot about to something more automatic. A great example of this is our daily commute. How many times have you arrived at work (or back home from work) and you don’t even realize or remember how you got there. This habit is so ingrained in us that our Robot Brain has taken control of this habit so we don’t have to waste our attention or focus on something so mundane. We can leverage this part of our brain using routines and rituals, creating the systems and structure it thrives on and freeing ourselves to focus on more important endeavors.
The Monkey Brain is the source of our emotional responses. This is the part that controls our love and lust, our greed and other emotional needs. This part is like a rambunctious toddler getting distracted by everything new and shiny. Anything that is exciting and pleasurable appeals to this part of our brain. This is the part of our brain that experiences FOMO – the fear of missing out. Unfortunately, this part of the brain thrives on distractions and in our modern world of constant distractions with social media, e-mail notifications, and the barrage of advertising, this can have a devastating negative impact on our productivity and success.
Higher order executive thinking is what separates humans from other creatures. The Sage Brain is responsible for our conscious decision making, the part that helps us create the goals and an action plan then actually get things done! This brain allows us to create the systems and structures needed to tame and/or cage our Monkey Brains and allow us to achieve super levels of success.
As you can see, most of our behaviors are driven by the Robot Brain, but using the remaining 5% correctly and leveraging our Robot Brain can help us create our best lives and reach the level of super achievers. Currently, most people will allow their Monkey Brain to run wild and therefore don’t accomplish as much as they would like. For example, as I’m writing this, I have allowed myself to be interrupted 3 times by different alerts and notifications. These things are important but not urgent so in order to really be a super successful, super achiever, we need to learn to tame the Monkey and control our emotional responses to the persistent distractions in our environments and minds. The best way to do this is to create the systems, structures, disciplines, rituals and routines that we will begin practicing and continue to practice with consistency until they are taken over by the Robot Brain. If we can cage the Monkey and convert our routines to the Robot Brain, that will liberate our time, which we all have the same amount of, and focus on working towards big goals and ambitions. Don’t waste your talents and potential on things like social media and entertainment in order to feed your Monkey Brain, figure out what is currently distracting you from your goals and develop a plan to eliminate the distractions, tame your monkey and make success your superpower!
Need some tips on how to create the systems and structures required to tame your Monkey Brain? Then check out my next article, “3 Step Process for Taming Your Monkey Brain and Eliminating Overwhelm.” You can also schedule a complimentary coaching strategy session to see if one of our coaching programs can accelerate your success trajectory!