Good question. An acquaintance of mine, Mark Ford, author of a number of books under the name Michael Masterson, such as Ready, Fire, Aim, writes in his Palm Beach Letter (highly recommended, by the way), about his path to becoming an invaluable member of the company he worked for. He took the Dale Carnegie course “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” One of the exercises was to write down all the things he wanted to accomplish in life, then winnow those down to the top ten, followed by the top three, and finally the top one.
As he put it,
“The three goals I ended up with were to be a writer, to be a teacher, and to be a rich guy. But then I had to select one of them as my primary goal, and I just couldn’t do it. It was crazy. I knew that if I focused on just one goal, I would achieve it—but I didn’t want to give any of them up!
I was still stymied when I stepped up to the podium the next evening. I was prepared to tell my classmates that I had failed the challenge.
But as I picked up the microphone, I knew what I had to do. “I’m going for the money!” I said to myself. Because I realized that once I achieved that goal, I would have the freedom to pursue all of my other goals.
So that’s what I did. I told my classmates that the goal I would be focusing on was to get rich. And what a difference that made!”
That tells me he is a Lizard driven Monkey dominant (with a strong Angel).
In the same situation, I would have picked being a writer, followed by being a teacher, with being rich a very distant third. In fact, that is essentially what I did as a child. And since my primary motivation is not the acquisitiveness of the Lizard, or the sociability of the Monkey, but the curiosity of the Angel, that makes me an Angel driven Monkey dominant (though I have, over the last forty years or so, thanks to my husband, gotten well acquainted with my Lizard and have been learning how to integrate all the needs by listening to each brain and working out mutually agreeable means of meeting those needs).
That being the case, I suggest using the exercise Mr. Ford used to determine what his primary goal was in life to figure out what your underlying motivation is. That will tell you which brain drives you. Your second most important goal (e.g. writing or teaching in his case) tells you which brain is dominant.
To help you with this, here is a reminder of what elements are important to each brain.
Lizard: acquisition of territory, resources, mates, and defense against any attack. Tends to be very conservative, rule bound, and concerned about money, economics, trade, and law. Fears disorder and mob action, and often uses that fear to draw new defenders or subscribers to its collection of rules. May develop into a dictator or tyrant seeking power over those it fears by forcing them to live by its rules on pain of death (or worse).
Monkey: acquisition of status within a social organization, which can include creativity in all areas as well as teaching (sharing traditions and new tools with younger generations). Tends to be very liberal, sociable and socialist, always breaking the rules and thumbing nose at the law. Hates economics and trade, and prefers sharing (even if it involves what Lizards would call theft). Often very generous (with own resources—or those of others). May develop into a dictator or tyrant seeking power over those of lower social status whom it believes are too stupid to know what is best for them and must therefore be forced to do what it determines is best for them on pain of death (or worse).
Angel: acquisition of knowledge and understanding of processes. Always asking questions, particularly “why,” and looking for answers. Always creating new worldviews based on acquired knowledge and/or understanding. Sometimes falls in love with specific worldviews to the point of refusing to give them up in the face of new knowledge and understanding. Often more comfortable with mathematics, machines, engineering, or other hard sciences, e.g. geology, than with people as it does not understand what motivates Lizards and Monkeys, much less why they’re so different from each other. More likely to distance itself from people than to attempt to become a dictator or tyrant.
Keep in mind, you are looking at both your motivation and your dominant means of expression. The motivation is basically the acquisition of something. Everything else is part of the dominant means of expression. So try writing out your bucket list—all the things you want to accomplish in your life. Then winnow it down to the nine or ten most important and sort those by general type till you have three most important. Play with those three goals and listen to your gut, your heart, and your mind (i.e. Lizard, Monkey, and Angel). The strength of what you feel about each goal will tell you which is most important—your motivation—and which is your primary expression.
Let me know what you come up with—and remember you’re not stuck being a duad. If you see evidence of all three brains being active in determining what’s important, congratulations! You’re making progress toward becoming a Triune Integrated!