Driven to Distraction

Maslow’s Well-Known Hierarchy of Needs

The title says it in a nutshell. The third primary division in our brain processes, at least in the model that I use, has to do with drives. When you’re hungry – it’s hard to think about anything else. As is the case with thirst, or sex, or any of the other fundamental drives that determine significant aspects of who we are. Literally, we can be driven to distraction.

It’s a similar situation with less physical drives. Security. Intimacy. Self-fulfillment. And a whole number of others. Opinions differ as to what constitutes a drive. Or even what “drives the drive” if you will. But unmet drives and associated needs have a significant impact on our behavior. And on our worldviews.

Three buckets if we must – thoughts, emotions and drives. Together they define a fair portion (though not all) of who we are. Individually – and collectively. Think of these three buckets as Ted, or everyman. Ted thinks about where he (or she as the case may be) wants to go in life. He has goals. He wants to get along with others. But he keeps doing things that unravel everything he wants. Shooting himself in the foot as the old saying goes. Sometimes wrong thinking does him in. Sometimes it’s his emotions . . . and other times it’s a need. Sound familiar? Yeah, we’ve all been Ted.

Thinking and Feeling

Lumosity and tools like it exercise the brain in the way it thinks. Think faster. Think more holistically. Like fine-tuning a car engine – it just runs more smoothly when it’s tuned. All of these cognition-specific tools help us think better and of course are pretty useful.

However, we both think and feel. Our brain is very specifically wired to express both. To develop only the one aspect is akin to running a car on only one cylinder. And it invites an unbalanced perception of the world. Tools that assist in managing our emotionality form the second great subset of useful tools available to us.

A couple of things to remember about emotion – it responds quickly. Really quickly. We’ve all seen the flash of instantaneous anger that quickly changes hours of careful collaborative thinking in a team setting. The rest of the team must deal just as quickly with their own emotional responses. Lucid thinking flies out the window – though with practice, only briefly.

A second fundamental aspect of emotion is that it can be managed – and there are any number of good techniques for doing so. And because it is emotion that we’re discussing after all, there has been about as much emotional reaction as rational discussion on the matter – which just goes to show how intensely we feel.

Both cognition and emotion play a significant role in the formation and expression of who we are – which means that both have a significant impact on our relationships with others. Both can be managed to give us more rewarding results from our interactions with those around us – and that’s the bottom line.

Looking for a simple program to exercise your brain?

San Francisco-based firm, Lumos Labs, Inc. has launched a new Web service called Lumosity. In their words – “Lumosity is the brain fitness program designed by neuroscientists that is scientifically demonstrated to improve your memory, attention and processing speed.” A series of simple online sessions of some three to five games each allow users to exercise four differing areas of brain function. Use it or lose it as the old adage goes. So here’s a potential way to improve the brain that you have. And for those other types of self-improvement efforts that you may be contemplating, why not start them with the best brain possible? For more details you can check out www.lumosity.com. I’ll be going through the exercises and will post my own experiences.

Technorati Tags:

The Box is only sand . . .

I’ve used a term over the years – “playing in the sandbox.” It’s not original of course. But it has been useful to illustrate a couple of important concepts. The most obvious is the sandbox as metaphor for life – how well we get along with those around us at work, at home or in our communities. It’s all about social skills to use a more sterile term.

The second has to do with our views about the world. It’s the box in which we live and through which we see everything around us. Each of us has one of these “mental models” – and they’re all different. The point is that our box, for all its apparent solidity, is only made of sand. It’s changeable.

Working well together. Playing well together. Making allowances for differences in how we each see the world. Being the best that we can individually and collectively be. That’s the gist of the sandBox.