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How To Stop Your Left Brain From Thinking

You know the feeling when you have something due, and you think there is still plenty of time. That was what I was feeling when I left the article writing to the last minute.

Just an hour was left before the article was meant to go live, and I hadn’t even started it yet. Do you know what happens in situations like these?

Your left brain takes over.

It sounds something like this. Are you crazy? You can’t write an article in less than an hour. It takes you two to three hours to pull one up on good days. On bad days, I have seen you taking seven to eight hours. Are you kidding yourself? Don’t send a half-baked, typo-strewn article to get yourself ridiculed. Give yourself time. Maybe give up writing. You have been writing for years and still struggling with it. Find something else. Something more suitable for your skills.

Sounds familiar?

How about when you were asked to make a speech in front of colleagues? You froze. That was your left brain in control of you again.

Do you remember when you were learning to drive and, for the first time, drove on a busy road? You could feel the taste of your stomach acid in your mouth. It’s your left brain at work.

The left brain is the bully brain. It doesn’t just complicate things with its logic; it goes one step further. It drowns out the free-thinking nature of the right brain.

Let’s figure out how the left brain works.

The left brain is mathematical and logical. It makes sure 6 + 4 is always 10 (not 11). It makes sure we reach a conclusion logically. Remember Mr. Spock of Star Trek movies. It is Mr. Spock of our Enterprise. For it, everything has to be logically evaluated and weighed and analyzed.

My left brain is raising its eyebrow at the moment. It is telling me logically I can’t write an article within an hour if my average is 2 to 3 hours. 

For it, 2 or 3 is not equal to one. 

For the bully brain, everything is black and white.

But thankfully I have another brain the right brain.

The right brain can see many colors. It can see the rainbow and the whole color pallet in between. That is why when we are painting, or drawing, or playing music, we are using the right brain.

This, of course, drives our bully brain totally crazy. It tries desperately to pigeon-hole everything into black and white. And, of course, it fails. And when the two brains are at odds with each other, it sends us into a spiral.

When we are faced with a problem, which brain we should listen to? Well, the logical answer is that we should reach out to the left brain. To Mr. Spock.

But how about if we reach out for the right brain—the crazy brain— instead.

The crazy brain doesn’t give a hoot about being black or white. So if you are to make a speech at work to a gathering of 100 colleagues, it will randomly pull out something it had stored away somewhere, which you don’t even remember, and get you started. It will start putting words in your mouth, and you wonder where is it coming from?

It will make you take action even before the bully brain has the chance to open its mouth. It will get you going even before Mr. Spock has time to lift his eyebrow.

The crazy brain works splendidly for writing.

All I had to do was to start writing. As soon as my fingers started moving on the keyboard, the ideas started coming. First a bit awkwardly but then fluently. I set the timer for fifteen minutes, which kept me more on track. Now there is a race between time and the crazy brain. It has to bring words faster than the timer runs out.

When we do something under strict time limits, the bully brain ping pongs between black and white. When we do something quite radical, it confuses the bully brain so much that it shut down.

If you haven’t done it before, try it. Give yourself 5 minutes to write an email. You have to address all the issues and type out a 200-words email in five minutes. Immediately your bully brain will snarl. Surely you can’t have speed and quality, it hisses. But ignore it. Just go with your crazy brain. And at first, you’ll get resistance, but eventually, the bully, like all bullies, will get fed up and leave.

I found this when I was learning typing in 1996.

I was using typing software to learn to type. When I started using it for the first time, I kept the speed at the slowest. But after some days, when my fingers became aware of where the letters were, I still kept the speed slow so that my accuracy improves. But rather than improving, it was getting worse. Then one day, out of frustration, I increased the speed of words appearing on the screen and started typing without looking at the keyboard. My accuracy was all-time better. I had managed to shut the bully brain.

But does that mean we should always go with the crazy brain?

No, of course not. Both brains have their value. But we have to recognize that the bully brain doesn’t do very well when dealing with fuzzy stuff that doesn’t end up with 6+4=10. So you have to bypass it.

Sometimes speed works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we can use a change of method, location, technology to trick the bully brain. Our job is to find out how to stop our bully brain from taking center stage and prancing around like a spoiled two-year-old.

What if the bully brain starts taking over?

If you start freezing or taking too much time or if what you do is driving you crazy, you need to stop the bully brain.

Find a way to access your crazy brain instead to tackle the same job in a totally different way. You get your work done and most importantly that bully brain shuts up. Phew!

Try it.

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

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