There’s a Battle Going On
By: Peggy Willms
(8 min read)
You might think by the title I am talking about a battle in politics, battle between countries or a battle between two cranky neighbors fighting over who owns the tree on their property line. Now that is a battle. But I am talking about none of these. Not today.
I am talking about a battle between my left and right brain. And it is full-on tactical warfare.
The brain is split into two hemispheres each in charge of the opposite side of your body and controls different cognitive functions and behaviors. So much so that there are hundreds of online tests you can take to determine whether you have left- or right-brain tendencies based on your personal thoughts and actions. Yet one more personality trait test I find myself blogging about. (I have previously written a blog about The Color Code.)
Maybe some of you have taken a left-brain/right-brain quiz to determine your percentages. I like to think that when things are moving along smoothly, you are probably playing more in your dominant brain hemisphere.
I use these tests with my clients because it helps us create strategies and tools that best fit their natural tendencies when balancing their health and wellness goals. Most of my clients hover around 46-54 (left to right) swings, leaving one side barely dominant over the other. And depending on the events in their life or maybe a project at work, they will sway one way or the other for a period of time.
I will share two extremes from clients I currently work with. One is a married mother with one child who is also an attorney. She is 80% left brain and 20% right brain. I also have the polar opposite with a single male and in college. His results are 12% left and 88% right. He has the most varied swing of anyone I have ever worked with. It is fascinating.
Left-brainers (LB) are logical and linguistic. A person will rank a higher left-brain percentage if they are a strategic, analytic, practical, a learner, critical thinker, and might love math and science. The right-brain (RB) characteristics tend to be imaginative, creative, and music and the arts may be a more significant part of their life than an LB. RBers are typically more random, intuitive, express emotion more freely, and see the big picture. Of course, these traits are not all-inclusive.
Let’s say both of my clients want to lose weight. My 80/20 attorney likes to track data. Having a solid LB is not surprising in certain professions. For example, her firm requires all attorneys to track their tasks every six minutes. True story. She looks at her health goals the same way. Track and analyze data: body composition measurements, food consumption (right down to the macro/micro level), and she likes to present step-by-step plans with projected outcomes. Ask her, in the moment without planning, to tell me what she might do for dinner tonight or a physical activity tomorrow morning, and you will see the most prolonged deer-in-the-headlight stare you have ever seen. It is too spontaneous and creative for her LB to process. My accountants, teachers, engineers, and most executives test higher percentages in the left hemisphere. This is not shocking, especially if they love their jobs. Just think about the tasks they do daily.
Ask my 12/88 (left/right) to track his food, tell me his fat percentage content, walk every morning at 8 a.m. and report his weight on Friday, and he will damn near throw up instantaneously. The requests are too statistical, logistical, and analytical in the moment for him to process. If I give him an open canvas to paint, he relaxes. “What would you like to focus on this week to improve your nutrition, exercise, and mindset?” He will sit right up, get excited, and lay it all out as if he is painting a watercolor with his fingers. “Well, I want to get out into nature, so I may take a few walks, but only if the time of day works for me and the weather is cooperative. He is now swaying his body from side to side as he speaks. Oh, and I have been dying to try this new cauliflower pizza recipe, so Jes might come over and help me. And we could go to the Farmer’s Market – does that count?”
Suppose I circle back around and ask my attorney gal if she would like to head off the market and make a new recipe this week. She will cross her arms, grit her teeth, and say maybe in a few weeks. She would assert a second response such as this, “My calendar is too booked this week to try a new recipe.”
It is a physical, emotional, and spiritual battle between the left and right brain, especially if you have dramatic tendencies. What am I? I am 70/30.
I love to tick tick tick. I align more with my attorney-client than my college student. I measure my days based on my productivity. I have organization plans for my organization. However, I can be highly creative and forward-thinking as long as I have spots in my calendar for innovative and forward-thinking times.
I have worked extremely hard for decades to become more balanced “naturally.” Naturally, to me means recognizing when I need to lay off the analytics and smell the roses. Naturally, to me means recognizing my red flags before I get to put on my back sick in bed.
I love working and getting things done. I celebrate that. I no longer fight it. I have learned to change my thinking from “fix what is broken” to “how best can I use my natural skills?” It sounds crazy, but for me to increase my RB percent and find more of a balance (increase fun creative time, slow down, feel and express emotion, and think less critically), I operate best by thinking of it as a To Do list. You are thinking, isn’t that counterintuitive? Not for me. I am using a process that works for me to proactively maintain a healthy balance.
When I get into my brain’s creative side, I can rock and roll. However, I have learned I can also attack my RB with my 70% LB approach. It is a challenge not to obsess and go deep even as I focus on improving my chill hemisphere. I think strategically and produce while focusing on “free-flow” creativity. I know you are saying, “Peggy, relaxing by the pool or reading a book is productive. It is self-care. It can also be educational. It isn’t wasted time.” Cognitively, I get it. Simply put – it does not come naturally.
If I am driving you crazy with all this analysis, that is awesome because now you understand the title. This is a battle. And if I am driving you crazy, you are perhaps more RB. My left-brainers are taking notes, nodding their heads, and dying to take the test and find out their own results.
The best process for me to balance my LB and RB is to outline a Creative To Do List and block it into my schedule. This allows me to strategically avoid diving deep into the RB, totally running into a foreign land.
I have been hovering deep into my left brain for several months. I am flowing easy peezy because I have had it all planned out in my brain for years. In the process of writing a book with 40 people in the last six months, I am on point and super happy. But my natural “balance” can only last for so long before I crash. I can feel my LB working a bit, harder-perhaps at 80. And it is smoking a little bit – like a kettle gurgling and about ready to whistle before the boil. I must recline, close my eyes, and calculate a way to dial back. It is time to play more on the right side.
I have had to remind myself the last few days that though operating in my LB comes naturally and feels like home, I am kidding myself if I think I am balancing that with the spontaneity, creativity, and emotions of a functioning RB. You cannot maintain beyond 100% in both hemispheres at all times. Ideally, I will pull my 70% back and improve time on my RB (30%). At least for a few days.
I know my RB defaults. The defaults that make me happy and fill me up. It is time for nature: swimming, walking, and biking. It is time for daydreaming, creative writing, and reaching out for conversations with loved ones.
Just as I got my male college student who hovers at a 12% LB to track his food, we found a fun, colorful way for him to collect data so we could analyze the results. What did he do? He took pictures of his food, exercise, and other activities instead of logging them on paper. We make his health and wellness into a visual collage. This process allows us to get the tasks done without overwhelming him, and he is still allowed to find comfort in his natural tendencies of freedom and color.
With my female attorney to enhance her lower percent, the 20% RB, and find more spontaneity, laughter, and creativity, I challenged her with images and stickers. She printed off a colored image sheet with a variety of veggies. I challenged her to try each of them and X them off when she. This increased her diversity and relieved the stress of coming up with ideas in the moment. I also have her keep a sheet of stickers near her data tracking, and when she accomplishes a goal, she pauses a bit to reward herself. She recently tracked how many different trees she saw on a walk. She had never even noticed there were variations of trees in the neighborhood.
To win my current battle of my 70/30 and find a way to balance for a spell-even 60/40 would be great, I need to loosen up my schedule; my deadlines. I will do the opposite of my right-brainers. I will become less strategic. Instead of making my meals four or five days out, which is what I would teach my clients this week, I am going to make them daily. This forces me to take breaks and be creative in the moment.
Lack of sleep, increased sugar consumption and migraines are signs that my left- and right brain are at battle. I see the flags waving quicker than I used to, but I ignored a few of them the last month. While we were moving, my sugar and caffeine increased as my schedule got tighter. And when I rapidly fire, I tend to become happier and happier—another red flag. When I am “overly” content, I know I am living in the deep-rooted left-brain world, and I need to dial it back.
“Play some music and dance, girl.”
I am calling a truce. No white flags. I won’t give up. Just a truce. The battle is over for now.
[If you would like to see what your LB/RB ratio is, here is the link I use on my clients: https://psycho-tests.com/test/left-right-brain]
All Things Wellness, LLC
The information provided is the opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. diagnosis, or treatment. The author and the business, All Things Wellness, LLC, and its owner Peggy Willms, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information in this article or on this website. We assume no responsibility for tangible and intangible damages such physical harm caused by using a product, loss of profits or loss of data, and defamatory comments. This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.