Episode 4 of the podcast gets into your head, literally. I’m talking BRAINS, and specifically what makes the modern human’s brain so powerful — The Pre-frontal cortex! I introduce you to Brooke Castillo’s Thought Model and tell you why it is my new favorite tool for managing my mind, and my work.
Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers like you get the information and inspiration you need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover Dana Wilson, and if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artists story, then sit tight. But don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place.
Dana: Hello. Hello and welcome to episode four. Thank you so much for being here. I am jazzed about this episode and I’m jazzed about this year. So far I’ve been doing daily all over the place. I just worked on another music video in New York city that I am very excited about because I made new friends and learned new things. Learning is good. I love learning. I also spent the weekend teaching some workshops in Portland. Well, I guess technically it was Vancouver, Seattle. Um, I was super motivated by Chloe’s interview in last week’s episode, episode three, and I also wound up taking some class over the last week, which is honestly is my first class of the year. I took hip hop with David Moore. So much fun and then over the weekend I took a ballet class, which is only a little bit less fun because I get really stressed out when I take ballet class.
I’m working on it anyways. My daily doing has been going well. How about yours? In episode one I posted a challenge, really encourage you guys to make something creative every single day and so far so many of you guys have given me feedback about your projects. A special shout out to @RebeccaWrangler for tagging me every single day this year so far it is really, really cool. Like such a treat to see what you come up with every day. You’re doing great. Keep it up. Keep the communications open. Please feel free to ask me questions. Tug on my ear or send me a little message if you feel like you’re running low on inspo, let me know know, I really did. I said that. Okay, so everybody’s crushing it at 2020 looking good. Feeling good must be good. Today I toss that up to being humans. We are humans. And that is such a great thing because according to humans, human beings are regarded as the most intelligent being on the planet. Now, of course, since humans are the one doing the regarding, it’s kind of biased. So I decided to dig around on the internet and um, learn a little bit about intelligence and intelligent beings. Uh, so basically I’m an expert now on brains and intelligence and I want to tell you a little bit about what I’ve learned recently. Okay. Number one, the primary difference between modern man and our planetary cohabitants like, um, plants and animals, and even historically cave people. The biggest difference between us is our brain. So our brains have evolved a lot over time. Well, they evolve a lot just in a human’s lifetime. But in the history of the human race, the human brain has evolved a lot. The average human brain weighs about three pounds.
That’s roughly the same weight as a dolphin’s brain and that is a lot less then a whale’s brain, which weighs on average like 13 pounds and a human brain weighs way more than the average orangutan’s brain, which weighs only 13 ounces. Okay, so now that you know how much, several different brains weigh I should tell you that it’s not actually the size or the weight that’s linked to intelligence, it’s actually the ratio of the brain mass to the body mass. For humans, that’s about 2%, 2% of our entire body mass is our brain. Okay. Go ahead and file that under possibly useless information. What I really want to talk about today though is the ratio of one particular part of the brain in relationship to the rest of the brain. That part of the brain is the prefrontal cortex, the prefrontal cortex of a human’s brain makes up 10% of the brain mass and that is a lot. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality, expression, decision-making, complex behavior and social interactions. Pretty important stuff, especially when it comes to dance. It’s, it’s also really the fun stuff. It’s the stuff that’s not exclusively vital for survival. All of that stuff is the primitive brain, sometimes known as the reptilian brain because as far as the evolution of our brain goes, the reptilian brain came first. The reptilian brain controls the body’s vital autonomic functions like heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Also, all very important for a dancer, I might add.
I like to think of the primitive brain as a five-year-old Danceling that wants to do her own makeup for a competition. Her intentions are good and her instincts are spot on, but that lipstick goes everywhere and the blush is a pink stripe across the cheek and the eye shadow extends all the way to the hairline and the glitter. Oh, the glitter goes everywhere, which is where it will remain forever. In this analogy, the prefrontal cortex is the parent of said, comp kid, and they watch with curiosity and compassion and they hide the eyelash glue because that stuff is toxic and they might even derive a little bit of entertainment out of the whole show. And then of course they clean up the mess.
Now I’m going to stop right here because I don’t want to offend any brain scientists or neuroscientists that might be listening. I’m going to stick to what I know. I am a dancer slash choreographer slash movement coach. Slash. Slash. Slash. I am interested in the majesty of movement. All of it, even non-human movement. Think really quickly about the really awesome, um, fan powered, uh, dancing men. Are you seeing it? Um, the, the, how do I explain them? The guys at the car wash, the dancing car, wash kites. What are they? They’re not inflatable because they’re open-ended. Wow. This is a really good question. Does anybody know what those things are called? (**edit note: They are called air dancers) I would love to know the car wash guys. Those things are incredible. I’m so inspired by those guys. Or, um, the Boston dynamics robot dog called spot. Have you seen him? Have you seen him dance to “uptown funk“? It’s incredible. I would have made some different choreographic decisions there, but regardless, still quite impressive. Speaking of impressive, have you seen the, I think it’s called “Our Planet”. The Netflix special. It’s narrated by David Attenborough. There’s a section specifically about birds and there’s a bird called a Blue Manakin, M, A, N, A, K, I N. and the blue manakins actually rehearse a bunch of guy mannequins will rehearse together and perform for a female bird. And the thing that’s most special about this other than the rehearsal and the exquisite like formation changes that they do is that they actually have a, a ranking, there’s like a lead bird and then three backup birds. It is fascinating. It is almost my favorite. Actually. My favorite one is the bird of paradise mating dance. I think it’s from the same special. I’m going to find all of these, by the way, and put the links to these videos in the show notes because you will be moved, I promise you. So other than the, uh, the robot dog and the dancing car wash man who don’t really need dance for evolution per se, these birds use dance to attract a mate. Now it is very possible that there was a time when humans used dance solely to attract a mate. In fact, that likely is happening right now somewhere on the planet. But I want to touch on the ways that all of our dance is different. For example, we have organized and categorized techniques. We have disciplines, we have genres, we have our imagination, we have storytelling and narrative style dancing and character style dancing.
And how about therapeutic dance and how about the social benefit or dance that’s made purely for entertainment value. We even have a full blown dance business. See, look at all the ways we are not cavemen. We are so evolved. Our dance is so evolved and the reason for that is because our brain is evolved. Now I’m all for dance, being attractive. Like go out there, get to the club impress all the honeys with your sweet, sweet moves. Yeah, I said, honeys, I’m also all for dance. The business. I’m here for dancers doing well. Go out there, make that money. But I’m most interested in when the body and brain work together to make meaningful movement.
Okay, so what does meaningful movement mean? Well to me that’s any movement that is deliberate and purpose built. For example, some movement might be designed to sell something like commercial style dancing. Whether that’s selling an album by performing with an artist on tour or selling a person by dancing behind them in a music video or selling a product. While, kickball changing in a commercial, all deliberate, all purpose-built might not be earth shattering or emotionally charged, but it is in fact deliberate and purpose-built and it speaks to me in some way. Meaningful movement to me could also be dance that’s designed to connect or express or explore. Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Contact improv, interpretive dance, um, performance art, dance that’s made to challenge the status quo. Or there’s also the dance that’s simply designed to entertain. I’m here for all of it. Of course, you can use a prefrontal cortex to make more interesting dance, but you can also use it in your daily life. Human beings are uniquely capable of choosing our thoughts. So please choose wisely.
Today I want to tell you about a technique that helped me make meaningful work and own it in my business and in my daily life. This is really, really huge. This is like episode four early on for reason cause I have a feeling I’m going to be talking about this a lot in upcoming episodes. I like to think of this as a technique for thinking. This technique for thinking is called the thought model and it was created by a woman named Brooke Castillo. Brooke is a life coach and she is also the creator of The Life Coach School. Now I want to take a moment to step aside and say I was very suspicious of this life coach concept at first. After all, I have been living literally my entire life and I’m still alive. So do I really need a coach? Like where does that fit in?
I suppose when I think about the number of hours I’ve spent training at dance wouldn’t be so unreasonable for me to spend some comparable amount of hours training my mind for life, which is what I’m doing all the time that I’m not dancing. So to put it bluntly, I was curious about the life coaching stuff and my sister had an incredible experience in working with her coach. Uh, she’s the one that actually introduced me to the thought model and you know me and my thoughts on learning, I will try anything. So I really dug into this thought model stuff. I fell in love with it. Although it’s not quite love, it’s definitely work. I fell in, work with it and it works. So I want to tell you about it and hope that it can help you along your creative journey as it has helped mine. Before I go on though, I want to say at this moment, I am not a certified life coach, although I may become one someday. Today I am not. I am simply a person who has practiced self coaching for years and spent several months working with a coach of my own and I’ve got a boatload of enthusiasm about it. So I’m here to share.
Alright, here’s how Brooke breaks it all down. And by all I really do mean everything, all of it. And it all starts with a circumstance. A circumstance is a neutral fact of your life. It’s provable. There is no argument. Circumstances trigger your thoughts. Thoughts are just sentences in your head which you can control. Thanks of course to the prefrontal cortex, thoughts cause your feelings. Feelings are sensations in your body and feelings lead to actions which are the things that your body does or does not do. Those actions cause results, results are the outcomes of your actions. Results are your life, so let me run that through one more time. Circumstances trigger your thoughts, which are just sentences in your head. Thoughts cause feelings which occur in your body. Your feelings lead to actions which are what your body does about those feelings or it doesn’t do in many cases and those actions cause results. That’s what you’re wound up with. Now, the real magic of Brooke Castillo’s thought model is that the result is always proof of the thought. Again, your result is proof of that first thought.
Now I’m going to give you a practical example here. I’ll try to keep it simple, although simple isn’t really my style. Okay? Let’s say you wake up in the morning, you open your window and there is water coming from the sky that is rain. That’s your circumstance cannot be debated. Water coming from the sky is rain. No matter what country you live or what language you speak, or if you’re an optimist or if you’re a not-ptomist or whatever religion you are, you know that is rain. We cannot argue that it is raining. Now the rain triggers a thought, which for me is probably dang it. People are going to be awful drivers today and I’m going to be late. Uh, it’s going to be a crappy day. So that thought then causes a feeling, which is I’m going to go with de-motivated. The circumstance which is rain triggered a thought which was today is going to be crappy, which made me feel demotivated and that lack of motivation probably keeps me dragging my feet a little bit, move a little slower to get out the house, get out. Yeah, this is probably a circumstance. LA drivers really truly are indisputably bad at driving, but I digress. That’s not the point of this model because I’m motivated. I’m moving slow, I’m late all day long, and that usually results in a crappy day. Now, let’s go back from the top and rethink this. What if for the same circumstance, which is I wake up and it’s raining, I open the window, I see the rain and instead I think, Oh my gosh, yes, this reminds me of Gene Kelly in “Singin’ In The Rain” That is my favorite movie. How did today even know to show me my favorite movie right now? This is great. It’s going to be a great day. I’m already inspired. There’s my feeling. The thought of it’s going to be a great day. Gave me the feeling of I’m inspired. The feeling of inspiration is going to send me into action that is quite the opposite of dragging my feet. I’m going to move through my morning activities with momentum, with gusto, maybe even with a hop shuffle step or a step scuff hop, Step scuff, hop, hop. I might even create a piece today. All of the actions that come from feeling inspired are going to land me at the result of having an awesome day. So see how on the result line for each of those things. In the first version, my result was I had a crappy day and was late all day. We’re proof of my initial thought, which is, ah, it’s going to be a crappy day. People can’t drive. I’m going to be late. It’s proof of that thought versus the second model. What an amazing thing. The day to day is showing me my favorite movie. This is the greatest leads me to having a great inspired, romantic, creative, all the things type of day.
Okay. Now I got a little sloppy. I’m going to give you one more example and this one was really big. This is, this is probably the one that tipped me onto the side of the scale of really loving this thought model stuff. So you may have noticed it’s a trend of late to film dance class. A lot of the dance videos you see on YouTube are taken in dance classes at dance studios. Usually towards the end of class, but there’s this like performative show moment at the end of class where a camera man or occasionally the teacher holding a camera. Will film select groups and then that footage will wind up online. This used to really give me some primitive thoughts like some real kid playing in the glitter type of mess. To illustrate, I’ll walk you through my old model with the unmanaged thoughts and then I’ll let my prefrontal cortex take the reins and show you how that changes my end result and ultimately my relationship with dance class and the use of cameras in the classroom.
The circumstance, the neutral indisputable fact is that there are now video cameras in dance classes. Now I can’t really get much more neutral than that cameras in the classroom. I’m not saying it sucks that there are cameras in the classroom. I’m not saying that everybody films class and that’s awful. I’m saying the neutral circumstance is cameras in the classroom. Now that neutral circumstance for me triggers some thoughts that look a little something like this. You have to be perfect on camera and class is supposed to be a place where you can be imperfect. Class is supposed to be a place where you can be vulnerable and mess up and look bad and then get better. Class is ruined. Now that thought, or I should say those thoughts make me feel robbed. I feel like I had a special thing with the class that used to be, and that class has been robbed by this stupid camera device and now I don’t have it anymore. I feel robbed, feeling robbed. I don’t know if you’ve actually been rubbed. Oh my gosh. It’s so awful. I don’t know. I remember I had my cell phone stolen once and I felt like never leaving my house again. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. Um, we felt insecure out in the world. Kind of a awful feeling in general, but feeling like class had been taken from me felt kind of similar. I didn’t want to go anymore. I just didn’t want to leave the house. Once I started seeing all these class videos pop up, it made me stop taking class. So feeling robbed led me to the action of actual inaction, not taking class anymore. So the result of me not taking class anymore is that class was dead to me.
Okay. Let’s rework this model, circumstances the same. There are cameras in the classroom. Now before we go any further at all, I want to ask, what is a camera? How would you explain a camera to an alien from another planet or to a five year old? I would explain it like this. A camera is a collection of glass parts and plastic parts and occasionally some metal parts that is put together in a way that allows it to capture light and remember a moment or a series of moments forever. Okay? Nothing about an actual camera means that you have to be perfect. See, that is the real breakthrough. The circumstance is a camera in a classroom and I can choose a thought that is not, I have to be perfect on camera. So what if I decided to choose this thought? What if the camera was actually the way I measure my progress and show the world this is what dance class is about. Progress, not perfection. Well, dang, if that’s my thought, then all of a sudden my feeling becomes not only empowered but in some crazy way responsible. Now, feeling responsible, feeling empowered. That gets me out my front door and into dance class where whether there’s a camera or not, I will improve because that’s what I believe in. That’s what is important to me. That really changed the game for me. It helped me show up for myself in a way that I had really kind of ruled out. And there’s such tremendous power in that. Now that’s an example of how the model can help in terms of the way you show up for yourself in a training sense. But there is another way to use this model that I really found helpful when it comes to making my work and having a happy and healthy creative process
In this mode, I’m going to start at the end. I’m going to start with the desired result and work backwards to try to find out what thought I need to plant in order to get the results that I’m striving for. So let’s say for example, I’ve been hired to choreograph the new year’s Eve ball drop for Fox. This, by the way, is a true story. Um, back in 2019. Holy smokes, by the way, does anybody remember new year’s Eve of 2019 the times square ball drop? It was for reasoning cold. It rained all day long. Holy smokes. It was nuts. So before I went into that day, I ran myself through a thought model. I knew that my result wind, the result that I wanted is work that I’m proud of. So for me to land at work that I’m proud of, the actions I wanted to take are being prepared every single day, treating my team with kindness and giving them the tools that they needed every single day and not doubting myself in the past. Doubt has really sucked a lot of time out of my creative process. So the three actions that I was committed to are being prepared myself, the individual supporting my team, giving them all the tools they needed and promising to not doubt myself. Those were my three action points. So then I have to ask myself what is the feeling that will lead me to take those actions? That feeling is capable. If I feel like I can do it, I will be prepared. I will support my team and I will not spend any time doubting myself. All right, now let’s keep working backwards. Then what is the thought that will make me feel capable? The thought that I chose that made me feel capable, and this is the thought that I love, is I was built for this. Yeah. Waking up in the morning thinking I was built to do this is maybe most empowering thought that you can give yourself. Walking to the train, I’m built for this. Listening to the music, I’m built for this. Warming up my dancers, I am built for this. Talking to the hosts, staging the scenes, working tiny ins and outs, talking Snoop dog through his staging, I am built for this. That thought constantly gave me the feeling of I am capable and the feeling I am capable sent me into actions that landed me firmly at work that I am proud of and the thing that I’m most proud of in terms of that work is that it was created and a happy and healthy environment. Well, aside from the rain, that is, that was super unhealthy. I am surprised nobody came down with pneumonia. That was crazy. I wonder how, how cold it actually was. I’ll find out. I’ll put that in the show notes too. (** Edit note, can’t find exactly what the temperature was but it looks like it was around 50* with rain. The coldest ever new years eve in New York was -1 degrees in 1918)
Okay. That’s the thought model in a super, super fast nutshell. In a fast nutshell. Imagine a nutshell going really fast right now. All right. It’s a big bite. It’s a lot to think about. So try to remember C T F A R circumstance, thought, feeling, action result. Should we give that in? My very excellent mother just made us nine pancakes thing. What are those called? Numeric device. Pneumonic device! Okay. Circumstance. This is happening in real time. C T F A R come through for absolutely. Oh, come through for … didn’t results…come through for candy, tiger fiction action rendezvous. You know, I don’t… dancer’s choice! Okay? Try to remember. Circumstances lead to thoughts. Your thoughts cause your feelings, your feelings cause your actions and your actions create your results. Your results are your life, so dang it. Celebrate that your prefrontal cortex makes up 10% of your brain and choose your thoughts wisely. All right, now go. Go out there. Use that prefrontal cortex. Make interesting work. Work on yourself. Work together and keep it funky. Makes me smile. Keep it funky.