Why you have a brain and why you should care

Why do we have a brain?

Go ahead. Think about it for a minute. Visualize your answer, write or draw it with your thoughts.

Most people say we have a brain to think (cogito ergo sum) and to feel (sentio ergo sum).

Disclaimer alert: I have no idea why we have a brain. In case it isn’t clear, I’m not a neuroscientist or an evolutionary biologist. I’m a woman interested in inspiring and motivating herself and helping others inspire and motivate themselves. That said, I like neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert’s idea. He argues that the primary function of the brain is to determine future actions that create and control movement. His studies refer to physical movement and its importance in, among other things, communication and human survival.

At the most basic level this includes the limbic brain’s amygdala (represented by the B and C quadrants in the Whole Brain® Thinking model) fight or flight response to move away from threats, both figurative and literal. With Wolpert’s TedTalk in mind as well as what I know of the amygdala, I thought of another brilliant man – Kim Ruyle of Inventive Talent – who links the amygdala’s movement-based reaction in the face of urgent threat to the workplace and to leadership: namely, that part of a leader’s role is to motivate others (that is, get them to move) by creating a sense of non-threatening urgency.

Thus, I’m curious if it is possible to apply this idea of our brain creating and controlling physical movement and Kim’s idea of non-threatening urgency to emotional and psychological movement as well? And if so, why would it matter?

Physical movement is as natural and necessary to the human body as breathing. Look what happens when we don’t move: we gain weight or waste away, our muscles atrophy, sores form, our morale plummets. In my experience, the need for emotional and psychological movement (i.e., developing our thinking and emotional intelligence) is just as natural and necessary.

Look at the Latin root of the word emotion, “mot”, which means movement; consider the words motor, motion, motel, promote, demote, motive, motivation; think of the common expressions we use when we’re feeling down, uninspired, and frustrated that imply a lack of movement: in a rut, in the doldrums, at an impasse, at a standstill, stuck, bogged down, tied down, dead in the water. Movement is all around us and within us.

Most people have a healthy routine of activity and exercise to move their body. But do most people have a healthy routine of emotional, cognitive, and psychological movement? That is, dedicated time to think about thinking, to set new ideas in motion, to climb the unknown peaks and descend into the dark valleys of our emotions, to discover and develop what inspires and motivates us?

Several years ago, I had a coworker who liked to spend her breaks daydreaming in a very particular way. Stuck at work all day in a small office with an even smaller window, she used her breaks to take Googlecations. She would pick a city or a country and research images, facts, histories, and stories on Google. My initial response was to feel sorry for her, assuming her Googlecations were indicative of just how trapped she felt. And maybe she did. But today I don’t think that was the motive for her well-researched daydreams; her motive was intentional movement of her mind, her imagination, and her spirit.

So why should you care why we have a brain? Quite simply because it is up to you to cultivate your own garden. You are responsible for learning what inspires and motivates you. You are responsible for the movement of your body, your thinking, your emotions, and your spirit. You are responsible for the quality of your choices. Your brain is the most intricately designed and functional garden tool you have and could ever hope for.

Use it.

Do the work of discovering what inspires you and cultivate that. Use your brain for what it is meant to do:  movement.


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