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The Mental Struggle: Why you tend to not follow through on what's good for you

Have you ever wondered why we don’t tend to stick with things that we truly know better ourselves? We all know that eating vegetables, lean protein, and exercising all lead to a better quality of life. Yet, we still don’t do it with all the science and proof that is out there. 

How about when it comes to money? You and I know that saving our money is important. I mean even with all the financial advice out there saying that saving money allows us a sense of security for that rainy day and even having the possibility to invest the savings for that big opportunity…we still tend to squander it all. In fact, there are at times where the average savings of Americans is negative!

I’m sure you wondered why we tend to give the wrong people in relationships more opportunity than those who are better compatible with our personality. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a platonic or even romantic level. It’s true in either case. And as a result, we are left disappointed and wondering what happened?

Well, Jonathan Haidt author of The Happiness Hypothesis provides a possible answer to all these questions that affect you and me.

He goes on to explain that this notion of our mind acting in one best interest, in unity, isn’t really the way to go when talking about the brain. In fact, there seems to be two voices working against each other: The Old Brain Vs The New Brain or The Elephant and The Rider.

This constant struggle can be explained by this division in our brain.

When it comes to health, our old brains were built with famine in mind. It prevented us from starving. So when you see a piece of cake, your favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream or a bag of potato chips your subconscious mind is saying eat, eat, and eat some more just in case you won’t come across food for a while. However, consciously we know that is hardly the truth in the modern western world. In fact, our health is at risk from over consumption rather than starvation which is evident with all the obesity today.

In relationships, our old brain focuses on genetics. When we see someone strong, attractive, beautiful or all of the above we think of someone healthy.  We think subconsciously of someone with good genes. The problem is, sometimes that person who we check “all of the above” in the physical portion might not necessarily be the best fit for us. Our new brain looks at compatibility and personality. You can see why there is this struggle in searching for companionship.

In terms of finances, our old brain does everything to avoid pain. So the simple act of saving now for later puts off that instant gratification that comes from spending now…even though we know it’s sometimes better to prepare ourselves for the worst. This act of saving creates some sense of work and pain which is why most people fail at it. 

What does this all mean?

At the end of the day, I think the message is don't beat yourself up. When you have goals in these areas of your life, try to find a balance. Understand that there is constant friction between your primitive mind and your logic. The focus should be on making incremental progress in your life.

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