The theory of why kaizen works.
Change is frightening.
The fear of change is rooted in our brain physiology. When the fear of change takes hold it can prevent creativity, change and success.
The brain is generally divided into 3 parts;
Brain Stem: This part wakes you up in the morning, makes you sleep at night and reminds your heart to beat. This is the oldest part of the brain (500million years old). It is referred to as the mammalian brain.
Midbrain: This part regulates the body’s internal temperature, houses emotions and governs our fight or flight response. This one is about 300 million years old. It is referred to as the mammalian brain.
Cortex: This part is responsible for civilization, music, art, science, inventions. Rational thought and creative impulses happen here. This part is what differentiates us as humans it is about 100 million years old. This is the part we need to access when we want to make a change or jumpstart a creative process.
This three brain arrangement doesn’t always function smoothly. Our rational brain directs us to lose weight but then we eat a bag of chips in one sitting or we try to come up with a creative pitch but our minds go blank.
When we need to make a change or start a creative process the part we need to access is the cortex.
When we want to change but experience a block, the part responsible is the midbrain where our fight or flight response resides. There is a structure in the midbrain called the amygdala. The amygdala is the alarm mechanism that controls our fight or flight response. When there is a danger it alerts our bodies to take action, In the process, it reduces or shuts down access to the cortex thereby limiting our ability to think. When this kicks in, every rational thought shuts down. This response is important during an emergency like a sudden attack from a lion, escaping an oncoming vehicle, or a fire incident, we don’t rationalize at these times we either fight back or run. This is very good for our survival. But this response also sets in whenever we want to change our usual safe routines, like start a healthy diet, change jobs, or take on a bigger responsibility, it causes us to shut down, go blank and become unable to follow through.
Examples of flight or fight response are test anxiety where all our answers fly away, writer’s block or stage fright.
Kaizen helps you defeat this fear response through taking small steps and bypassing that fear response. These small steps build a foundation for enjoying change.
Sometimes this fear response makes us self-sabotage – everything is going well then suddenly you start spoiling it with your own hands why? Because it may fail.
Some people have the ability to harness their fear and turn it into fuel I think those kinds of people are very self-aware, they know what situations cause them fear and they acknowledge it and then they use that emotion to fuel whatever they want to do.
Now that I know that my brain wiring sometimes makes me act against my best interest, what should be my response?
I will be mindful to notice when the alarm starts, especially in the face of new responsibilities.
I will be a bit more compassionate with others. Many people are living in survival mode, always on the defensive.
I will be gentler with my kids, sometimes they are just overwhelmed by our expectations of them and we adults need to gently but firmly lead them in the direction that is best for them.
I will constantly expose myself to new experiences just to get out of my comfort zone.
The next chapter shows us how to get our brains to work creatively.