The reasons behind the biggest mistakes I ever made or excuse for not doing something always started with,
“I was in a hurry” or
“I was too busy” or
“I thought it would be easier.”
Then, the story ends with, “I should have made the time.”
With all of our “time-saving” devices–texting, email, virtual calendars–we never seem to have enough time. This mindset leads to making bad decisions.
I am reading a book titled, Who’s is Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain by neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga. The gist of the book is that we are rarely in control of our decisions and actions. We can only shift gears if we stop and argue with our brains.
“We humans are big animals, clever and smart as we can be, and we frequently use our reasoning to a fault,” says Gazzaniga. Even our reasoning is not in our control and most of our decisions are made unconsciously based on automatic or emotional reactions, not logical or mindful responses.
We are stuck with automatic brains that don’t have a boss, running on algorithms much like the Internet which also doesn’t have a boss. Gazzaniga says, “You are certainly not the boss of the brain.”
Then, once the brain decides for us, we interpret and make meaning of this reaction and believe this to be reality. We instantly have a logical explanation for the choice we didn’t consciously make. I’m sure you have listened to people’s explanations of their actions and wondered if they were on drugs.
Overall, the “bottom pull” of the primitive brain works to avoid feeling uncomfortable and seeks what is most pleasurable. This usually trumps our knowledge, wisdom and skills. Then our “meaning-making” brain instantaneously gives us a good excuse for our bad behavior.
On the down side, Gazzaniga says that trying to be conscious and in control requires a lot of time and memory. If I had to think about every key I typed and if it were the right key and best key, I would give up on this blog after writing the title.
You don’t want to question everything you do, but the reasons you give for not doing something should be suspect. It would be better to be suspicious of any excuse that comes to mind than to brainlessly act on it.
The only way to “freely” make decisions is to stop and ask yourself, “Was the reason I just gave for not doing something valid or a rationalization?”
If you flip your self-talk and make the opposite statement, might another possibility appear?
For example, I could flip the opening statements in this article right after I say them to myself. I could hear my excuses and then say, “If I was not in a hurry, I would…” or “I am not too busy to try…” or “In the long run, it would be easier if I took the time now to…”
If the decision is important, you have to be deliberate. When it comes to making the best use of your time, you have to slow down and ask the right questions, even when your brain is acting as if there is no time.
It’s not about having enough time; it’s about choosing what to do with the time you have.
Martin Luther King said: “The time is always right to do the right thing.” Will you make time to think about time? Time is precious. Care for it wisely.
Find more tips for using time on these three posts at OutsmartYourBrain.com