I think it’s fair to say, we all want to take-off…fly, get on, and move on in life. Soar high without anything holding us back.
Should be easy, right ? But no, no. I will blatantly admit it’s a struggle…for me at least for this past year.
I fly often for my job and sometimes it’s no fun anymore, I get grumpy and stubborn in the plane specially when I have to edit a few slides on a presentation, read through cases before a meeting, reviewing budgets, and the list goes on and on… and the flight attendant would so often ask me to close the laptop and stow my baggage under the seat in-front of me as we are getting ready for take-off. On the last flight to London for the last conference I’ve presented and attended this year, I didn’t listen to the flight attendant, I kept on working and I shushed her away. I know, I know, that was very rude of me. But she called me out for it and said, “I’m sorry, Madame, but you don’t seem to understand. The plane can’t take off until you have dealt with your baggage.” Boom. Burn, right?
You would have expected me to roll my eyes at her, but no. I smile because I had a light bulb moment!
What a great metaphor for life! If you want to take off, you cannot take off until you have dealt with your baggage. We so often just run up and down in the runway of our lives but there’s something that’s holding us back.
What is it that’s holding me back? What is holding you back?
Most people nowadays just say, “It’s so hard. I gave it a go. It didn’t work. I give up”. I recently had this. But then I thought and I thought.
If you want to take off in life, get on, move, fly, soar… you have to free yourself of this baggage. Free from the bondage of destructive behavioural patterns, poor choices or moral failures, that’s been holding you back. So here I go again and try to tell you on what I’ve come up with. There are 3 key things that may just help:
First is being able to identify your high risk situations.
In order to do this and be able recognise the times when we are most vulnerable to giving in to temptation, let’s have a look at our brain and how it works.
The frontal lobe! We are the only one in the animal kingdom that has this part of the brain. In our frontal lobe we find our prefrontal cortex. And this is where wisdom lives. Where we make executive decisions for our life as we understand that our behaviour doesn’t just affect us but it also affects the people around us. And not only that but the decisions we make today they will also affect our future self, our life in the future and so we need to make wise decisions.
The only problem is that this mammalian brain of ours also has a part called the limbic system, found in the middle. It’s where all our primal drives are stored, all about our urges, all of our emotions. So, all too often, there’s a bit of a tug-of-war taking place between these two different parts of the brain. In other words, there’s something that you want to do but your logical wisdom brain says, “But that’s probably not a wise thing for you to do.” It’s kind of like the experience you have at around 10:00 in the evening and you feel a bit hungry then you go to the kitchen open the fridge and see the last piece of that chocolate cake you love and you’re like, oh yes, I deserve this. I’d like to think of it like the scene in the cartoons The Flinstones where Fred would be in a situation where there’s an angel on his right ear and a devil on his left ear saying, “Go ahead, you know you want that piece of chocolate cake.” But the angel says, “Hang on, you’ve already had 2 pieces of the cake earlier today and if you go for a third, then it’s gonna go to your waist.” So there’s this conflict going on, this tug-of-war between your emotional brain and your logical brain and let me just tell you, if you are not aware of the high-risk situations in your life and if you don’t have an action plan pre-established in place so as to deal with the emergencies when they arise, you will give-in to temptation almost EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s so essential that we identify the high-risk situations.
In understanding this limbic system part of our brain, this emotional one that bothers us in making logical decisions, it has three primary roles. The first is called Survival. So in other words, we can’t just do a lobotomy and cut that part of our brain and kick it out as it’s essential for our survival. Second primary role that the limbic system play is that it processes the experience of pain… and the third is quite confusing but the third is that it processes the experience of pleasure. Then we think, hang on, why is pleasure and pain being processed in the same part of the brain, surely they should be processed in different parts of the brain.
There’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. You know this to be true. Just like when you go to that Indian place you really love and order that super hot hot vindaloo curry extra spicy and catch yourself saying hang-on, why am I doing this… you’re asking for more pain but you keep on eating. Which means, yes, you like the pain! You just do!
You see, pain is considered to be a threat to our survival so the fastest way to overcome the pain is to engage in some kind of pleasure which is why the day you decide to give up donuts is the day you find yourself in the bakery ordering three extra serves because the moment your brain which is eavesdropping in on your subconscious’ dialogue saying no more donuts, the brain goes wait wait… hang-on for a second, “You’re taking away my pleasure!? I need that pleasure! It’s essential to counteract the pain which is a threat to my survival.” Meaning, this pleasure is essential for future survival. That’s how addictions form. You are tricked by your brain into believing that you need SOMETHING or that you are SOMEONE because the feeling or the urge is so strong!
And that ladies and gentlemen is how you fall back to your poor choices, addictions and destructive behavioural patterns! You were tricked by your brain! DON’T FOLLOW YOUR FEELINGS! Inform your feelings! Who’s in-charge here!? Are you the boss of your brain or is your brain running the show here!?
At the end of the day, research have shown that we can exercise control in the prefrontal cortex that dominates the limbic system, those urges can be controlled and we regain a triumphant freedom that is not common in our current hour.
It is amazing! In fact, it is exciting because research is suggesting that you’ve actually got more power than what you thought. You can actually be do become whatever you want! Not in the same way that the millennial generation were told by their parents. HAHAHA. But in an authentic science backed way….but it takes a little bit of hard work and insight. The insight that was loaned to me by Dr Gordon Brun is that, there’s an acronym that we can easily follow to understand when those high-risks situations might occur, where our brain is leading us into temptation.
The acronym is simply, BLAST.
B, stands for Boredom. That whenever you are experiencing a little bit of boredom, your brain interestingly is processing it as pain.
L stands for Loneliness. Loneliness is both a pre-cursor and risk-factor for depression as well as a symptom thereof. So in other words, if you’re lonely, you’re more vulnerable to experiencing depression but if you’re depressed you don’t feel like socializing.
A stands for Agitation. Any kind of anxiety or anger, well the brain processes that as pain.
And S, stands for Stress. And that’s a no brainer, that’s painful to the brain.
Lastly T, stands for Tiredness.
Look, people respond to these things in different ways. You and I when tired, we do different things. We respond in different ways because the brain processes it as pain. But if we understand this and have a look at these things. Being aware of these high-risk situations, then we can have an action plan in place. How can we respond to these high risk situations.
Be aware of these high risk situations so you have action plans in place. Because it’s too late for you to figure out “what is my action plan here” when you’re suddenly in the situation of being tempted. It’s like the emergency services, when the alarm goes off, no one panics! They have planned and been trained, they’ve got a plan and process that they’ve been disciplining themselves in. So when the siren goes, they move with calm. Just like that same statement when there’s an emergency, the first thing people say is, “Please everyone, remain calm.” Because the slower you go, the faster you get there. Only possible if you recognise the high-risk situations and you have a plan in place before it happens.
You want to give-up candy? Stay out of the candy store! Easy 😉
Second key is, develop a vision for your freedom.
When you let go of that baggage, you are free. So what are you going to do with this freedom? Because freedom is not just freedom FROM SOMETHING, but it’s also that, you’ve now got freedom TO DO SOMETHING. You have to replace the junk, the addiction, the poor patterns of behaviour, the unwise choices and say, “This is the reason why… so that I can…” Develop a vision for your freedom. Make that plan, work towards a strategy around your freedom. Do it with meaning and purpose. It may be that this is the freedom to live well, promote health and be an example to others.
Third key is… have the FAITH to fly. It takes great courage but also great faith to get off the ground, to believe that you can actually fly. Remember the scripture where it says, all things are possible. Well, yes it is, as long as you believe in it. See…. I don’t just stick to science, I’ve got faith too. 🙂