THE LIFE COACH PODCAST – Brooke Castillo

Episode 263 – THE URGE JAR

Remember from yesterday: Two parts of the brain. 1) The Primitive Brain or Monkey Brain. My kids prefer to call it the Monkey Brain, and that absolutely works for me. The visual is perfect. And then 2) The Prefrontal Cortex. This is the upper brain, right?

The monkey brain, or primal brain, wants instant gratification. It is also looking to defend itself. It creates in us fear. It creates in us stories about the situation around us and the people around us. It seeks out rewards and pleasure.

“It’s completely unfair to our future self (to make decisions with the primal brain), because the primal brain will always choose immediate pleasure… you will be always at the affect of instant gratification.”

But, most of us make most of our decisions with that lower, primal brain.

That takes us to today’s blog post. We are going to learn to recognize when urges are coming from the primal brain. We won’t fight it. We will observe it. Let it be what it is. Sit with it. We are looking to reward it, in fact. Only we want to reward it in a way that will serve our future selves.

Let’s do this. What is an urge jar? How will it help me manage my monkey brain? The six steps Brooke shares focus specifically on eating urges. But I want to see if I can apply them to other monkey-brain-urges, as well. Six steps:

#1 Write down exactly what you will eat tomorrow, in a journal.

“It needs to be 24 hours in advance… You can’t plan ahead of time with your primal brain. You can only plan ahead of time with your prefrontal. And your prefrontal cortex has your higher interest in mind. It’s always thinking about the best version of you.”

Choose the best foods for your body – what you already know your body needs. Choose 24 hours in advance.

#2 Eat only and exactly what you planned.

“Once you start writing down what you’re going to eat and then eating only and exactly that for a couple of weeks, you will start developing a relationship with yourself of trust.”

You need to understand that the primal brain will still be communicating with you. Eat this, eat that. It doesn’t matter. Just a bite.

Sit with that urge.

#3 Any time you have an urge to eat anything you haven’t written down, allow the urge to be there without reacting to it.

“As soon as you notice that urge, you’re just going to take a deep breath and you’re just going to allow that urge to be there. It’s going to feel compelling. It’s going to feel important. It’s going to feel justified. You’re going to think it’s fine, it’s not that big of a deal, it’s just one bite, all of that.

Let it be there. Don’t push it away, don’t distract from it, don’t resist it. Let it be there.”

#4 The urge jar. I just ordered mine this morning. Otherwise I would provide a picture for you HERE. But it’s a clear jar, in which you will put pretty glass beads every time you resist an urge. Simple.

“You’re going to put a glass bead in the urge jar. It is very important that you actually put it in there and you create a visual – the glass jar is see-through on purpose. There is something in the brain that likes to have completion. It’s primal brain. It’s not very sophisticated. It likes jars and pretty beads. And the goal for us is to fill up that jar with those glass beads, with all of the urges that we’re just going to allow.

Here’s the thing that’s so crazy about it; as you stick with this process, you’re going to add more and more beads, and your brain is going to love that. Your primal brain loves accumulation. And you have now offered a contrast to just the one reward that’s available.

What we used to do is we would go into the kitchen and we would say, ‘I want cake.’ And then we would say, ‘No cake, bad cake, you can’t have cake.’ And we would resist it and then we would get no reward – no cake.

But now you are going to offer a reward to your brain, which is an accumulation of glass beads in a jar and the filling up of that jar…”

#5 Track your weight each morning.  Write down any urges you didn’t give in to.

“Notice when you have lost weight and when you haven’t. And if you give yourself a couple of weeks of eating the same food and you haven’t lost weight, and you’ve been following through 100% on not giving into urges, then you know that all you need to do is adjust the food that you’re eating until you get to a solution that helps you lose weight.”

#6 Repeat until you get 100 urges in the jar. If you still have weight to lose, repeat.

“It is a very powerful process that teaches you some really important things. It teaches you how to utilize decisions ahead of time in your prefrontal cortex. It helps you evaluate what foods work in your body… It helps you learn how to process and feel your own emotions without resisting them or trying to use willpower – willpower isn’t sustainable. And ultimately, this process builds up integrity with yourself where you follow through and you do what you say you’re going to do.”

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Thought work: Can this approach apply to other primal-brain urges?

  • COMPLAINING vs being curious about the situation
  • GOSSIPING vs challenging the story you or another person has created about the person being gossiped about
  • STORY FONDLING vs looking at the actual facts

I want you to know that I trust Brooke. What she has taught me, to date, has only served me really really well in my life. So when she made a promise on this episode, I wrote it down – I trust it:

“Once you’ve filled that jar up with 100 allowed urges, with 100 beads, I promise you, your brain will not be in the same state as it was when you started.”