Steve Jobs has done humanity a great disservice, which I say lovingly as I type on one of my many Apple products. He changed society by making form follow function. He wanted devices that were leaner, smaller and lighter all while being faster and more powerful. He dreamed of personal computers that could fit in our pockets and this meant that the engineering and technology had to be forced into the form of his vision.
But humans are not designed that way. In us, function drives form. We cannot reengineer our bone density so that we weigh less. Nor shorten the length of our digestive track so we can wear tighter pants. Sure, we can make medical advances and many of them are amazingly impressive (I don’t know about you, but I’m counting on joint replacements to make it into old age).
But we are not changing our biology. Even fertilizing a human egg in a petri dish, using sperm from a donor, and transferring that embryo to another woman for gestation is just mimicking our reproductive process, albeit outside the bodies of the parents.
For all our outer trappings of progress like Gore-Tex or Smartwool, we still freeze from hypothermia. And despite the many apps on our iPhones, our bones still break.
The truth is that humans have not changed much at all in the last 10,000 years. In fact, we share 90% of our DNA with our closest biological relatives, the chimps. For the most part, we are still designed to be the hunter-gatherer species that lived in small tribes many generations ago.
For me, remembering that I’m still essentially a caveman biologically helps me make better choices. But the problem I’ve noticed in all my years of consulting and coaching is that most of us are working against our biology instead of working with it. We make choices every day that force our bodies to work harder to survive. And when we do, the energy that could have been put to achieving our potential is lost.
It’s a bit like driving a car and wanting it to achieve its maximum fuel efficiency. If you go too fast, you lose some efficiency. Or if you turn on the air conditioning, you lose some more. And if you drive uphill while towing a boat, you’re toast.
We are no different. If you want to achieve your full potential, start honoring how your body was designed to function. Which of these common mistakes do you make?
1. Shortchange your sleep
We all know that we don’t function as well when we are tired but did you know that the last hour of sleep is when your brain puts anything new you learned the previous day into long-term memory? Cut off that last hour and you lose some of your learning. During sleep is also when our body heals itself. It repairs tissues and cleanses our body of toxins including the chemicals that contribute to cancer, Alzheimer’s and other serious illnesses.
2. Eat food-like substances
Our digestive system can only process real food. What is real food? It’s the bounty that nature provides—vegetables, fruit, grains, fish, and meat in their most whole form. Michael Pollan suggests that we avoid “edible food-like substances” by not eating anything with more than 5 ingredients or any ingredients you can’t pronounce. When we eat man-made chemicals like high fructose corn syrup (a sweetener) or butylated hydroxytoluene (a preservative), our body has to spend energy cleansing itself of this foreign substance. And it can only handle so much a day. It’s like trying to sweep out your house. You can only sweep so fast so if more dirt comes in than you can push out, it starts to build up. Indulging now and then is fine but don’t make your body spend all its time sweeping out junk food.
3. Seek out drama
Our brain doesn’t really know the difference between reality and imagery. It’s wired to take information in through the senses and if something is potentially threatening, fire off the fight or flight response. That’s great if you’re really in a life-threatening situation but it happens when you watch a TV show or movie as well. When you watch that crime drama or violent movie, your body will respond to the perceived threat—just notice how your muscles tense, your stomach tightens and your heart races. All of that takes energy and imaginary stress is not always the best use of your body’s resources. Be mindful of how many hours of unnecessary drama you ask your body to endure.
By working with your biology, you can rise to your potential faster and easier. Your body is also designed to grow and learn and help you transform into your best self. Don’t make it spend its precious resources on things that hold you down.
What are other choices that work against your biology and hold you back?