Have you been working hard to build a business online, yet it’s not getting the results you expected? According to science, you might have an outdated brain circuit that’s interfering with your success.
Outdated circuits are invisible barriers to achievement. Because they’re hidden, you might not even realize what you’re dealing with.
But there are tell-tale signs to look for. If you’re coming up against such a circuit, you might be experiencing one or more of the following:
- An inability to take projects to completion
- Shiny object syndrome (hopping from one program to another)
- A seeming inability to earn an income no matter what you do
I’ve noticed this kind of thing happening to my students in the past. And I’ve been doing a lot of research into the science of why it happens and how to deal with it, so I can help these students become more successful faster.
Over the past year, I have learned a lot about these outdated circuits and how they work. I’ve also discovered an incredibly effective strategy for bypassing them and getting things done. Remarkably, it’s a strategy that works even if you haven’t identified exactly what your unique personal circuits are about or don’t understand how and when they developed.
I’m excited to share my approach with you, because I’ve seen it work, time and time again.
Acknowledging that you’ve got outdated circuits, and using the strategy I suggest to bypass them, can be positively life-changing. You’ll increase your work productivity and improve your chances for success. You may even see improvements in your personal life.
So, if you’re ready to overcome your outdated circuits and break some of the habits that prevent you from bringing your business to the next level, read on.
What I Mean By “Outdated Circuits” — A Brief Exercise
Let’s start with a short but meaningful mental exercise.
Close your eyes, and picture yourself in a dangerous situation. It might be a dark alley in an unsavory part of town or a dense and unfamiliar forest. It’s late at night, and you’re alone.
Now, imagine you hear a noise. It could be a rustling or a “thump.”
Take a moment to notice your body’s response. What happens to your body when you hear the noise?
You might feel your heart racing or your head pounding. Your chest, stomach, or entire body might tighten. You might start to sweat, and your mouth might feel dry.
All of these physical responses are normal reactions to physical danger. They’re part of your body’s automatic fight-or-flight response, and they are preparing you to face the danger head-on or to run away from it.
I want you to actually pause for a moment and take the time to imagine the situation and feel your body’s reaction. It will allow you to better understand the rest of the article.
Are you done? Great!
Now, imagine you discover the source of the noise.
After several long moments, as your eyes adjust to the dark, you see a small figure emerge from the shadows.
You realize it’s just a cat.
Notice what happens to your body now. The tension begins to dissipate. Your heart rate slows. Your muscles relax. And as you realize there is no real danger, you start to breathe normally.
Your awareness that it is just a cat brings a tremendous sense of relief. You start to feel like yourself again.
Take a moment to feel your mind and body being back at ease again.
“It’s Just A Cat”
Now, think about the sensations you felt in your body when you imagined yourself being in danger, and ask yourself:
When you find yourself under threat, which part of you reacts first? Is it your mind? Or, is it your body?
In other words, which of the following is correct?
Option A: First, your logical mind recognizes the danger. It then instructs your body to tense, your heart to race, and your breathing to speed up.
Option B: First, your body reacts to the perceived threat by tensing up and breathing fast. This prompts your logical mind to notice and ask “hey, what’s going on?”
Which do you think it is? Option A or option B?
Interestingly, according to science, it’s option B. It’s the body that reacts first when danger strikes. It does so automatically as soon as a known threat appears.
In fact, we are actually wired to bypass our logical brain completely in the presence of danger. That’s because we have to act fast to survive, yet the part of our brain that is responsible for logic (our frontal cortex) is relatively slow.
So instead of thinking about the danger, a circuit of neurons triggers an alarm, which causes the body to switch to fight-or-flight mode.
Only later does the brain look for an explanation for what’s happening.
The process is very similar to what happens when you touch a hot pot handle. When your fingers come in contact with the handle, your hand pulls back instantly, before your brain even recognizes there’s a problem.
Only then, once your hand has moved away, does the cognitive part of your brain process what just happened. If your hand had to wait for your mind to analyze the situation and make a judgement call, you’d likely suffer a more serious injury.
The same process is at work when we sense a threat in that dark alley. An alarm sounds, indicating danger, and our bodies react automatically. The alarm might trigger a whole cascade of unpleasant physical sensations, while the “thinking” part of the brain is still blissfully uninvolved.
All this happens in order to protect our physical safety and to ensure that we react immediately when faced with a threat.
In other words:
The Reaction to Danger is Automatic
In order to see how this is relevant to your business, let’s switch gears and talk about social danger and social pain. This is the pain we experience when we feel excluded, rejected, bullied, or ostracized.
People are social creatures. Historically, social connections and acceptance have been important to our survival.
In the past we needed our group to respond to the dangers we encountered. In many parts of the world, this is true even today. This is one of the reasons why, when doing something on our own, we feel the need for reassurance by others. We need to know somebody has our back.
Studies show that when you sense an acute threat to your social connectedness, your body reacts automatically. Your blood pressure rises and your muscles tense up. Only after your body reacts, does the cognitive part of your brain get involved, trying to make sense of what’s happening.
Sound familiar? Yep, as humans, our body’s response to social danger is the same as it is to physical danger.
The experience of social rejection activates the same regions of the brain that are associated with physical pain distress. Social pain causes real “hurt” just as physical pain does. And threats of social pain turn on the same “alarm” that triggers a fight-or-flight response.
In our minds, social threats are just as dangerous as physical threats.
Here’s another important point:
All This Happens Subconsciously
Our genetic makeup and past experiences create these circuits which influence our reactions to events and situations, including social danger. A circuit that developed years ago can actually produce a danger “alarm” and prompt an automatic physical response in me today.
As a result of this, we’re not always consciously aware that our alarm has been triggered. When we experience some sort of distress, we might not realize our bodies are reacting to a perceived social threat.
Here’s a personal example that shows how an outdated circuit originally prevented me from succeeding in my own business:
When I first started working in internet marketing 10 years ago, I was afraid to publish any content in my own name. I felt uneasy, and I didn’t know why.
What was going on? Apparently, at some earlier point, my brain had made a connection between sharing a creation of mine (or making my voice heard) and social danger. Maybe I experienced embarrassment. Maybe I felt shamed or rejected. Who knows? Who remembers? I certainly don’t. What matters is that somehow a circuit was formed. Later, as a result of that brain circuitry, I would get an uncomfortable feeling, a deep sense of unease, whenever I was ready to publish.
I didn’t know that my danger alarm had gone off. All I knew was that I felt nervous. Something wasn’t quite right.
Since I didn’t know why I felt this way, my logical brain searched for an explanation. That’s what the logical brain does.
So I told myself that my content wasn’t quite finished yet, or that I had more important things to take care of, or that I was sure the article wouldn’t produce the results I was hoping for. My logical brain was capable of dreaming up plenty of explanations for my uneasiness. Ultimately, these explanations became my fallback excuses, and they prevented me from getting things done.
Something similar may be happening to you too when you find yourself procrastinating or hopping from project to project.
So, what does all of this mean for you and your business?
You know what you need to do to build your business. If you are building an affiliate site, for example, you know you need to put the content out there, and you know you need to promote that content. But sometimes, you’ll sit down to write an article or to send an e-mail, and suddenly you’ll get a bad feeling.
That uneasy feeling can lead you off track. It can trigger all sorts of behaviors that sidetrack you, preventing you from accomplishing your short- and long-term goals.
You’ve got an outdated circuit, and it’s holding you back.
Because of your outdated circuits, you might procrastinate by watching a few videos or get busy with critically “important” tasks that have nothing to do with your goals. Or, you might decide the writing process is just too boring or too hard. You might convince yourself that you’re incompetent or incapable of doing the job perfectly. You might conclude that nothing you try is likely to work anyway.
You feel uneasy, so your logical brain comes up with a million and one reasons why you can’t write that piece of content or reach out to that person or company. Your brain might even convince you that you’re being scammed or lied to. You might even decide to abandon your project altogether and look for a better one.
An Effective Strategy for Replacing Outdated Circuits
So how do you deal with problematic circuitry that prevents you from getting things done?
First, know what you’re up against. Knowing those outdated circuits are there and acknowledging that they inhibit success is actually half the battle.
Then, once you’re aware of the existence of these circuits, use the following tried-and-true strategy for replacing them.
The trick is:
Tell Yourself “It’s Just a Cat”
Remember the dark alley, the disturbing sound you heard, and your racing heart?
Remember the cat?
As soon as you saw that harmless little cat, your body relaxed and your heart rate slowed. It was such a relief to be able to say, “Oh, it’s just a cat.”
Now, I want you to take that image, and use it to deal with your outdated circuits, the invisible barriers that stand between you and your accomplishments.
The next time you find yourself procrastinating, quitting too soon, or practicing perfectionism, pay attention to the physical sensations in your body.
Note the uneasiness you are feeling, then tell yourself there’s nothing to fear. You don’t need to know what’s making you anxious. You don’t need to identify the “bad” circuitry that’s causing you discomfort. It’s enough to know it’s nothing dangerous.
Realize you might be experiencing a false danger alarm. Then tell yourself: I can write this piece of content or reach out to that contact, because there’s no real harm in doing so. Even if this particular piece of content or email is ignored or rejected, at the end of the day, it’s only a cat. When you consider the big picture, it’s actually a step forward, because you’re learning what works and what doesn’t work. And you are not in danger.
It’s Just a Cat!
The words “It’s just a cat” tell your brain that you are safe and that it’s okay to continue working on your project. Over time, as you use this phrase more and more, your brain will replace your outdated circuits with more helpful ones and the alarm will no longer be triggered.
As I mentioned earlier, what’s great about this approach is that you don’t need to identify the source of your uneasiness. Your body might sense and respond to a perceived social threat, but by calling it a “cat,” you can neutralize the threat, bypass your outdated circuits, and get things done, even if you don’t know exactly what caused you to feel this way.
What else can you do?
Manage Your Risks
To get the most out of this strategy, you’ll want to minimize or eliminate the risk of actual rejection. To do that, I suggest the following:
- Improve your chances of success. Learn from experts, get a mentor, or consult with those who have succeeded with similar endeavors. Join a program with proven student results, such as Digital Worth Academy, to help you reach your goals with a high probability of success.
- Reduce your chances of getting into actual trouble. For example, make sure everything you are doing is legal and ethical. Consult with experts to ensure that this is the case. Also, use your common sense. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.
- Increase your resilience by getting social support. Join a community of like-minded people who will support you. At the Digital Worth Academy community, for example, if you ever find yourself feeling hurt because your email went unanswered or an article didn’t get the results you were hoping for, there will always be someone there to put things in perspective, support you, and help you get back on track. And when results are good, and you earn an income, the entire group will celebrate with you. This builds confidence and resilience, which updates brain circuits to become less sensitive to these perceived threats, which in turns builds confidence and resilience even further, and leads to success.
- Take it slow. If you are particularly sensitive, start by writing about “feel good” topics and markets where people are usually nice to each other. Practice the strategy outlined in this article, and you will soon find yourself able to tackle controversial topics as well.
Once you feel confident that you are managing your risks properly, it will be easier for you to remind yourself of the importance of what you’re doing and tell yourself to “just get it done.” Call it a cat, and then power through despite residual misgivings. Let your fierce determination, not some vague sense of unease, guide you.
I was incredibly nervous when I presented my first webinar, but I managed my risks: I had a mentor who reviewed my presentation and reassured me that what I was doing was the right approach for me. I had an amazing family that supported me in what I was doing and had my back. And I sincerely believed a webinar would help me reach my goals. That’s what I wanted, and I wanted it badly. I told myself to keep my focus and maintain my faith in a system that’s been proven effective. I was determined to succeed, and I trusted that the process I was involved in was good for me, so I gave the webinar despite my misgivings.
And it paid off!
Create New Circuits
So, the next time you feel uneasy about a task, remember “It’s just a cat.”
Then dig your heels in and get the job done. Over time, if you continually repeat this process, you’ll start to see a change. The no-longer-relevant circuits that were established long ago will weaken. The uneasiness you tend to feel when you face a new task will start to fade.
Try the “just a cat” strategy. If you use it regularly, you will create new brain circuitry that, instead of blocking your way to success, will help you face former fears, move forward, build your business, and reach your personal and professional goals.
Good luck, and let me know what you think!
Note: a licensed psychologist and life coach reviewed this article for accuracy and effectiveness. I have also used the following resources:
Holt-Lunstad, J, Smith, T.B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10 (2), 227-237.
Williams, K. D., & Jarvis, B. (2006). Cyberball: A program for use in research on interpersonal ostracism and acceptance. Behavior Research Methods,38, 174–180.
Eisenberger NI, Lieberman MD, Williams KD. (2003). Does rejection hurt: An fMRI study of social exclusion. Science. 2003; 302:290–2.
One last note:
If you are still overwhelmed by anxiety and fear even after putting this strategy into practice, then it might be worthwhile for you to speak to a therapist or life coach who can help you identify your sources of discomfort. When you identify and understand the sources of your outdated circuits, it is much easier to accept that they are not really dangerous. A therapist or life coach can help you do this, so you can update or replace circuits that are stopping you in both your business and your personal life.