Computers, Alligators and Gorillas

Computers, Alligators and Gorillas

shiny brainIf you and your family were to take a bus to NYC and you had to choose between 3 bus drivers, a Computer, a Gorilla or an Alligator, who would you choose?

You may think this is a silly question. But, then again, maybe not. I have spent the last ten years developing a coaching program called “Navigating For Success” for people looking for a breakthrough into living an extraordinary life, and during this time I have observed something intersting. Some people seek a rational and objective strategy for success, others respond better to an emotional approach and another group favors safety and security. I have found that coaching people LOGICALLY allows about 30% of my clients to break into a success mode; around 50% respond best if I approach them EMOTIONALLY, and only 20% succeed if I come at them with a SURVIVAL approach.

As I have reflected on this division of who succeeds and why, I think about the question of the three bus drivers. Our brain is actually an integration of three separate brains which sometimes get along and, at other times, are at war with each other. These three brains are vastly different from each other, perhaps even more so than our present Democrats and Republicans. The Computer, the Gorilla and the Alligator represent these three brains, and they often compete with one another to drive the bus.

One brain, the neocortex, is about 100,000 years old and it strives to direct our choices and actions through logic and rational decision making. This brain allows us to look at the options, calculate the pros and cons and simply choose the option that makes the most sense. This is your COMPUTER BRAIN.

Another brain, your Limbic system or the seat of your emotions is about 1,000,000 years old! A pretty old fellow indeed! This is your GORILLA BRAIN. Its dominant theme is to do what feels good: get rid of pain quickly in order to hang out with those you trust and love. Groom and huddle together, pick lice off each other, throw coconuts at the lions and lie back while eating bananas. Sounds appealing doesn’t it?

Oh, and then there is the third bus driver, the SURVIVAL BRAIN which has been around about 400,000,000 years. This is your ALLIGATOR BRAIN, ready to snap at anyone who scares or upsets you. If it intuits that it can win a fight, it snaps. If not, it flees! Pretty black or white decision making. No logic or emotional caring, simply survive at any cost. Better safe than sorry, and it would always rather say sorry than ask permission. This brain leaves a lot of road kill in its wake when it drives your bus, but, what the hell, just get to NYC and clean up the mess later.

So who is driving your bus, the COMPUTER, the GORILLA or the ALLIGATOR?

These three characters are not going away and neither brain is interested in surrendering control. It does not trust the other drivers to succeed on their own.
Is there any way out? How can your three drivers cooperate and work together? How can you increase your chances of success from 20% or 30%? Or maybe even to 50%, 75% or even 9O%?

Think about the following question: if you are a parent raising three children, how do you influence them to grow up and become responsible and satisfied adults? The answer lies in understanding each child and designing a strategy to understand and motivate each child to walk the path of being intelligent, thoughtful and safe. No one strategy does it! Each child has a different appetite, motivational structure and thinking style. Figure out how each is wired and plan accordingly.

You need to do the same with your three unruly brains. Figure out what each brain wants and feed them accordingly. Your COMPUTER wants executive power, common sense, and learning and coping skills. Every day you should feed it some skill or way of understanding and problem solving. Be loving and caring toward your GORILLA BRAIN. Indulge it with appreciation, pleasure and gratitude. Listen to its complaints and respond with compassion. Every day you should do something enjoyable: connect with a friendly person, or help someone out. Satisfy the need for connection.

Approach your ALLIGATOR BRAIN carefully. Don’t order it around. Alligators do not like to be told what to do. Don’t appeal to fairness or emotions, it doesn’t care! Simply make things safe. Notice when you are feeling stressed, take several deep breaths, imagine being with someone and feeling safe, take a time out and go for a walk. Check in with your body and see where you are holding your tension. Imagine asking that part of your body “What do you want me to know?” or “What can I do to help you out?”

It turns out that this is a trick question: in order to get to NYC you must realize that YOU are the driver and that your COMPUTER, GORILLA and ALLIGATOR brains are your passengers. Your job is to get them home by using a tactful combination of logic, connection and safety. If you neglect any of them they will make your life difficult, just like children who do not get their way and throw tantrums. They are your lifetime passengers and you are their bus driver. Your job is to know that you are not the boss, they are. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Navigate your three passengers and your life success level can rise to 70, 80 and maybe 90%.
No other bus driver can compete with those figures!

You deserve to live an extraordinary life of successful accomplishment and satisfaction. Have a great ride.