Brain

Three Parts of the Brain

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Broadly speaking, our brains evolved in three distinct stages.

This view might not hold up completely under scrutiny of a neuroscientist but even they agree there are three distinct areas with distinct functions.

Having insight into what these stages are, what functions they fulfil and how they influence your behaviour gives you some powerful tools. So, let’s have a look at them.

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Reptilian.

The Instincts

Survival.

We all have a little dinosaur in our heads. There is no creature running around in our heads of course, but the most ancient part of the brain basically has the same wiring as any reptile or other ancient creature. Its focus is to maintain balance and survive and it directly influences bodily functions to do just that.

When presented with threats to survival, like a zebra spotting a lion or someone facing redundancy at work, it will trigger the fight-or-flight response.

All of this takes place unconsciously, and the physical reactions associated with this response might lead you to behave in ways your conscious self does not agree with.


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Mammalian.

The Emotions

The Limbic System.

Sitting on top of our little dinosaur is the emotional part of the brain. This system is very much a mammalian specialty; reptiles are not well known for their emotional lives.

In addition to being responsible for the pleasant feelings and behaviours associated with reproduction, bonding and parental care, this part of the brain is also critical to memory and learning processes. Emotions, memory and learning are drivers of cooperation and competition, processes us mammals engage in constantly.

Just think of the cooperation required to hunt and the competition for food, or building a team to achieve a common goal and competing with your peers for that new role that has become available and with competitors for customers.

Human.

The Reason.


Logic & Reason.

The brand-spanking new, or most recently evolved, part of the brain. The cortex is associated with logic, reason and conscious processing. We like to think that this is our control centre, where we control urges and impulses like the fight-or-flight response.

And although the cortex at times does influence and mitigate
triggers from the little dinosaur and the emotional part of the brain, more often than not it’s actually being influenced and limited by the older parts of the brain, fabricating justifications to explain behaviour along the way.

When you are under a lot of pressure and feeling on edge, for example, your cortex might make impulsive, and even stupid, decisions that seem brilliant at the time.

Tapping Into Our Brain

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“The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe”

- Michio Kaku

As the above quote shows, our brains are the most complicated objects in the known universe. No wonder they often trip up even themselves :-)

Below you find instructions of two tricks that help you better manage that complicated object between your ears. One to practice yourself, and one to practice with your teams.

The 'Brain Drain'.

As the famous psychologist William James pointed out, our conscioussnes is like a river or a stream.

At times unfortunately this stream can not flow freely, leading us to overthink and feel bogged down. The 'Brain Drain' exercise gives our minds permission to run wild and think about whatever. You’re not fighting thoughts – you’re accepting them, embracing them, and releasing them.

Neurological studies show individuals who spend 8 minutes off-loading their brain from thoughts and freeing up the mind are more calm, focused and in-the-moment.

How to.

People: 1+

Materials: Two pieces of paper and a pen per person.
Time: 10 minutes.

Steps.

Find a quite spot and set yourself up with your papers and pen. Take a couple of deep breaths and get ready.

Write down your thoughts in real-time as they are unfolding. Don’t wait. Don’t edit. Don’t second guess. Just write down whatever pops into your mind, even if it’s something as simple as “I don’t know what to write about right now.”

Continue until two pages are completely filled, and reflect.

Folding and tearing.

Each of our brains are unique, in the 7.5 billion brains roaming the earth none is the same as another. 'Folding & Tearing' illustrates how these differences influence how individuals perform even the simplest of tasks.

How to.

People: 3+

Materials: A piece of A4 paper per person.
Time: 10 minutes.

Steps.


Ask everyone to close their eyes.

Explain they must keep their eyes closed until asked to open them.

Read out the following instructions exactly as they are stated below:

1. Fold your piece of paper in half.
2. Tear off the upper right corner.
3. Fold your piece of paper in half again.
4. Tear off the bottom right corner.
5. Fold your piece of paper in half again.
6. Tear off the upper left corner.
7. Fold your piece of paper in half again.
8. Tear off the bottom left corner.
9. Unfold your paper and hold it up.

Afterwards compare and discuss.