New year’s resolutions – another reliable disappointment or an opportunity to do something special? Did you know you have three brains that can help?
It came with the Christmas lights, bon-bons and mince pies: making up my new year’s resolutions!
I loved doing this as a young boy, and I continued to find it thrilling even as a teenager. There was something magical and innocent about it. It was exciting, hinted of positive change, adventure and hope of a better new year.
Somehow, that all changed with time. My resolutions became ‘reliable disappointments’. Dreams and aspirations were replaced by a sense of personal failure as I weighed up what I planned, and what I actually achieved. In a nutshell, I didn’t take all the actions that were needed; I lost my oomph and sparkle. And, when my resolutions became ‘shoulds’, I knew that was the final nail in the coffin. I gave up new year’s resolutions sometime in my early 30s.
Professionally, I did learn to set smart goals instead, but quietly longed for the thrill of setting up new year resolutions with my childlike hope and innocence.
From my understanding of neuroscience, it’s clear my past resolutions were as productive as trying to herd cats. It looks like something is happening but it ends up a scattered mess.
Here’s the thing. We all want inspiration at New Year; something to hang onto to allay the upsets and failures of the previous year – a sparkle of hope perhaps; a glimpse of a better future for ourselves and family; a yearning of the heart. It’s a warm sentiment, but yearnings of the heart alone just don’t cut it in the world. It’s a great start, but ultimately that’s all it is.
Let’s break this down a little
Based on the work of Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka, authors of ‘mBraining, using your multiple brains to do cool stuff’, the latest neuroscience research shows we have three ‘brains’ or ‘intelligences’:
- The Cephalic Brain – in your head, and concerned with cognitive perception, thinking and making meaning.
- The Cardiac Brain – in your heart, and connected to emoting, relationships and your deepest core values.
- The Enteric Brain – in your gut, and is charged with self-preservation, your core sense of identity, and the capacity to act.
Each of the three brains has a distinct role to play and just as in a company or organisation where people have different roles to perform; each brain has its own specialised tasks.
The heart brain is connected to our core values at a deep level, but heart brain resolutions can be fickle. Think of high school days and falling madly in love one day, only to totally forget the love interest when someone else comes along!
Head brain resolutions can also be fickle. With no deep foundation of tapping into a deeper yearning of the heart they fall away at the first sign of any hard effort or challenge; “Nah… changed my mind. Ohh, look! There’s a butterfly”!
There is a better way
When I look back at my failed resolutions of past years, they were not as integrated into meaningful behaviours and actions as they needed to be.
Here’s how you can use your three brains for effective new year’s resolutions:
- Become still on the inside by breathing slowly and deeply into your belly. Place your hand on your heart and feel the pulse of your life. From a place of quietness, connect with the deeper yearnings of your heart. Ask what your heart truly wants to experience, create and contribute to the world. What would make your heart sing?
- Then ask your head brain to come up with creative ideas to support the hearts’ values and aspirations. Take your time and invite a flow of ideas. Pay attention to what pops up.
- Now invite your heart to select which of these ideas it particularly likes. What resonates more than others?
- Next take the favoured idea or ideas down to your belly and invite the gut brain to mobilise you and your actions, around those ideas, to get you where you want to be. This may mean saying ‘Yes’ to some things and ‘No’ to others.
- Finally, connect back with your heart brain and thank each brain for its contribution. It is team work at its best!
New year’s resolutions can work, when we start with the deeper yearnings of the heart, add the power of our innate creatively and jump into inspired action. This can happen only when all three brains are aligned and on the same page. Collaboration, mutual respect and understanding the role of each brain is crucial.
Happy New Year… and may it be packed with heart inspired, creative and gutsy achievements!
Bill Lee-Emery is an mBIT (multiple brain integration) coach and master trainer based on the Gold Coast. Besides training people professionals to become certified mBIT coaches and trainers, he collaborates with his coaching clients to stop chasing butterflies and do what they are truly here for… to make their hearts sing.
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