Are you transiently despaired and distracted by your many immediately gratifying passions, or are you consistently inspired by your one mighty and meaningful purpose or mission?
Your brain is your body’s most intricate and complex organ.
It is responsible for both your ungoverned, passionate, or animal-like behaviors and your governed, purposeful or meaningful behaviors. To fulfill these roles, your brain has its old preserved structures and it has its more recently evolved structures.
The old preserved structures or subsystems are for your basic animal survival functions – your more emotional allocortex.
The more recently evolved structures, or super-systems support your higher order cognition – your more reasonable neocortex.
Each of these multilayered structures has different information-processing capabilities and different phylogenetic ages.
There is a competition for control of your behavior across these “more primitive” and “more modern” brain circuits. The allocortical reflexes are more impulsive and instinctual. And the prefrontal, neocortical reflections are the highest level and most flexible, adaptable and goal oriented.
Your allocortex includes your:
- Brainstem & hypothalamus – basic survival functions
- Limbic system and related structures including the amygdala – complex automatic behaviors, stress fight or flight response, eating and hunger, sexual impulses, raw emotions
- Basal ganglia and connected structures – adaptive responses or behaviors
Your neocortex includes your:
Prefrontal cortex, or executive center – goal-oriented learning, executive behavior, objective reasoning and self-mastery
These neocortical structures do the job of mitigating and controlling your subjective emotional responses initiated in moments of perceived threat or survival. But your prefrontal neocortex still requires the rest of your earlier brain to function.
Your brain therefore has over-arching structures. The core circuits of your brain are reorganized over time, with certain circuit elements and regions expanding and becoming more complex based upon their need and use. But your brain is a whole system and all of its neural circuits are engaged and collaborating consistently through time.
Your brain also has deep interconnections and cross-connections and its circuit elements and regions are part of a complex dynamic system that does not easily separate completely into independent modules. It demonstrates connectivity and systems integration. As a result your inner emotional brain tries to understand your problems, while your outer rational and logical brain solves them.
The brain express both passionate behaviors and purposeful pursuits
The whole brain is therefore responsible for expressing both your irrational, passionate behaviors and your more reasonable, meaningful and purposeful pursuits.
Your most basic, but often compelling emotional feelings, initiate your impulsive and instinctive passions. These passions can transiently change with the wind. They can be the source of and therefore underlie much of your suffering. It actually etymologically means suffering.
What you’re interested in and fascinated by today will probably bore you tomorrow.
And your passions generally won’t pay your bills or initiate long-term achievements for life.
They emerge spontaneously from your subjective biases, or the imbalanced and filtered perceptions of the nature of your reality. Though they can sometimes be useful for surviving immediate threats or stresses, they are not reliable keys to great achievements or fulfillment.
Your passions represent strong and barely controllable emotions driven by your pleasureful and painful perceptions and their corresponding feelings. They reveal where you are a neophyte or an amateur in life more than a master. They emerge when you extrovertly tell in great detail that you intend to become and what you imagine your future will be like. And though “you haven’t gotten there” yet, you tend to express your fantasy with ease.
Passions do not have an intuitive and inspired direction or any objective reason
Your passions represent your lower, more reflexive forms of behavior over your higher, more reflective functions. Your passions do not have an intuitive and inspired direction or any objective reason. Their intense and fervent zeal can be ambitious, but delusional. When they rule you, you can be naive and unaware of your true surrounding reality. Your passions can stop or plateau you and make you eventually lose interest and become fearful or defeated.
Your passions can make you strive for pride and manic excitement. They can be associated with your most subjective state of mind and can lead you to confirmation biases and disconfirmation biases. This leads to irrational beliefs of “all” (infinity/1) or “none” (1/infinity) or extremely irrational labels. With the transient nature of your passions you may not even discover when you’ve been thrown off by the futile frustrations and setbacks that they create.
“There is a boundary to men’s passions when they act from feelings.”
– Edmond Burke
Life lived in moderation
Aristotle described the greatest life as the one lived in moderation, according to the golden mean – the mean between the oscillations of passionate emotional extremes. Courage is the mean between cowardice and foolhardiness. Temperance is the mean between abstinence and self-indulgence. Generosity is the mean between meanness (stinginess) and extravagance.
Your life of moderation requires your rational control (neocortex) over your emotional appetites (allocortex).
“For desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the ‘best’ of men.”
According to Aristotle, when your life is governed by nothing more than the impulses toward pleasures and the instincts from pains that come from the satisfaction and frustration of your passionate appetites, you are indistinguishable from the untamed animal.
Your allocortical desires manifest in two primary forms:
Acquisition or Consumption;
And Pleasure or Enjoyment.
In your animal like nature you desire to acquire and enjoy more and more in the world. You can become ultimately exhausted in this endless thirst and pursuit, for your thirst can never be quenched. Neither can this endless desire be solved by complete suppression.
“To seek that which is unavailable and to avoid that which is unavoidable is the source of human suffering.”
When you are poised, your prefrontal neocortex keeps your baser emotions (panic, anxiety…) and impulses (indulgences, passions, desires, habits, addictions, dependencies, paralysis, hunger, aggression…) of the more primitive, older, deeper, “reflexive,” automatic centers (hypothalamus, basal ganglia, amygdala, striatum) in check. It inhibits them or tones them down. But transiently shutting down your executive center and turning on your primitive allocortical center allows you to temporarily survive your most immediate and perceived threat.
Pursuing a meaningful purpose is an essential function for your fulfillment
On the other hand, knowing and pursuing a meaningful purpose is a primary and essential function for your fulfillment. Clearly identifying your primary purpose can make you act wisely and remain more poised and resilient for what lies ahead. It can make you humbled by its magnitude and determined to see it through, regardless of your many distracting impulses.
Your purpose gives you direction. It provides you with the more objective reason for which something meaningful is done or created or for which something inspiring exists. Your purpose is a lot more steady and stable and allows you a metric to base your inspiring pursuit on.
A meaningful purpose does not excite you for successes, or fluster you for failures, nor is it sensitive to the praises or criticisms of your peers or superiors. This purpose does not stop if your results don’t go according to your initial plan during the first or even subsequent tries. It doesn’t stop if you map out this exact role for yourself and then “fail” to “immediately” obtain it.
Your purpose is what truly and intrinsically drives you
It is an expression of your highest most intrinsic value. This purpose inspires you to leave a marked impression upon the world, which becomes eventually well received, if not honored. Your purpose is more realistic, objective and detached from any immediate outcomes.
But, before you embark on your life’s journey, it is wise to make sure you know where you’re going and why. It is wise to know that you’re running a race towards an “infinish” line that you are called to, not the finish line that you think others expect, or what will make them impressed.
And when you run your race with purpose, because it is what you are inspired to do and destined to be great at you become relentless and unstoppable. Not because you have a fleeting passion but because you have a long-term purpose and vision that penetrates through your many assumed setbacks or obstacles.
Your purpose is your true north and it is the primary why behind your life
It is the deep reason you have created for your very existence.
Your journey will be long. Your road will be arduous and at times seemingly difficult. It is your purpose that allows you to repeatedly triumph over your momentary passions. Your newest brain is your purpose seeking and fulfilling organ. So dedicate yourself to your purpose or inspired mission and use your forebrain masterfully and wisely and give yourself permission to do something extraordinary on planet Earth.
If you’d love to learn more about a meaningful purpose and mission consider Dr Demartini’s brilliant CD: Purpose – Life’s Driving Force.
Start each week with a boost of inspiration from Dr John Demartini. To receive your Monday inspired quote click HERE.