Action Catalyst Blog

Which of these two are you?

“You’re either looking for a way or you’re looking for an excuse.”

The late legendary majority shareholder of Southwestern, Spencer Hays, use to say it all the time.

It was part of his life philosophy that led him and so many near him to become tremendously successful.

You’ve probably heard that same quote before and it’s true. In any given challenge you’re either looking for a way to solve the problem or you’re looking for an excuse as to why you don’t have to.

But sometimes when we hear it, we process it as a diagnosis of either we’re “tough” or we’re not.

We’re either “strong willed” or we’re not.

We either have what it takes to be successful or we don’t.

But after reflecting on a conversation I had with one of the world’s leading experts in neuroscience and author of Activate Your Brain: Understanding Your Brain Can Improve Your Work and Your Life, Scott Halford I want to present to you an alternative distinction for thinking about it.

According to Scott your brain is like a computer, “it’s happy to do whatever you tell it to do.”

But if you don’t tell it what to do then it will run its own natural operating system.

What is the brain’s default programming?

Simple: to keep you alive. To survive. And to conserve energy.

Knowing that, hopefully it makes sense to you then why we all start with a natural resistance to change that must be overcome.

Because changing anything requires work. Change requires energy. And any type of change is always considered to be a risk because it’s different than what you know now.

So IF you leave the brain all to itself to decide…

It automatically has resistance to doing the work it takes to be successful because it takes work.

It naturally rejects change because it comes with risk.

It defaults against doing something new because it requires an expense of energy.

This happens not because you’re lazy, weak, or destined for failure.

It happens because you’re human and you have a properly functioning brain.

You’re brain is looking for an excuse. Not necessarily because you’re weak but because that is what your brain is designed to do in order to conserve energy keep you safe.

The problem with success (from your brains point of view) is that it requires the opposite of all those things.

Success requires work.

Success requires change.

Success requires risk.

Because you have to learn new things, let go of
your old comfort zone, risk doing something new and put in the necessary work to make it happen.

And so you have to “teach” your brain, instruct it and get coaching to program it to do what you need to in order to be successful.

Now while the work of being successful might seem “harder”, it only is in the very beginning.

It’s similar to going hiking in the woods. It’s safest, easiest, and less risky to stay on the paved path. That is what your brain defaults to doing – the same thing you’ve always done.

But if you decided that you want to form a new path that would take you to a different, more beautiful destination, you’d have to form a new path.

And the first time you walked that path it would be the hardest because you’d have to knock down trees, move rocks and build bridges.

But then even the second time down the path would be exponentially easier. So would the third and then the fourth.

Until at some point you had new (neural) pathways formed that made it easier to stay on the new path than it would be to go back to the old path.

In that instance your brain is still happy to do what you tell it to do. The difference is you told it to do something different; something better – and so it did.

That’s how success is. It’s seems hard but only at first and then it gets easier and easier.

Part of the power of having a coach is the on going accountability helps reinforce thinking that ultimately leads to success.

So we all have a chance for success if we can learn to guide our brain in the direction we want it to.

Creativity working in the wrong direction is fear. It’s coming up with reasons, justifications and excuses as to why you can’t or why you shouldn’t try.

Creativity working in the right direction is problem solving. It’s coming up with answers, solutions, and possibilities.

Either way your brain is happy to do whatever you tell it to do.

It will find you an excuse.

Or it will find you a way.

Choose wisely.

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