The two sides of the brain

‘There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man.’  Aristotle

Creating legacy and biological structures

Creating legacy cannot happen if we ignore the way our bodies and minds function biologically. While it is tempting to think that as humans, we can be fully in control of our impulses, this is not very realistic. But knowing more about our impulses can help us set up structures that make the best use of our impulses.

The reactive and the rational sides of the brain

There are two sides to our brain: a reactive side, and a rational side. Okay, I don’t want you to take this literally – it’s not like half is reactive and the other half rational. But in very broad terms, for the sake of simplicity, there are bits in our brain that help us react to outside stimuli, and other bits that help us deal with things calmly and rationally.

As you can imagine, the reactive side of our brain – given its focus on short-term stimuli – often gets in the way of creating legacy. But in terms of our survival, we are extremely lucky to have it. For example, can you imagine using the rational side of the brain to avoid running into a car that cuts your path? In situations such as this one, you need an instantaneous reaction to an immediate threat.

And no matter how much the reactive side of your brain gets in the way of you creating legacy – you can’t create legacy once you’re dead, can you? So what we need to do is to keep this side of the brain under control while trying to create legacy, and being grateful that it ensures our survival.

The rational side of our brain, of course, is the one that we can get to focus on the long-term, and therefore on creating legacy. But we need to make sure we do so in a way that takes into account the reactive side of our brain.

While the rational side of our brain is like a government agency drawing up plans and regulations (e.g. our legacy project time allotment; our morning ritual; healthy eating habits), our reactive side of the brain is like a lizard baking in the sun, snapping up tasty bugs as they pass by while scuttling away if it sees any sign of a predator.

In other words, the reactive side of our brain only worries about whether it is encountering a tasty bug or a nasty predator. If we therefore try to create legacy by only relying on the strength of our will, we will sooner or later face the obstacle of the reactive brain: an unexpected threat, or a lucky fluke will happen at some point, and all our carefully planned routine for creating legacy goes out the window as our reactive brain is reacting to the tasty or threatening stimuli.

What we need to do therefore is to set up structures that do not solely rely on the strenght of our will to keep to our routine. I will blog about how to set up such structures in tomorrow’s blog post.

What about you?

Do you have trouble as the two sides of the brain take you in different directions? How do you reconcile the two sides of the brain? Share your ideas in the comments section.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at