Let’s take a step back for a moment.
In the PPM Method course, we don’t just want you to blindly follow along with theory, ideas, or tools. We want you to develop your understanding around why we incorporate certain things, why we stress certain points, and why sometimes the seemingly smaller things matter.
The audience that the PPM Method caters for, the entrepreneurs, decision-makers, creators, and go-getters, well, most of you, even if you deep down don’t like to admit it, still like to find an intellectual answer, argument, or support before you embrace anything new. So, this post is for your intellectual center – that inner critic (that we’ll cover in a later post) that needs to be satisfied that this PPM Method thing is not just some dreamt up theory with no scientific backing.
Quite the opposite.
While over the years I have learned to tap into the wisdom and knowledge my body throws forward, and this ability is core to the PPM Method – but ultimately I too need a level of scientific verification behind the theories and tools. At the end of the day, I approach this as a scientist. So, this brings us to the point of disruption.
We’ve just been looking at why the world is so chaotic, disruptive today, and why this is very likely to increase in the coming years. But why is uncertainty and disruption so important? Why does it lead to more biased decision-making? Why does it lead to more habitual patterns of behavior? Why can it lead to maladaptive habits? Why does it cause us stress, rumination, decision paralysis? Why can it lead to emotional fatigue, overload, overwhelm, and when persistent enough, burnout?
To answer this, we need to think about the environment that we are best adapted and suited to. From an evolutionary psychology and neurology perspective, our wiring – the intricate, incredibly sophisticated arrangement of nerves, sensory inputs, data processing, memory retrieval, and all the other things – is still rooted in a time when we lived on the open plains of the Serengeti, or in the dark, dank caves of hills. While our world and landscape have changed dramatically, we – our internal physiology and processing – have not kept up.
Over time – and we’re potentially talking thousands of years – our neurology and wiring will shift. It will become more suited to this modern world. But likely by then, our modern world will be ancient history. So, we’re screwed? Not exactly.
The good news is that by building an understanding of this, our default setting, and learning more about it, including the things that trigger you, you start to take back control.
At first, this seems laborious, slow, a step backwards from the hyper-tuned automatic processes, habits, and narratives on which your system runs. But over time, you learn new ways, and things become more automatic in nature once again. Only this time, they are habits that you have chosen, patterns and narratives that serve you.
You also start to build an intimate, incredible relationship with your mind and who you are. But before we skip ahead to all of this, let’s come back to our wiring and that cave – or that wilderness plain. Back here in a time long forgotten in our minds, but still very much retained in our makeup, uncertainty sprang forward, most of the time, from situations that were both life-threatening and presented an imminent danger. In these situations, we developed an incredible response – what we call today the stress response – or sometimes referred to as ‘fight or flight’.
This response is automatic.
It does not need us to consciously think about and evaluate a situation slowly and carefully, have a few meetings, raise some action points, and then get to it. It is there before we consciously even know. Think about that snake you see on the path ahead of you, before realizing consciously, a split second later, ‘ah, it’s just a stick’. That’s the stress response. It’s highly efficient and incredibly good at a whole host of physical and mental changes that make us more alert, more hypervigilant.
If you think back to a time where you last experienced this: perhaps it was some idiot cutting you off on the freeway. You were forced – against your will and perhaps better judgment – to participate in an adrenaline activity and it scared the living sh*t out of you. You were asked to stand up and speak in front of the entire firm. Your spouse, kids, or boss yelled at you. Whatever it might be, if you are aware enough in this situation (which is hard!) you’ll notice physical changes going on too.
Your heart rate will tick up, sometimes significantly, your respiration rate will increase. You might not notice it but your skin tightens making your hairs stand on end. Energy and attention is moved away from things that are less important in the short term. Blood flow increases to the muscles and decreases in processes such as digestion. In short, a lot is going on.
All in all, this is your body preparing you to attack – or be attacked.
But hold on a minute.
How many of the things that trigger this response today really require this readiness?
If you’re honest and do an inventory of things that regularly trigger you, or that get under your skin and split them into columns of ‘imminent life-threatening danger’ and ‘non-life-threatening, non-imminent’, you’ll quickly find that our modern world has way fewer items in column one than column two. That is, unless you actively seek out activities and work that put your life at risk (which some people do).
So this brings us full circle.
Your stress response is highly tuned, highly adapted, highly efficient to respond to threats that are both life-threatening and immediate in nature. The big issue is that the world flipped and nobody bothered to tell you, or your nervous system.
So when your boss tells you that if you don’t get that report on their desk by the end of the day you’re out, your body perceiving a threat gets ready for a fight. A physical one. Meanwhile, the creation of that report – at least to any decent standard that you’re going to be proud of in months to come, becomes a much tougher task. Why? Because the stress response, while mobilising and energising, also hinders our ability to access what we refer to in the PPM method as calm intelligence.
As your energy levels increase, as you become more aroused, more stressed, the connection to the deepest parts of your brain and body becomes much harder to reach.