Willingness to learn & experiment – neurologically speaking

In my previous post I talked about a friend of mine whom I complimented as a brave man (please see my previous post). Let us try to understand what we mean by brave. It simply means that the guy is willing to take risks, learn and experiment at all times instead of following a beaten track. What is the opposite of this word Brave? In my opinion it is NOT someone who is cowardly. It is someone who is conservative, fearing the unknown, lethargic and of course unwilling to learn and experience new things.

Let us now explore what it means to be brave neurologically. We have already seen in an earlier post that midbrain is the part of our brain which is responsible for our subconscious mind and therefore for addictive behaviour. There is another very important part of our brain which is referred to as FRONTAL LOBE. As the name suggests it is located in the front portion of our head just behind our forehead. Why is it important? Because of several reasons: first and foremost it is the main hub which is connected to all other parts of the brain. In a way it functions as the CEO of a company. This is what gives each one of us our identity. It is the seat of awareness. It takes all decisions and instructs the subconscious brain whenever it is warranted. But it also delegates,meaning that once a task becomes repetitive in nature, it does not interfere. In other words, new tasks are handled by Frontal Lobe while routine tasks are delegated to midbrain or the subconscious part of our brain. By virtue of its role as the CEO, our ‘Frontal lobe’ may be deemed to have tremendous power and influence over what we want to be. It is the seat of our Free will and can , in that sense , change our fate. How much one achieves in life has a lot to do with the extent to which one uses the ‘Frontal Lobe’ relative to ‘midbrain’.

Consider the following trivial example. Let us say we are on a holiday with our family to a hill station. The ‘frontal lobe’ which is the Explorer in us would urge us to look for new experiences like, for instance, trekking. Responding to the ‘frontal lobe’, we might even set out trekking. However, even as we enjoy the new experiences, our midbrain would be constantly looking out for any signs of danger on the way. This is because midbrain is programmed to act in survival mode, being the subconscious part of our brain. And at the first sight of a road block in the form of a rough terrain or enveloping darkness, our midbrain would react instinctively and would stop us from continuing with our journey.The fear of the unknown would grip us and we would soon start returning.

In the above example, when we decided to explore, it was our ‘front lobe’ which was at work and when we dissuaded ourselves from going ahead, our ‘frontal lobe’ had abdicated its responsibility and the midbrain had taken over completely.

We can see a similar phenomenon in corporate life too. Most of the unsuccessful companies generally get stuck up in a similar syndrome whenever they consider expansion or diversification. They would start a debate and would even decide on certain areas for new diversification after marshalling all facts but would chicken out even if one negative sentiment or factor crops up. They would rather remain in their familiar and predictable comfort zone than experiment with a new idea.
Being conservative, maintainig status quo – these are the descriptions that come to our mind to describe people who are not capable of taking risks in life. These are the people who let the midbrain take over their life and completely underutilize the unlimited powers of our frontal lobe.

In the next post , I will discuss briefly how we could utilize our frontal lobe effectively.


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