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Why We Choose Safety over Excellence (and How to Reprogram)

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Buck up and get the job done. (Smart State Accelerator: ACCOUNTABILITY) Yes, it’s tempting to cut corners, mislead others, or throw in the towel altogether in order to make life easier for ourselves. But “making life easier” is your critter brain talking. In its quest for safety and security, it isn’t always considerate of other people (or even of your own true best interests). But when you don’t keep your word—when you lack accountability—your performance and ultimate success will suffer.

Living in your Smart State involves valuing yourself and others enough to buck up and follow through with your commitments even when you don’t feel like it, says Comaford.

“Be honest—you can usually tell when you’re in danger of taking the easy way out,” Comaford says. “In these situations, put aside your misgivings and seek out an accountability partner. This is a person you check in with to share what you accomplished, what you didn’t and why, and what you’ll accomplish in the near future. Knowing you have to report your actions to someone else tends to keep you on the straight and narrow. Plus, your partner can help remind you of the long-term consequences of not keeping your word when your critter brain takes over.”

Make others feel safe. (Smart State Accelerator: INFLUENCE) It’s no surprise that the critter brain is fundamentally selfish; after all, our animal friends don’t survive by putting their own interests last. (“Here, you take the last acorn—I’ll make do until spring,” said no squirrel ever.) Thankfully, in the modern human world, we don’t have to be so cutthroat. In fact, the greatest successes come from empowering others so that the overall team can achieve more. To do this, you need to be able to understand, empower, and motivate others; in other words, influence them.

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