You were born with 2 brains. One of them holds the secret to enable you to perform better at everything…
The other one sucks..big time.
The awesome brain I call the animal brain, the sucky one, the human brain.
The animal brain is incredible at pretty much everything, it’s faster, more accurate and requires much less looking after than the human brain. It is however a shy and timid beast.
The good news is you have your own animal brain…
Unfortunately you also possess the human brain.
The animal brain is our instinctive brain…
The brain we share with lizards. It includes not just parts of the actual brain but also the nervous system and any intelligence held within our body, muscle memory and the like.
It’s responsible for all our instinctive actions, the actions which happen without you thinking about them and thus have very little control over.
The withdrawal reflex when you put your finger in a fire.
The instinctive flinch when someone raises their fist to hit you.
The uncontrollable laughter when your mate smacks himself full in the face whilst trying to pull his wetsuit on (well maybe not, but I for one don’t have much control over this one).
It does it’s work under the hood and we have very little access to the controlling mechanism.
Your human brain is your rational mind. This is the part of the brain that we use for planning ahead, for rationalising, for analysing past events and predicting future consequences, the inner critic.
Now, each of these brains has a separate connection to each sense (except the sense of smell, but that’s not relevant to our discussion here). So from your eyes you have one connection running up to the human brain and one connection running down to the animal brain.
The important thing is this: The animal brain connection response time is 10 times faster than the human brain connection response time.
Because your human brain has to think about its response.
All that awesome technology that goes in to making the human mind the most powerful supercomputer in the known universe has to swing into action.
It has to workout what the incoming information means, pass it through various filters, determine what it means to you now, come up with an appropriate response and send the response back to you, so you can do something about it.
The animal brain doesn’t do that. Whenever an incoming stimulus matches the correct pattern the appropriate response is automatically fired.
No thought, no hesitation.
And thank God it is
In a survival situation where every split second counts this is crucial.
So to gain true mastery of any skill we have to transfer its processing from the human brain to the animal brain (thus speeding up it’s processing by a factor of 10) and making the whole thing automatic so we do it on autopilot.
First off though we need to get one thing straight…
Your human brain doesn’t trust your animal brain.
It thinks it’s a bit of an idiot.
The human brain likes to think it’s very intelligent because of it’s higher reasoning capacity. It loves technical, results based, how to, style information. It wants detailed instructions telling it EXACTLY what to do in every single situation.
It then uses this technical know how to browbeat the animal brain, constantly telling it what it should be doing. You experience this when you’re learning a new skill.
It’s that constant voice in your head saying.
“Ok keep your eye on what your doing, dummy…”
“And watch out for that other person over there…”
“Keep your knees bent…”
“God damn! You T***, why can’t you just do it right!?”
The problem is when your human brain is commanding the animal brain like this, your animal brain doesn’t perform very well, it crumples under the pressure.
Compare and contrast that experience to changing gear in a car.
The first time you tried changing gear (if you’re anything like me) it seemed like an impossible task. There’s all these different things to do, in the correct order, coordinated over feet, eyes and arms and you’ve got a split second to do all of it, whilst keeping your eyes on the road.
Your human brain was constantly on at you to “do this, don’t forget that, push the clutch you idiot,” and as as result you got stressed out and the whole experience felt clunky as you waited for the human brain to tell you what to do next.
Now, if you’ve been driving a while, I bet you can’t break it down into its separate parts. It has become one action that you do not think about. You human brain does not get involved. It’s learned to trust the animal brain on this one and as a result you perform the task effortlessly.
And if you do try and think about it, and I challenge you to do this (make sure you’re on a quiet, wide road at the time) often the action doesn’t feel natural at all.
When you’re on a roll, in the zone, deep in the flow state, lost in the moment. Just doing it…
You’re not thinking about what you are doing AT ALL.
Your animal brain has taken over and you’re operating on instinct alone. When we leave the animal brain to just get on with it…
It does really well,
So what we’re actually trying to do when we’re teaching you a new sport is to get your human brain to shut up. To stop it feeding this information, these endless instructions and criticisms to the animal brain…and just let it get on with it.
“Ok great,” you might be saying, “but when changing gear for the first time I wanted to have the human brain telling me what to do. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue what to do in the first place.”
Yup I’m right with you.
And herein lies the paradox at the heart of peak performance.
We need to try really hard and then not try at all
You see, I’m not saying that all that technical information is of no use…
In fact I would advise you to swot up on as much technical knowledge as you can BEFORE you start.
Watch all the YouTube video’s you can, visualise your move over and over, have a perfect picture in your head of what you are trying to achieve, feed the human brain and let it transmit this knowledge (osmosis style) to the animal brain.
But when you actually start to do whatever it is, forget it all and let the inner animal do it’s job…believe me, it’s much better at whatever you’re doing than you are.
Interested to know more?
I’ve written a free book where I delve in to this and a load of other stuff in much more detail to enable you to perform like you’re 20 when you’re 40, 50 or 60+, you can grab your free copy here >>
See you on the water,