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VOL. 37 | NO. 25 | Friday, June 21, 2013

Bad habits? Blame the wooly mammoth

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

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The commute to work this morning was a bear.

Every idiot with a driver license was on the road, and they all seemed to be (slowly) heading to wherever you were going. Subsequently, you arrived at work late, ready to chew nails, only to find a pile of paper on your desk that you didn’t put there.

You have a headache. You need a vacation. Or, maybe you just need to read “Your Survival Instinct is Killing You” by Marc Shoen, PhD.

This morning, you got out of bed, performed your ablutions, and got to work – and you probably don’t remember doing half of what you did to get there. That’s because you’ve taught yourself to act habitually; in fact, your body effortlessly operates on habit much of the time.

But habits are, of course, both good and bad.

Take your irritation, for instance. It’s a habit, Shoen says, that stems from ancient survival instincts (Hurry up and kill the wooly mammoth!) and is exacerbated by today’s rush-rush-rush world. The trick is to learn a new habit – one of calmness, say – in place of the irritation.

“Your Survival Instinct is Killing You”

by Marc Schoen, PhD

c.2013, Hudson Street Press


259 pages

Part of learning a new, more beneficial habit, he says, is to learn to deal with discomfort. We have “access to an enormous number of conveniences,” which leads to us being “less tolerant of being uncomfortable…” That causes your survival instinct to kick in because it “tends to view all discomfort and fear as an ultimate threat to… survival.” You then overreact with headache, irritation, and possible serious illnesses.

The key to thwarting this overreaction is to teach your “three brains” to embrace a certain amount of discomfort. Not surprisingly, the more discomfort you can withstand, the more you’ll grow.

Teaching your brains won’t be easy, but to do it, start by turning off technology early in the evening and take “a breather.” Learn that nothing is ever perfect and that it’s possible to slow down. Practice gratitude. Stop trying to do it all but don’t procrastinate, either. Expand your comfort zone by creating some discomfort.

Lastly, learn to delay your need for gratification and groom yourself to withstand pressure. After all, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is not.”

So you need a little bit of paper courage? Something that helps you harness an inner fire that you sense isn’t doing you any good? You might find that info in this book.

And then again, you might not.

Trouble is that “Your Survival Instinct is Killing You” is repetitive and not all that easy to grasp. Schoen offers readers a lot of info on mind-body medicine, but each new point gets buried inside statements that have already been made in different ways. I lost interest in this book several times, but soldiered on – only to find an exciting passage before losing interest again.

Yes, there’s help inside this book, but there’s also a lot to weed through to find it. That’s because, overall, the repetition inside “Your Survival Instinct is Killing You” may be a lot to bear.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.