The Ancient Brain: The Center of Self-Sabotage

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The 5 AM Club" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is the Ancient Brain? Where is it located and what are its functions?

The Ancient Brain is the lower-functioning portion of the brain that encompasses the limbic system. This part of the brain is hardwired to identify threats in your environment and try to thwart them. 

Keep reading to learn about the Ancient Brain and what happens when it takes over.

What Is the Ancient Brain?

The Ancient Brain triggers chemical processes that ramp up your fear and activates your fight or flight reflex. You feel stressed or anxious, even when there is no immediate threat in your environment. 

When you start the process of growth, the Ancient Brain kicks in. It recognizes that your comfort zone is being challenged and warns you against the invading dangers. This sensation creates self-sabotage, wherein you actively destroy the work and processes of growth and achievement. You may turn to distractions or allow negative thoughts to take over and keep you from attempting to become more.

Your task is to become aware of the tactics of the Ancient Brain so you can acknowledge them for what they are and ignore them. The only way to tap into your unique genius is by venturing into the unknown parts of yourself where strength, courage, and creativity reside. You must turn to the Mastery Brain. Some scientists refer to this part of the brain as the high mind because it is responsible for cognitive reasoning and analysis. Your creativity, productivity, and foresight live within this part of the brain.  

You have a finite capacity for thought each day that gets used with each new activity you give your attention to. The more things you turn your attention to, the more diminished your capacity for thought becomes. And when you start your day without intention, you’re essentially walking into the world like a magnet, ready to attract whatever distraction comes your way. You’ll have no mental capacity left by the end of it to give to internal reflection and growth. 

The solitude and peacefulness of the Victory Hour provide the space for you to sit with your fears and confront them, rather than let them run your life. When the world is quiet and devoid of distractions, you are able to hear your inner voice and open yourself up to your strength and talent. Silence and tranquility activate your brain to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which sends pleasure signals to your nervous system, and serotonin, which improves mood. These chemical processes create the flow state mentioned previously. 

The Ancient Brain: The Center of Self-Sabotage

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  • What the Victory Hour is and how it can change your life
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  • Why the first hour after you wake up is your most productive

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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