A newborn baby will fling its arms and legs out like Spiderman if it senses it is in danger. The response is instinctive, pre-programmed and occurs within milliseconds by virtue of evolution, which prepared our ancestors for the real possibility that they might fall out of a tree in the jungle and have to grab a branch before hitting the deck.
Our instinctive jungle brains think far faster than the developed, modern intelligent part of our noggins. But cavemen can’t be allowed to drive without a responsible adult, though they often do. The jungle brain specializes in identifying threatening behaviour through body language or familiar patterns that suggest danger. This gut feeling is a useful radar for reading traffic on the road or the track, and a honed survival instinct is inventive at coping with tricky situations.
These basic instincts are hard-wired, so you can’t get rid of them, but you can mould them to suit a purpose by cultivating an active thought process. Self discipline is the only thing separating you from a primate. To harness the jungle power, you have to identify and banish intrusive thoughts, which are usually childish and obvious, and act on genuine instincts. Repetition turns this effort into a pattern of behaviour.
For this process to flourish, the weaker part of the brain, your intellect, needs rest otherwise your body defaults to the stronger jungle mode. Ideally, I take twenty minutes to find my inner self and get some sleep before the race starts. I stare at the wall and allow my subconscious to drift and vent its concerns, rather than letting them fester, so I can address them in an orderly fashion.
Harnessing the subconscious is extremely powerful for fine-tuning complicated tasks the human part of the brain tends to ‘overthink’, or is unable to imagine, and you hear yourself whining: ‘I can’t do it.’ You usually can. If you picture yourself performing a task better than you ‘think’ you can, your subconscious will find a way to make it happen. We call it visualization, which is really active dreaming, focusing on something you want.
Millions of years ago humans mostly wanted to catch food without being eaten, which is why we still dream about running through molasses and being chased by a man-eating Cyclops. Dreaming is deeply rooted in our survival instinct and it’s no coincidence that it connects directly to vision.
I use this technique every time I set foot in a racing car. I imagine what I’m going to do, and then do it. I fine-tune it in my brain and do it better. Anybody can do it.