The Lizard Brain

Feb 07th 2010

I’ve run into this concept a few times lately — the lizard brain — most recently in Seth lizardbrainGodin’s book, Linchpin.  What is the Lizard Brain?  In a simple sense it is that part of us that is always focused on survival, safety, and comfort, and pleasure.  It likes the status quo as long as the status quo is safe.  It runs from pain, almost always has a knee-jerk response to fear and gives this constant push away from risk.

When  you fail, it is the Lizard Brain that says quit.  When  you embarrass yourself, it is the Lizard Brain that pushes you to avoid that situation or those people, next time around.  When a creative idea for a new strategy bubbles up in a meeting, the Lizard Brain makes sure that all the reasons why it will fail, get top billing.

One of the ideas on Linchpin is that we need to gain an ability to quiet the Lizard Brain in the times when it wants to yell.  So how do we quiet the Lizard Brain?  I’m not sure what Godin’s answer is — haven’t read it yet — but here are two ideas that come to mind.

1) Seek Courageous Compassion.  Those two words go together.  Courage is not the absence fear.  The absence of fear is closer to stupidity than it is to courage.  Courage is what happens when I love someone or something more than I love myself.  The Bible says that love casts out fear.  If we want to quiet the Lizard Brain we need to love someone/something more than we love ourselves.

2) Redefine Failure:  One of my favorite words of wisdom is found in Proverbs 24:16, “For thought a righteous man falls seven times, he rises…”  In other words failure is not defined as falling, it is defined as quitting.  If you don’t quit, a fall is just an opportunity to learn.  Redefining failure will help quiet the Lizard Brain.

3) Develop Faith in God:  Today at Calvary we talked about becoming an “if-you-say-so-Jesus” kind of person.  It’s from the story of Jesus calling Peter to come and be a follower.  (Click here to listen to the talk: Follow Me.) A faith relationship with Jesus is the kind of relationship that will cause your Lizard Brain to lose it’s voice!  As you see what God does when you take those scary steps of faith, what God does when you step out of your comfort zone, then soon what once was fearful, becomes the new normal.

I’m not sure if your Lizard Brain is whispering in the recesses of your brain — if so, you’ll have to decide if you will live by the statement, “if you say so lizard brain” or “if you say so Jesus.  (Sorry you might have to listen to the sermon to figure that one out. :)