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Is your Brain sabotaging you?

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Is your brain sabotaging you?

Is your brain sabotaging you?

How your brain makes decisions

By Douglas Vermeeren

Decision is the greatest moment on the path to achievement. If you want to have any degree of success in your life it will all come down to the smaller moments of decision. What you decide today is the hinge that dictate what doors will open for you in the future.

But how are those decisions made? While a comprehensive discussion of the decision process is beyond the scope of this brief blog post, let me share a few ideas from brain science that may be helpful.

The design of the brain is divided into three parts. Each of these parts is considered by experts to reflect evolutionary developments and as such the base or beginning parts have greater control over the later developments.

Your Reptilian Brain

This first brain is also considered the base or foundational brain. This part of the brain is also known as the brain stem, reactive brain or the reptilian brain.  It got the name reptilian brain because it resembles the brain shape found in reptiles.  This first brain governs all of the body function basics and a few other things. 1

When interacting with the outside world it seeks to answer the three F’s of survival.  Will it Fight with me? Is it Food? and can I Fornicate to reproduce with it? These three considerations are what has led to the survival of our species. While many experts suggest that there are several areas of the brain that process and deal with emotion, these basic instincts of survival at this stage of the brain are very emotionally charged. As a result this level of instinctive decision making is also very emotionally charged.

Just look at those about to fight, or those without food and certainly those who are sexually aroused and you will know what I mean when it comes to emotional charged individuals.

The Mammalian Brain

The second brain or next level of the brain is known as the Mammalian, social brain or limbic system. This part of the brain is where complex emotions are sorted out. It is also where we gain the skills to interact with others and the ability to operate as a community. A lot of our social learning and understanding of how to get along are developed in these areas of the brain.

The Cognitive Brain

Up until now the parts of the brain that we have talked about focus on survival, cooperation and emotions, with each level becoming more complex. This next stage of the brain is the first level that begins to separate emotion from logic and look at problems and thinking in analytical ways. This part of the brain enables us to reason and be objective.

Understanding these three parts of the brain gives us a keen insight into how decisions are made and maybe more importantly why some decisions don’t stick in the long term.

When we make a decision we generally consider things in our cognitive brain. we explore the logic and the rational reasons for selecting a choice. Often we even weigh long term possibilities and try to plan for the best outcomes possible.

But then some strange happens…

We run into the daily events and distractions of life. I like what former Beatle, John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.”

That’s where the decision crumbles.

Our brain sorts out our priorities and our moment by moment living decisions based on our immediate emotional response, not the long term view formed by our cognitive brain.  Often these decisions happen subconsciously, meaning below our awareness.  We just instinctively decide to do those things that have the most emotional charge to us. T.Harv Eker said it this way, “When the subconscious mind must choose between deeply rooted emotions and logic, emotions will almost always win.” 2

I have also observed in my own life and in the lives of the top achievers that I have studied that this also happens in the conscious mind too. Often we let our emotional choices take precedence over the choices we logically know we want in the long run. It is all a function of the three brains.

In his groundbreaking book, ‘Don’t Eat the Marshmallow Yet,’ Joachim de Posada reports on a study he did of this phenomenon with Standford University. While the book does not delve heavily into brain science it does identify one of the key lessons to creating lasting success is to learn how to delay gratification and control emotions in order to create successful outcomes.3

So how can we overcome our natural programming to select emotion first?

While there are many strategies that we discuss in some of the training we provide, I want to share one simple idea here.

We must make our cognitive decisions emotional meaningful. We must charge them to have as much value as possible if they are to stick and have precedence over the possible distractions in our day to day life.

One of the finest ways to do this is to carefully look at your major cognitive decisions and give them more meaning by answers the question of why you need the results of this decision in your life, what it will mean to you and your family.

And the larger and more significant, and of course, emotional you can make your decisions the more power they will have to stick in your life and the more power you will have to stay motivated to see them through.

Douglas Vermeeren is the director of the SUCCEED Research Center which is dedicated to sharing research on the systems that top achievers use to create lasting success. Over the last decade Vermeeren has interviewed more than 400 of the world’s top achievers, including business leaders, celebrities and professional or Olympic athletes. Douglas Vermeeren is the author of Guerrilla Achiever (With Jay Levinson) and the creator of The Opus (with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Dr. Joe Vitale, Dr. John Demartini, Dr. Sue Morter, Marci Shimoff, Bill Bartmann, Bob Doyle and Morris Goodman.) Currently Doug is completing another film entitled, How Thoughts Become Things. This film will explore the process of how our thoughts become manifest in our lives as reality.  For more on this film go to: For more on Douglas Vermeeren go to: Douglas Vermeeren can be reached for speaking engagements and training at 1.877.393.9496.

1.Outsmart your brain – Dr. Marcia Reynolds p.23

2.Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, T.Harv Eker p.22

3.Don’t Eat the Mashmallow, Joachim de Posada