Your brain would rather be right than feel good

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Your brain is operating based on a lot of beliefs you already have. Things like, I have so much to do, it’s hard to find a new job these days, or working hard pays off. But here’s the truth. Your brain would rather be right then help you move forward and feel better. So, if you have thought that are keeping you frustrated and stuck, your brain is actively working to keep you stuck. Crazy, RIGHT! Listen in this week and learn how to manage your brain to help you get unstuck and feel better. Listen and learn

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this.


Hey y’all, hope you’re holding up well out there. Today, I want to talk about one of the reasons it’s so important to understand what are the things you believe. And I’m not talking about from a spiritual aspect or even things that you believe are right or wrong. I’m talking about the beliefs that sometimes are like universally accepted but totally not helpful at all.


When you think a thought so often and that neurological connection becomes so strong, it’s what I call a belief. It actually moves to a different part of your brain, and it moves more to that automated, deeper part of your reptilian brain that just functions on autopilot. Everything that your brain is processing and the emotions that you’re having and the feelings that you’re having, everything kind of processes through that autopilot part of your brain. So, it’s really important to understand what some of these beliefs are and make sure you’re choosing them on purpose.


Some of these beliefs might be: “There’s just not enough time to get things done,” “I have so much to do,” “This is a really challenging project,” “This is a toxic work environment.” I’m not here to tell you what to believe and what not to believe, but what I want to show you today is that it’s really important to understand what you believe, not just because it’s going to impact what you do and don’t do, but because your brain would rather be right than feel good.


So, if you have a belief that’s making you feel terrible, that’s keeping you stuck, things like, “It’s such a hard environment to find a job out there,” “I don’t feel safe and secure in my job.” Why? These things might feel true if that is what you are focusing on, if that is what your brain believes. Your brain is actively working to prove that belief right instead of helping you feel, quote-unquote, “good.”


And as I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to feel better, to feel more empowered than to feel stuck, because what you do and don’t do totally depends on how you’re feeling. Think of one of the problems or challenges you’re having right now. I’m guessing your brain tells you the problem is, “I don’t know what to do.” But that’s not actually true. You do know what to do when it comes down to it. Like, if you really, push came to shove, you could think of a few things to try. I’m not saying it’s going to work or they’re the right things, but you actually know some things you could go and do to figure out this problem. You have to try a handful of things to figure it out.


But the reason we’re slow to go and do things and figure it out is because your brain is optimizing to be right, not for you to feel empowered to go and take the action. It wants to be right in that you’re confused and don’t know what to do. It’s actively fighting for that, but that’s just going to keep you stuck.


There’s a reason your brain does this. You’re not broken. There’s nothing wrong with you. Your brain believes if you are not right, then you are wrong. And if you’re wrong, your brain perceives that as a threat. The amygdala part of your brain, like the alarm part of your brain, is activated when there is a threat. This is when you go into fight, flight, or freeze.


Your brain believes so strongly that being wrong is dangerous, that is why it’s constantly trying to prove itself. Think of if you are feeling stuck in something because you keep telling yourself, “I just don’t know what to do.” That feels safer. Like, yeah, see, I don’t know what to do. There’s not a clear path. I’m not sure where to go. That feels safer and less threatening than going out and trying something and having it not work. That feels very scary and dangerous, right? That is a threat. Being wrong feels very scary to your brain. And if the threat is big enough, the amygdala is going to take over, that fight or flight is going to take over your brain, and you’re not going to think of good ideas, and you are going to stay confused and stuck.


Your reality is part objective and part subjective. The objective part is what actually happens, okay? But your reality includes the subjective part of how your brain makes sense of it. This is why all of us can attend the same meeting and walk out with a totally different interpretation and understanding of what just went on. We all actually experience the same thing, but that subjective part of our reality, what our brain is making it mean, is very different for every one of us because all of our brains are different. So, we each are experiencing the world in very unique different ways, which is amazing and wonderful, and there’s tons of data that says we want that to be successful as humans.


At the same time, if we think about this, it’s almost impossible for anyone to know what is, quote-unquote, “right” for you. This is why people come to me for coaching, and they’re like, “I just want you to tell me what to do.” And I’m like, “I can give you some ideas, but your brain is the most powerful asset you have.” I am not here to tell you what to do because I know my reality through my objective and subjective lens, but only you know it through yours.


What I do and what I believe a good coach does is they teach you how to manage your brain so that you get to tell yourself what is right for you. You’re the only one that knows what you should and should not be doing. Your brain would rather be right than feel good. Your reality is based on what actually happened and how your brain is making sense of it.


So, what do you do? This is where mindfulness is so crucial as a first step. You’ve got to know there’s just a whole lot of subconscious beliefs out there. It’s things like, “It’s nice to be kind,” or, “My parents used to always say, like, money doesn’t grow on trees,” or, “If you work hard, it pays off,” right? Some of these beliefs are not serving you, and your brain is trying to prove that right instead of feeling good. And some of these beliefs are keeping you stuck.


So, you want to start with mindfulness. You just want to take a pause in your reality. Learning how to manage your brain will help you learn how to respond instead of reacting. Reacting comes from that fight or flight space. Response comes when we don’t feel like there’s a threat.


It’s also fascinating to watch what our brain is spending so much energy and time trying to prove it’s right about. It’s things like, “I have too much to do,” “This manager is terrible,” “I’m totally stuck,” “Finding a new job is hard,” “I’m not going to get promoted,” “This process is so terrible, it’s not going to work.” You’re going to go out there and perceive reality, and your amygdala is going to take over and feel threatened. This is where you want to take a couple of deep breaths and decide, “What do I want to believe in this moment on purpose?”


If you’re not actively choosing to believe on purpose, those subconscious beliefs are going to drive what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. So yes, things are going to happen, and you’re going to keep getting evidence to prove these beliefs true, like, “I have so much to do,” “My manager is terrible,” “I’m stuck,” “I don’t have options.” You’re going to feel that, and you’re just going to take a quick pause, and you’re going to breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, and ask yourself, “What do I want to believe in this moment?”


Some of the things I like to choose to believe in those moments where I’m feeling threatened but I’m also feeling very stuck are things like, “There is a way. I just haven’t figured it out yet,” or the thought, “I can go figure out the one next step,” or one of my favorite ones, “I want to be wrong.” Right? If my brain is like, “This manager’s terrible. I’m just stuck. There’s no options,” I’m like, “No, I would love to be wrong about this.” It just feels so much easier.


You’ve got to decide, what do you want to believe on purpose and start telling yourself that thought? Because if a belief is simply a thought you’ve had so many times that has a strong neurological connection, guess what? You can change your beliefs. Here’s how you do it: It takes practice. It takes purposeful, conscious thinking of that thought hundreds, if not thousands, of times a day for weeks, months, years, however long it takes. You want to practice thinking that new thought you want to believe because, remember, your brain would rather be right than feel good. So, if you’re starting to believe, “I can figure out the one next thing to go and do,” that is what your brain is going to go searching for and prove itself right.


But here’s the thing: I don’t think you can go from one extreme to another. You need to practice believing little thoughts in between. So, if you truly believe your manager is terrible, you can’t just practice telling yourself a positive thought like, “My manager’s great. I’ll figure it out.” Because your brain doesn’t believe that. Your amygdala is still triggered, and your nervous system is still in fight, flight, or freeze. It doesn’t believe that thought. That neurological connection is not strong enough to override your amygdala.


You need to redirect your brain to a belief you already believe, maybe not as strong as, “My manager’s terrible and I’m stuck,” but that you do have some belief around things like, “I know how to keep my composure in our one-on-one tomorrow,” or, “I know what my goal is in that one-on-one.” That belief, that’s like this little in-between thought from, “My manager’s terrible and I’m totally stuck,” to, “I can figure this out. I’m in control of me.” If that’s where you’re wanting to go, there’s hundreds of little thoughts in between to redirect your brain to that and then go look for evidence. Go to the one-on-one and afterwards, be like, “Yeah, I was right. I knew how to get what I needed out of that meeting. My manager’s pretty predictable, and I know the one next step I can go and do for this thing.” Maybe your manager didn’t give you the answer, but now you know, “Okay, I’m not going to get it from my manager. I’m going to go find it someplace else.”


Your brain is looking for evidence to prove itself right. Make sure you’re very aware of what beliefs it’s actively fighting to prove right. I’ll give you a couple of examples of how I’ve been trying to practice this currently and some ways I’ve practiced it in my past jobs.


So, right now, as I’m working on building my coaching business, emailing is a very powerful tool. I know this. I’ve gone through all the trainings. I’ve seen all the webinars. I’ve seen the data. I’ve worked in marketing for years. I know that emails that help people, that are compelling, that are driven, that are adding value are such a great thing. Like, there’s emails I get from companies that I love. But I also have this belief, “Emails are so annoying. Like, we get so many emails a day.” And when the belief, “Emails are so annoying,” is what I’m showing up from, guess what? I don’t send emails. And if I do, they’re not great because I’m like, “This is so annoying. This is just spam. No one’s going to open it. No one’s going to read it. This is dumb. Why am I even doing this?” And I send terrible emails. And guess what? It is spam and it’s not helpful, and people don’t open or read it. And then my brain’s like, “See, emails are annoying. This isn’t going to work. You gotta find another way to help people. It’s not going to be through email.” But then again, when I can redirect my brain to that belief, “Yeah, but a good email actually is really helpful,” that feels more empowering. And then I go and I write a better email, and I’m actually helping people, and I’m proving that other belief wrong. So, that connection is getting a little weaker for that belief of, “Emails are annoying,” and I’m working on building that neurological connection and proof and evidence of, like, “Emails that add value to people are actually really great things, and people love them.”


Another belief I’m working on getting rid of and replacing is, “It’s really hard to be a single parent. I just don’t have time for me.” And this is a belief my family buys into and validates for me, and my friends validate for me, and society will tell me this. But looking at this again, my brain is just trying to prove and give me evidence and point it out and be like, “Oh, see, that was hard. Oh, see, you didn’t get time for yourself today.” And it just makes me feel terrible and stuck, and I don’t want that. Even if it is true, I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to put that aside. What else do I believe?”


Sometimes those in-between thoughts I work on practicing believing to feel unstuck are things like, “This is just my flavor of hard. Everyone has hard things; this is mine. I can do this. I’ll make something work.” Or it’s things like, “You know what? My kids are worth it, and I can still have me-time as a single parent because my brain can believe that some days.” Or the thought, “It’s okay for things to be hard. I want to figure this out.” You see how, like, I’m not all sunshine and rainbows and it’s amazing and I love it, and everyone should single parent? Like, that’s not what my brain believes. And I’m not even trying to push it to believe that. I’m just trying to make sure I’m aware and conscious of the beliefs my brain is cycling all the things on my to-do list through because the thought “I don’t have time for me because it’s hard to be a single parent” is not a helpful one in any shape, way, or form.


Or, this was one I really struggled with when I was at Amazon: is I believed, and I had a lot of evidence and a lot of people that backed me up, of believing “they just, they don’t care about people.” I worked from that belief for about half of my time at Amazon, so for about 6 years, that’s what I was working through. And I got to tell you, it was not fun. It was hard work, and I had pockets and moments of fun. But I’m a people person. I care about people. I care about my teams that I managed. I would always tell people, I’m like, “I care about you as a human first and foremost and an employee second.” And I did everything I could to back that up. Because, you know what I did believe that I could redirect my brain to when it was trying to tell me, like, “This is a terrible company, they don’t care about people”? I believed, “I am part of this company and I care about people.” And that felt so empowering because then I could go and create teams and create environments that felt more aligned with the kind of environment I wanted to create. It wasn’t perfect every time. It was hard. There were still moments where my brain would find evidence of like, “This is a terrible company, they don’t care about people.” But I would just say, “And I’m part of this company and I care. What am I going to go and do and create today in this environment at Amazon?”


I also struggled with beliefs of “I don’t trust my manager and I don’t have support for my team.” The more senior I got and the more often my manager changed ’cause we reorg every 6 months, I had a lot of belief around this thought. It just kept me from being the kind of person I wanted to be and being honest and pushing back and saying no because if I didn’t trust my manager, I was not always honest with them. They’d ask me if my team could take things on and I would say yes when really we couldn’t, right? Because I was trying to please them and keep them happy so that I didn’t have to deal with them. When I realized this belief was keeping me stuck, again a thought I already believed that I practiced thinking, I would put this on a sticky note, I would put it as the wallpaper on my phone, I would make the thought I was practicing believing like my password to log into my computer, like the first letter of that sentence I was practicing believing I would make my password because I’d enter that password dozens of times a day so I was telling myself it all the time. I had a system where it would email it to me multiple times a day because I want to practice thinking this thought more and more so it becomes the stronger belief. So the thought I practiced believing even stronger that helped me feel more empowered and less alone and stuck was “I trust me and I can find the support I need.” It wasn’t in the traditional ways I had had it on previous teams. It wasn’t going to be with my pure team in that situation. That’s okay. I know how to go out and find support. I trust me. It just feels so much better.


I’d offer you to think about what are the beliefs you have about your job, about where you’re at, about your company, about your manager, about the projects, about your title, about how much money you’re making, about your scope of work? Work, like, really just be aware again, not because we want to be mad and fight and go and change all the things and just be happy with everything, but just know your brain is actively fighting to keep those beliefs true. And if it’s not going to help you, let’s work on actively trying to believe something else. Your brain would rather be right than feel good. It’s good to know as you’re trying to manage your brain. There’s nothing wrong with you. This is how your brain is wired. Let’s make sure we’re spending our emotional energy helping our brain fight for things that are going to help us get to where we want to go.


All right, y’all. You got this. You’re amazing. We’ll talk soon. If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week, I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free. So grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to Lindsay Lyman chat and sign up today. You got this.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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