You’re finally able to pass a highway driver in the fast lane, who is driving anything but fast. “What in the world are they thinking and why are they such idiots?” This is what you are thinking as you scowl at them while shaking your head and aggressively accelerating to re-establish your superiority on the roadway.
How is this an opportunity for you to improve your decision making skills? It’s all about the brain, and what part of the brain you are using. In this case, it is your reptile brain. Now I’m not trying to be offensive or insinuate that anyone who gets ticked off by other drivers is deficient in brain activity in any way. We all use our reptile brains at different times in any given day.
Reptile brain? What am I talking about? While preparing for a client event around communications and decision-making, I discovered interesting facts about the brain and how we use different brain areas in our decision making processes. So hear me out.
According to research by Dr. Paul MacLean, the brain is a committee of many, primarily made of the reptilian complex (the instinct brain), the limbic system (the emotional brain) and the neocortex (the thinking brain). The first two are automatic and irrational. Therefore, in order to live an intentional life, we need to use the thinking brain more than the other two.
Unfortunately, our thinking about the idiot driver is using our reptilian complex, which is irrational. We really don’t know what is going on with that driver. They are unlikely to be an actual idiot or they would never have passed the driving test and obtained a license, let alone figure out how to merge onto the highway. We’re making a quick, reactionary judgment and it’s an automatic pre-programmed behavioral response. No further analysis needed. This is the reptile brain.
So how can we use this to help us further develop our thinking brain instead and thus improve our decision making skills? Here’s your challenge. The next time someone cuts you off on the road, rides too slow in the fast lane or otherwise gets in your way, think of at least three reasons why that might be, and none of them can be because they are an idiot. Maybe they were distracted because they have a sick child in the car, or they were worried about a family member who just got bad news from the doctor, or maybe they lost their job that day. We don’t know what they are dealing with and perhaps it is affecting how they are driving today. This is how you can exercise the use of your thinking brain, the neocortex, instead of the reptilian brain. See how creative you can get with your possible stories. This will strengthen this part of the brain and can thus improve your decision making, as well as other skills controlled by the neocortex.
And you might also remember, that on any given day, you might be that driver that someone passes while shaking their head. There, but for the grace of God, go I.