Smart Goals

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, humans as we new them were scared. You probably would be too. There were many, many dangers out there that we have built up quite a support system against. Most of us have shelter, and the ability to communicate, and an extreme lack of predators causing us harm. Back then, the smart thing for humanity to do was to avoid danger. When a scary and enormous creature would venture near, or when a series of lightning bolts came crashing down, or a when a volcano erupted, our fight or flight response would kick in. The fear that this response caused would make us want to get out of that place as quickly as possible. Answering this fear by running away served us well in the distant past. In the present, the creation of smart goals is contingent on us rising above the fear that our fight or flight response causes.

Safety as an early human was quite different then it is now. We avoided anything that was dangerous and we formed tribes for safety. But wait, is that really that divergent from today?

I have seen humans in the present avoid leaving relationships and jobs that they don’t like. They’re afraid to get away from the safety of that situation. They get together with a group of like-minded people who don’t enjoy their lives and they huddle for warmth…I mean, commiserate about their problems.

In times long gone, humans had yet to create language and culture, and they were still developing their minds. Like most animals, they used their basic emotions to guide them and it took much development for them to fully realize the concept of logic. These “emotional” humans probably had many problems that they did not have the ability to get rid of.

Strangely, I know a lot of people who seem to fit that description perfectly in this current era. Humans who spout out the excuse, “I’m just that kind of person” while they get angry at the same thing for the thousandth time. They whine about the weather and about their jobs even though that whining makes them more unhappy. They consume depressants with their tribesmen and tribeswomen so they can all stop thinking about these sad things and the next day they’ll do it all over again.

Not everybody is similar to this primitive human. There are many humans who have transcended their emotions and their shortcomings to create smart goals that have propelled them to success. They have taken risks and they have worked both hard and intelligently to bring themselves happiness and sometimes a great financial windfall. They have known when to get away from the pack to bring a new idea to the forefront and they have known when to get help to finish the things they’ve started.

Is there a difference between a human who does the same thing every day and lets his emotions control him (much like a mouse) and a human who fully utilizes his brain to create smart goals for himself?

The Limbic System and The Neocortex

While there are still many things left to be discovered about the human brain, over time scientists have grasped a greater understanding about the limbic system and the neocortex. There is some degree of interconnectedness left to be figured out, but for the most part it seems that the limbic system controls the emotions and the behaviors, while the neocortex deals with the language and the conscious thought.

One of the reasons humans have developed into such a dominating force on the planet is because of the neocortex. We have a greater capacity for reasoning and conscious thought than any other animal on the planet. The great minds of our time utilized this part of their brains and have helped us to achieve incredible developments in our time.

Our limbic system is still extremely important, of course. It keeps us away from boiling over pots of water and any unfortunate explosions or crazy situations we happen to be in. The problem is, these situations don’t happen very often and our limbic system tends to overstep its bounds a bit.

From an early age, we develop certain fears about things. We become afraid to talk to the girl or the boy we like. We don’t like speaking in front of crowds or going out for certain sports or activities. We become afraid of making fools of ourselves and being ostracized by the pack. Later on, we are terrified that we won’t amount to anything and we cling to whatever can make us money now and ensure us the greatest security immediately. This is, most definitely, one of the things that make us gravitate towards getting a job with great benefits and spending lots of money buying a big house that we can’t afford. We go for the safe partner, and the safe town, with the first friends we’ve made even if they aren’t any good. These actions are a result of the limbic system adapting the fight or flight response to our every day life in the present.

Other people, acting with their limbic systems, have told you that some smart goals would be to start investing in an IRA by the time you’re thirty or to get a job for a great company, even if they treat their employees like crap. They say that your smart goals should include getting married in your early twenties and having kids as soon as possible, because starting a family should happen now. They continue with suggestions of more smart goals: plan for your retirement, get a big safe gas-guzzling SUV, don’t make too much of a ruckus at work or home by shaking things up.

But it’s not just other people; we have the media and advertising playing on our emotions as well. We feel like bad things are going to happen if we don’t buy this latest gadget or if we don’t follow the latest advice in the recent contradictory health study. We may be, gasp, ostracized from the pack.

Plenty of people live this way and have lived this way their entire lives. We can completely run on the limbic system, and we don’t need to bother with the annoyance of this whole conscious thought thing.

Just for fun though, what would happen if we devoted half an hour a day to creating some smart goals for ourselves using strictly our neocortex? What if we came up with ideas that we could accomplish if fear or a lack of money or anything else was not a problem at all? So, with no limbic system blocks at all, we thought of stuff that might just work.

What would happen? You’d have an opportunity to be one of the most successful people on the planet.

The greatest minds of our time got there by using their neocortex: their idea generator. They did not let fear stop them or the threat of being kicked out of the pack get in their way. They came up with ideas using conscious thought and then they came up with smart goals to get them accomplished using conscious thought.

If you want to be successful you need to ignore your limbic system (your emotions) long enough for you to use your neocortex. If you want to create smart goals you need to put your fear off to the side while the whole reason humanity is what it is today goes to work.

Try to think, really think, for thirty minutes a day for thirty days straight with a sheet of paper and a pencil. Let’s see if we get a good idea out of that head of yours. I’m afraid to say that you might have a whole lot more capacity than you previously imagined, but maybe that’s my neocortex talking :).

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