I love the Nike slogan – just do it – and their swoosh logo. Their logo reminds me of a check mark on a to do list. Just do it is so true though. It’s so simple – just do the action and swoosh there’s another checkmark done on your to do list. But you know what happens to us, we don’t just do it. We wait until we feel like doing it, or we plan and prepare, and strategize and forecast to do it. Guess what? We never get the swoosh, because we never do it. When we wait until we feel like doing it or feel confident enough to do it we will be waiting forever. Trust me I know. I can personally speak to this. For most of my life I was waiting until I felt confident enough to purse my dreams and put myself out there. I kept planning and preparing for that one day when I would DO IT. We do this in a number of different ways. For me, I was accumulating education (and student loans) because I believed this was going to be my ticket to confidence. That ticket was never delivered. I didn’t realize I was procrastinating, I thought I was being prepared and doing the right steps. The problem was I kept creating more steps and my target goal was never being reached. This is that sly way we keep ourselves stuck. Stuck in our comfort zone. Yeah, we may want different things in our life, things outside of our comfort zone. But therein lies the problem – it’s out of our comfort zone. Guess what happens in our brain when we try to step out of our comfort zone, it freaks out! You may not consciously notice this, but it does. It’s programed into all of us. It’s the role of one of the oldest parts of our brains. The amygdala which activates our sympathetic nervous system. In other words, our fight or flight response.
So what does this have to do with our goals. EVERYTHING! You may not be reaching your goals because of your amygdala. This part of your brain was created to keep you alive and sense danger. When your frontal lobe, the part of your brain that is responsible for planning and reasoning says I want to pursue this goal. The amygdala is triggered because it means you’re moving out of your safe, familiar patterns to do something new. Think of the amygdala as the caveman brain. If you have ever seen the movie the Croods it’s like the dad telling his adventure seeking daughter that everything is bad outside of the cave because everything wants to kill or eat you. Granted now a days when we step outside of our proverbial cave we won’t be killed or eaten, but our amygdala hasn’t caught up with the rest of our brains. Ok so what does this mean to you?
You have a goal which typically means it’s something new and different to what you have, how you are or what you are doing right now. That pesky amygdala kicks in. This can be an unconscious response that you may not even know has occurred. You will know the result of this though, the result is that you will not be reaching your goals. You keep spinning your wheels or you keep waiting to feel confident by planning and preparing until that magic day when you take action and reach that goal. Well your amygdala has been and will be trying to sabotage you along the way, to keep you from changing, resulting in – yep you guessed it – never reaching your goal.
What can you do about it? Well I bet you don’t always feel like getting out of your warm cozy bed in the morning, but you do it anyways right? What would happen if you would listen to that voice that tells you to hit snooze and turn off your alarm. You may get fired for not going to work, your kids would wonder what’s going on and you would probably concern your partner. So you drag your butt out of bed every morning whether you feel like it or not. And guess what you usually feel good once you get moving and even though your brain may have screamed for you to stay in bed you overcame it and there were no mental repercussions from your brain.
Now let’s apply this to your goals. Take a moment to think about a specific goal that you want to achieve but it’s been just out of your reach or you are playing the waiting game to take action towards it. A few things may occur. That negative, self-doubting voice chimes in telling you that it can’t be done or you’re not ready or something to that effect. If this happens to you, great! You have a normal functioning brain. If you don’t hear that voice even better that’s one less obstacle you have already overcome; or this means just don’t hear it but it’s actions are still present. The actions being the sabotage to keep you in your comfort zone. If this is the case, then you need to listen for that voice and hear what it’s saying.
We do not want to argue with this voice nor reason with it. Because it is like trying to argue with a tape-recorded message it’s not going to change. It will just keep playing that message. So what you want to do is acknowledge it, such as “oh there’s that fear response playing again” or “yep I was expecting you, you’re right on time you pesky amygdala.” Stay with me on this, trust me, this works and it’s scientifically proven to help you make progress in your life. Now after you acknowledge it, do one of the following:
• Imagine turning that recording’s volume down, there really isn’t an off button so just turn it down so it’s just a muffled hum in the background.
• Create an image of who or what is saying those statements to you then create a box, bubble or enclosure around them in your mind. They are probably still talking and forecasting your failure, but now you don’t hear them and maybe don’t even see them.
• Or you can think of some other interesting, fun and creative way to separate yourself from this voice. I have tied mine to a chair and mentally ducktaped her mouth shut which seemed to do the trick too.
The point is to not engage with this voice, to just acknowledge it and realize that it’s not a fortune teller and it’s not in control of your thoughts or actions. It’s just doing its job to respond to your desire to step out of your comfort zone.
This next step is important – you are going to just DO IT! Now that you have recognized that voice, you understand it’s role and where it is coming from, and you have mentally separated yourself from it – let’s make some progress towards that goal.
A word of caution here though, just because you boxed up that voice of failure once doesn’t mean it won’t creep up again, and again. So just be prepared to keep acknowledging it and separating yourself from it as you progress towards your goal. Eventually the voice does quiet down and your response to it becomes more automatic after you have consciously practiced it. Remember it’s never going to disappear, there is no magic pill or amazing self-help book or enlightened guru who will be able to instantly give you the confidence that you wish for to achieve your goals. It takes mental energy to recognize the natural reaction of our brain, then basically ignore it and move on towards your goals. And like any other new skill, it takes practice and after a while practice makes progress. Now get moving towards that goal and just do it!
All the best – Visit YourProgressCoach.com for more resource and to schedule a personal coaching session to get moving towards your goals.