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Expect That Things Will Go Wrong


Are you in the habit of anticipating obstacles ahead of time? When making a plan to accomplish something, the simple question "what do I anticipate could get in the way of X" can be super helpful. ⁠ ⁠ I like to think of anticipating obstacles as problem-solving in advance and in relation to our brain. Obviously, humans have one brain, but it has really developed over time and become more complex, leaving us with essentially two brains.⁠ ⁠ A modern brain and a primal brain.⁠ ⁠ Your modern brain (frontal cortex) is responsible for problem solving, memory, language, judgment, impulse control, and reasoning.⁠ ⁠ Your primal brain (hindbrain and medulla), also often referred to as the reptilian or lizard brain is responsible for survival, drive, and instinct.⁠ ⁠ The adult brain has developed to allow us to think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain's rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. We want to use this part for problem-solving as much as possible.⁠ ⁠ Until around the age of 25 or so, we process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. Remember those angst filled teen years? I do. Oh my amygdala.⁠ ⁠ This old part of the brain allows us to react to a threat in immediately and automatically. It's like a short cut avoiding having to use the rest of the brain to process information. This short cut is efficient, and saves us time processing and has kept us alive for millions of years. It's saved us from any number of lions, tigers, and bears. Today, this “survival instinct” that has hardly evolved, isn't needed to the same extent and rather than help, hurts us often.⁠ ⁠ You know what I mean. You’ve felt it many times, even if you haven't put a name to it. Often this feels like urges or a drive to feel safe or comfortable. We don't want to be constantly giving in to these.⁠ ⁠ So this is why we plan for and anticipate that things won't always go smoothly. We make decisions ahead of time whenever possible using our modern brain instead of our primitive one. So, next time you're setting a goal, don't forget this step! Let me know how it goes!

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