Are You the CEO of Your Brain?

You think you’ve got it under control. Signed, sealed, all but delivered. You are in charge.

Suddenly, the Itty-bitty Shitty Committee cranks up the volume in your head. Can’t, shouldn’t, better not, watch out for, told you so, what if. The cacophony becomes overwhelming.

Suddenly, nobody trusts you. And why should they? You are no longer the CEO of your brain.

The Diagnosis

If you are not the CEO of your brain, who is? There can be no good answer to that question, at least not from the perspective of those listening to you—your customers, coworkers, those you hope to lead. If you are not the CEO of your brain–nothing good follows.

Don’t confuse being the CEO of your brain with being perfect, excellent, or even self-confident. It is simply about being comfortable with who you are. If you know who you are and are at ease with it, then people trust you. They say you have integrity, that you are transparent, that you have no hidden agenda. They may even say you care.

By contrast, when the Committee has taken over, the inmates are running the asylum. No one is in charge, and fear stalks the land between your ears.

The Prescription

As far as I know, all wisdoms of the world offer a two-step solution to the dilemma. The first is to fix the acute situation; the second is to amend the chronic condition.

The acute situation. Stop the noise. Put the plug in the jug.  Just don’t do that. Stop the pain. First, do no harm. Staunch the flow. Take the first breath of oxygen before passing the mask to your child. Admit there is a problem. Take 10 deep breaths. Count to 100. Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

The chronic condition.   Do what you can, leave the rest. Live in the moment. Detach from the outcome. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Right-size your ego.  Resign from the debating society.  There is a God–and you’re not it.  An expectation is a premeditated resentment.  The only true mistake is a repeated mistake. You’re just another bozo on the bus.  Learn to laugh at yourself.

The Prognosis

Since the underlying condition is Life, the long-term prognosis is not good.  However, considerable success can be had in the interim.

Much of that success seems to depend on recognizing that the chronic cure comes not by a single dose, but by a regimen.  Excellence is but a habit, said Aristotle.  So are sanity, sobriety, and gratitude.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a constant itch for improvement–just don’t let it ruin your sleep.

This is how you become the CEO of your brain; not by revelation, but by repetition. After a while, the Committee steps down, and you’re back in charge, where you should be.

And that’s when people can trust you.

0 replies
  1. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    Good one, again, Charlie. An area that continues to intrigue me.

    I’d like to offer some additional, I hope, related food-four-thought.

    As for being the CEO of your brain, I’d like to use another analogy, or metaphor – a motherboard, which consists of a number of nodes, diodes and other protuberances. And think of each of these notes, etc. as a belief system, worldview, paradigm, perspective and the like. This motherboard is the piece of equipment that “thinks” or “drives.”

    You asked, “if you are not the CEO of your brain, who is? There can be no good answer to that question…”

    The question I like to ask is, “Whose mind/brain are you thinking with?” Or, “Who’s driving?”

    During the stages between pre-birth to about the age of six, we take on our “programming” – e.g., our emotions, feelings, ways of believing about, thinking about, and reacting to our world and the people in it, ways of negotiating our world that kept us safe and secure, ways or behaving that brought us love, acceptance and approval from our primary caregivers and other authority figures (e.g., extended family and friends, teachers, clergy and the like).

    And, now as an “adult,” you – i.e., your motherboard – possesses a database of thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, emotions, feelings, worldviews, assumptions, perceptions, understandings, expectations, inferences, biases and values –  of a young child.
    Is it your adult “you,” or your little boy or girl?

    Developmental psychologists tell us children, progressing through various stages from prenatal to age about nine, discover (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and psychologically – depending on the stage they’re in) (1) whether or not it’s safe him/her to be here; (2) whether or not it’s ok to make his/her needs known; (3) whether or not it’s safe for him/her to explore and try new things; (4) whether or not to trust what he/she is learning; (5) whether it’s ok to learn to think for one’s self; (6) whether or not it’s ok for him/her to be “who I am,” to find out who others are and to learn the consequences for his/her behavior; and (7) how to build an internal structure that supports him/her, and to develop the competence to master the technical and social skills needed to live in his/her culture.
     
    Our psychological and emotional orientation to our world is pretty much in place by the time we are nine or ten. Many psychologists say – our emotional and psychological make-up is set by the time we are six.
     
    Consider:
     
    As an “adult,” the question is: “When I’m thinking, responding and reacting to my life, who is it who’s thinking and reacting?
     
    There are two choices: (1) my 3-4-5-6 child-ish self  or (2) my emotionally and spiritually mature self.
     
    The answer for 98% percent of the population (though they may disagree) is (1).
     
    Generally, developmental psychologists largely agree that most “adults” – emotionally – are actually 3-4-5-6-year-olds, in adult bodies, wearing adult clothes and that while people, places, events and circumstances change from age six well through adulthood, our psychological and emotional orientation and reaction to them is still that of a 3-4-5-6-year-old.
     
    Whose mind is it anyway?
     

    During the stages between pre-birth to about the age of six, we take on our “programming” – e.g., our emotions, feelings, ways of believing about, thinking about, and reacting to our world and the people in it, ways of negotiating our world that kept us safe and secure, ways or behaving that brought us love, acceptance and approval from our primary caregivers and other authority figures (e.g., extended family and friends, teachers, clergy and the like).
     
    So, now as an “adult,” you – i.e., your motherboard – possesses a database of thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, emotions, feelings, worldviews, assumptions, perceptions, understandings, expectations, inferences, biases and values –  of a young child.
     
    Is it your adult “you,” or your little boy or girl?
     
    The next time you become reactive (i.e., fearful, angry, rageful, jealous, resentful, confused, lost, apprehensive and the like) about some aspect of your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship – ask yourself these questions:
     
    What am I feeling right now?
    How old do I feel (emotionally, not chronologically)?
     
    The emotionally immature adult thinks and reacts with the mind of the 3-4-5-6-year-old. The emotionally immature, child-ish, adult often is experienced as: acting out, throwing tantrums, being overbearing, micromanaging, fearful, scared, needy, controlling, disrespectful, angry, resentful, pushy, bullying,  judgmental, critical, jealous, envious, abusive, shut down, withdrawn, dishonest, insincere, defensive, argumentative, grandiose, and  focused on the self and ego.
     
    How does this happen?
     
    When we experience consistently loving, caring, and nurturing parents, we are more likely to create strong, positive ways of doing and being in the world. Such consistent behavior comes from few dedicated, focused, mature, healthy parents whose parenting efforts were continuous. Few folks were raised in such families. Few of us had our needs met adequately. The result is that uneven parenting produces children who were neglected – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and/or psychologically. Many children were not raised to develop strong centers – the result is some flavor of emotional immaturity or child-ish-ness.
     
    Child-like behavior – Growing up again
     
    For most folks, the path from child-ish-ness to emotional and spiritual maturity – becoming an “adult” adult –  requires some type of process – i.e., developmental  “work” – which support us to “grow up again.” This process (it is a process, not an event) supports one to come into their own True, Real and Authentic Self in their life – at work, at home, at play and in relationship. The process of growing up again supports one to access their True and Real Self – the Self that was ignored during childhood. 
     
    What does a mature, child-like adult look like?
     
    Presence work for the adult usually focuses on awareness of our past programming and how it adversely affects our present state. Presence work also teaches us to be with what is, right here and right now – “my self” in the moment unencumbered by past emotional and mental baggage we have carried through life. Presence work also focuses on the heart – where our True and Real Self abides. The idea is to be in the moment, not in the past – and walk through life  with a smooth, clean motherboard. 
     
    Eckert Tolle in his work around presence (the Now), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his work around flow, Buddhist practices around meditation and achieving a state of “no mind,” or other spiritual traditions that focus on a still point, are meant to support us to experience life right here and right now from a place where we are real and authentic in the moment – unencumbered by “our motherboard” – past programming.
     
    From a place of presence, no one owns any real estate on your motherboard. It’s smooth and flat. In fact, we don’t really need a motherboard because our heart and soul are driving. We are connected to our True Self – a singular node or diode – our Center or Core – our True and Real “ME!” that informs us of “right knowing,” “right understanding” and “right action” – all from the “inside.”
    Presence draws on our heart and soul’s capacities, allowing us to experience true emotional and spiritual maturity and a “child-like” (vs. child-ish) state.
     
    Presence deletes our “little child” programming – which often creates states of feeling: lost, angry, abandoned, confused, unloved, etc. In a state of presence, we access “no mind” – what our heart and soul give us in this moment. Presence results in a True and Authentic Self who is: loving, compassionate lively, nurturing, excited, firm, fair, helpful, juicy, respectful, adventurous, self-responsible, curious, non-judgmental, wondering, joyful, honest, sincere, happy, allowing and accepting.
     
    So, the next time you’re feeling reactive, consider what it would be like if you didn’t react with that little boy or girls’ mind.

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