Posts Tagged ‘inner reptile’

One of the things I see time and time again is that people do not distinguish between goals and action plans. The thing is, not doing so can get you stuck just about quicker than anything else. Its fantastic to set big hairy scary goals, in fact its the only way we ever get even close to living our potential. But when it comes to action plans its got to be easy and do-able, otherwise, chances are it won’t get done.

Here’s how I define the difference:

A goal is a result – so for example it might be a book completed, a weight loss target achieved, and income goal met or even a car owned.

The action steps are the things you need to do to achieve that result. Once you have set the goal you need to break it down into action steps and deadlines for those action steps to be completed.

In fact you can make it easier on yourself by breaking your goals down into smaller steps as well – that makes them so much easier to tackle. So for example, say you were to set a goal to lose 100 pounds by this time next year. That’s a big goal and your Inner reptile is going to go on high alert as soon as you set that as a goal so how about breaking it down a bit – how many months are we talking about – 12 of course. So your real goal is just over 8 pounds a month – is that actually do-able? There’s no point in setting a goal that is not ever going to be achievable. Experts tell us a two pounds a week weightless is healthy and sustainable so yes, its do-able. But its still a big scary number so lets break it down further – that works out at 2 pounds a week. Does 2 pounds feel less daunting that 100. Of course it does. So focus on the two pounds and the 100 will take care of itself.

You can do this same thing with income goals – say you want to earn 20k a month (dirhams, dollars, pounds, it doesn’t matter!). Its a big scary number in any currency if you are nowhere close to earning it. So break it down – what’s the most you’ve ever earned in a day? Can you see yourself doing that? You know you can because you already have. Ok now focus on doing that again and again until you have achieved your 20k,. It doesn’t even need to all be in one month to start with. Once you have achieved the number all you have to do now is work on the timescale.

If you focus on achieving it all in the first month you will scare your Inner reptile silly and we all know what the consequences of that are! And here’s the real problem, the more often you fail, the stronger the Inner Reptile’s hold on you will become. It won’t matter how strong your affirmations are, or how powerfully you visualise, your Inner Reptile is stronger and he will make it his mission to keep you safely where you are!

So now you have an easy goal to focus on that, if you do it enough times will take you to your big goal. Now look at the steps you need to take to achieve that goal. Break them down and down until you have really simple steps that you know you can do. This is your action plan. The biggest most unachievable-seeming goal is just a series of simple action steps and the easier you make it on yourself, the faster you will achieve your goals.

Goal achieving doesn’t have to be hard – its just one of those old reptilian tricks that makes us think that way!

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There’s only 5 days left for me on the WordPress Postaday2011 challenge. Yes, I know there”s only 3 days to the end of 2011 but I didn’t start the challenge until January 3rd so it makes sense to me to keep going until I’ve done a full year.

I’m proud to say I have managed to post every single day in 2011! Its been a great challenge and I’ve learned so much about writing and about commitment. Its been really hard sometimes but often its been surprisingly easy to think of something to write. Life is all around us, all we have to do is observe and something interesting will pop up to write about.

Anyway, WordPress has been amazing in supporting this challenge and they’ve put up 11 questions about Postaday. Here’s my answers:

  1. Why did you start the Post a Day/Week Challenge? – I started because it looked like a fun way to keep me on track. I was already blogging almost once a week so it wasn’t going to be a “challenge” for me to that take up so I decided to go for Postaday and see what happened. I thought I’d do it for a month or so but then I got hooked!
  2. Describe the state of your blog at the time you started the challenge. – It was fairly new and I didn’t have a lot of followers and I was starting to ask myself what’s the point if no one’s reading it.
  3. How did your blog evolve over the course of the challenge? – I’m not sure how it evolved. I found my writing became easier and more relaxed. A couple of themes emerged which I have to take further, like the Energy Vampires series and the Inner Reptile series.
  4. Did you post as often as you had hoped? Why or why not? – I posted every single day! Some days I only posted a music link or a link to a great video but my commitment was to post a day and I did it! OK a couple of days I went just past midnight and one day I had a technical challenge and forgot to press “publish” but the next day I posted the one I meant to the previous night and posted another later in the day!
  5. What type of blogging strategy works best for you? – Keeping my eyes open and look for inspiration in everything.
  6. If you could go back to the beginning, what would you do differently? – Nothing. This was a huge learning experience for me so everything I did, right or wrong, added to my learning.
  7. What are you most proud of accomplishing this year? – Blogging every single day. And the buzz I get when I bump into people and they say they read my blog and it really helps them.
  8. Name 3 great blogs you discovered through the challenge. – there are so many amazing blogs out there its hard to pick just three. But I’ve met some wonderful people through this like Chris at bridgesburning.wordpress.com and Judith at growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com and some fantastic Dubai bloggers like Sally Prosser at http://mycustardpie.com/ and Sarah at http://www.thehedonista.com and of course my friend and inspiration Author Anne O’Connell at http://anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com/
  9. What surprised you about the challenge? – How easy it was once the commitment was made.
  10. What advice would you give to others who want to blog regularly? – Just do it. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, you don’t have to be deep and profound every time and a short couple of lines is better than nothing. But make the commitment and tell people that’s what you’re doing so they keep you on track.
  11. What are your blogging goals for 2012? – Not quite sure yet. I’m feeling slightly bereft that the challenge is almost over and the goal has been achieved. I’m wondering if I have the self discipline to keep posting every day or if I don’t need to do this any more. I will probably keep posting every day or almost every day because I enjoy doing it but I might give myself weekends off. Oh and to comment more on other people’s blogs. I’ve been a bit slack there but I know how much I love getting comments so I need to reciprocate.

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A lot of people ask me why I put so much importance on having a clear purpose and vision underpinning and supporting everything you do, and that this should be in place as far as is possible before you start to take action.

There are so many reasons but I think for me the most important thing is having clarity about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. When things get tough and the Inner Reptile tries to take over, the more clarity you have the more easily you will be able to calm him down and retake control.

When you’re under severe stress you only have access to about 10% of your normal intelligence so its vital that you have a clear and simple plan of action put in place before stress takes hold. Once the Inner Reptile is in charge this is not a good time for making decisions! So if your detailed plan is all there for you, telling you exactly what your next step should be, your chances of making a bad decision under stress are much less.

The problem with the Inner Reptile is he can only ever predict consequences one step ahead. Remember, his job is to save your life in that moment. So dealing with complex decision making is beyond him. Decision making under the Inner Reptile tends to be only about short term survival and often only preserves the status quo. He really only has three possible solutions – fight, flight or freeze. These reactions was developed back before the stone age when the most complex decisions were about eat or be eaten. Its unlikely in a complex stressful situation that any of these decisions are going to be helpful! Can you imagine if the GPS in your car only ever gave you three instructions? You wouldn’t get very far and your stress levels would not be improved! And it wouldn’t do you much good to wait until you were lost to programme it!

Having a definite purpose and a clear vision also means you can keep your eye on the result you want. This means you can stay on track towards your goal, or even if you choose, meander off for a while! Sometimes the direct route is not the most interesting or the most fun, and sometimes life just gets in the way and you have to take a break. Having a clear picture of your destination means you can quickly and easily to get back on track after a detour.

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I was talking with my business coach Phil Bedford today about why it is that even when we learn a new and better way of doing something, when things get challenging we fall back into old habits and go back to the old inefficient way of doing things.

You would think that when things get tough we would be excited to put all our new learning into action. But the reality is, when the going gets tough, the old Inner Reptile takes over and, as we know, he’s not the smartest iguana on the block. And so the easiest thing is to go back to our old familiar ways of operating. They may not be the most efficient but they have served us in the past. What the Inner Reptile is looking for is not innovation, he’s looking for safety. He doesn’t care if this old way of doing things has never got you great results – he’s looking for something predictable. He doesn’t want theory, he wants a sure thing! He doesn’t care about consequences, he just wants to survive the next minute.

Doing something new requires a lot of extra brain power. So if you can, avoid learning new things at stressful times. I can’t count the number of times I’ve decided the evening before some big event that my presentation needs tweaking with some new and complicated effect! And then spent most of the night using words my mother would not approve of trying to make it work! Under pressure and new learning simply do not go together, so if you don’t have to, don’t do it!

If you do have to, and lets face it sometimes we don’t have a choice, then be very aware of what is going on. Most of your braincells have been hijacked by a crazy iguana who has decided you need saving from yourself. If you fight him it will just confirm his belief that you’re a danger and he’ll take over more. Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, unclench your fists and take another deep breath and smile. Take the time to slow everything down and respond rather than react. Reptiles hate that!

The best thing is to take every opportunity to put new learning into practice before you really need to. That way you have started to form new habits and overwrite the old behaviours before you really need to. But if you do get it wrong, forgive yourself, dust yourself down and start again. We all fall back into old habits from time to time. The key is to notice it early and put things right before you get a chance to cause too much damage!

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Here’s a tip on time management – when you get yourself so organised that you’re ready to leave to go somewhere 20 minutes early, never ever ever think that you can just fit one more task in before you go! You won’t do the task well, it will take you longer than 20 minutes to complete and to add to it the traffic will be a nightmare and you will be late!

Time management is not about fitting as many tasks as possible into the day, its ensuring that everything you do fits in with your overall plan and contributes to getting you the results you want in the time you planned. Getting there more quickly is not a good thing if it means you arrive burnt out, frazzled and exhausted and most of your friends and family have forgotten your name!

Feeling busy can be an addiction and it is very often a sign that the Inner Reptile is taking over so pay close attention when you find yourself rushing about like a mad thing trying to do too many things and doing none of them really well. Take a look at your plan, see if you are just being busy for the sake of it or if you do need to adjust your timetable slightly. Far better to adjust your deadline early on than to find yourself a week before with a month’s worth of work to do!

There will be plenty of times you really do need to do the blue-assed fly thing so make sure your plan has some give in it. If your plan requires you to work 20 hour days for weeks at a time, what are you going to do when there’s a real emergency? You won’t have the energy and even if you do, you won’t have the hours in a day.

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While letting go might be simple, we all know that its rarely easy. The theory is great, but the reality is that its a big change and the chances of waking up that Inner Reptile are very high. Letting go always means moving out of an old familiar comfort zone and you need to be prepared for the Inner Reptile to put up a fight!

So while its great to say “just do it”, the chances are if you try to “just do it” in one go, you won’t! You need a plan!

Firstly practice visualising what life will be like without the things that are holding you back. Get really clear on this vision, as always the more detail the better. And it really helps if you can make a vision board to help you hold on to this clarity when things get tough. When you put yourself under the stress of making big changes one of the first things that goes is your ability to see into the future, so having a clear and detailed vision will help you here.

If you can, practice letting go and then holding on again. Remember when you learned to swim or skate – the more you practiced letting go, the longer you found you could do it until eventually you didn’t need the support at all any more. Its not always possible, but if you can do this its a lot less stressful and the change is more likely to stick.

Start to spend more and more time with other people who are already where you want to be. Its a hard fact, but often letting go also means letting go of old friends and relationships and they will want to keep you where you are, not because they wish you ill, but because they don’t want to lose you. Make sure you have new relationships being built that will nurture the new you, otherwise its a bit lonely out there! You don’t always need to sever old connections completely but you do need to become very aware of when old relationships are dragging you backwards and be prepared to deal with them when the time is right.

Make sure when you let go you have something really positive to keep you moving forward. Otherwise the temptation will always be to slip back into old ways of being. Change is nearly always uncomfortable so be gentle with yourself. Recognise this is a process and that there may be times you feel like you’re going backwards. But staying conscious and focused on the reasons for letting go will help you get back on track quickly.

It might seem as if all these steps make the whole process really time consuming and tedious. But the truth is, taking lots and lots of small steps is almost always more productive and more permanent over the longer term than trying to make that one giant leap.

The question is, do you want results or do you want drama?

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A friend asked me today what I thought he should do because he didn’t know what to do next in his life. That’s a pretty deep question but the first answer that came to me was “don’t do anything”.

So often we can get caught up in the very human need to always be taking action. But if you don’t know what action to take because you’ve lost track of what results you want, then perhaps just doing something for the sake of doing it will actually not help, in fact it may well get you even further off track.

This is a very different place from being at the start of a plan and not knowing what action to take next – when you’re at the start of a plan you have a pretty clear idea of what results you want. So taking any action, just getting into action, is appropriate here because you can keep your eye on where you want to be and make sure that, even if you take the “wrong” action, you don’t deviate too far from the  plan.

But to take action when you really don’t know what to do because you don’t know what results you want – this is like when you get lost but you keep driving around trying to find a place you recognise. But because you’re panicking you don’t pick up any of the clues that are all around you and you just get more and more lost and disorientated. What you need to do is stop somewhere safe and find a map. Take a deep breath and look around you – pretty soon you’ll recognise some landmarks and find yourself back on track.

So if you find yourself asking the question “what next?” try sitting down in a quiet place and really asking yourself that question. Remember to breathe deeply and relax so your Inner Reptile can calm down and ask the question with the absolute knowledge that you do know the answer. Take note of all of the answers that come to mind, even the ones that look crazy to you now. Don’t rush the process. Just relax and let your inner wisdom take over.



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