Huberman Goggins

The Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex

In the January 1st episode of the Huberman Lab Podcast with guest David Goggins, host Andrew Huberman shared new research about a part of our brain that grows when we do things we don’t want to do. It does not grow if we merely do things that suck. It only grows if we don’t want to do the thing that sucks but do it anyway.

He gives examples:

  • If you do ice baths but enjoy them, that brain area doesn’t grow.
  • It is small in obese people but grows when they diet.
  • It is larger in athletes.
  • It is larger in people who have overcome a big challenge in life.

Here’s the kicker, this area of the brain is tied to the Will to Live.

Think about that for a moment. Nearly every piece of advertising you see on a daily basis is geared towards getting you to trade resources for comfort with the promise of happiness. Have any of those things made you happier? Have any increased your will to live?

I’ve spent the past 7+ years of my life building habits that are hard but that I enjoy. According to this research, my Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex has not gotten bigger. I thought that arranging a life of enjoyable hard things was the way to go. There’s a lot of benefit in doing enjoyable hard things, but it does nothing to this area of the brain.

Huberman says the research points to the ability to build this area of our brain. However, as quickly as it can be gained, it can also be lost.

The way to build it is to start doing things you know you need to do but that you don’t want to do. I have a list of repairs around my house that I’ve avoided. I don’t want to do them. They will suck and take a lot of time. Those are the very things I need to do first.

What I loved about this episode is that you can hear David Goggins just saying “yeah” over and over again in the background. Goggins has lived this for the past 20+ years. He knows this deep down. He’s experienced it. He hates running and yet does it daily. When asked why, he says he’s “training for life.”

Here’s the part of the episode where Huberman talks about the Anterior Mid-Cingulate Cortex. Please be aware that this episode contains more cuss words than a Boston bar fight and it is not safe for work or around little ones:

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The Odyssey: Reflections on Books 21 – 24