In honor of today’s festivities, I’m re-posting an article I wrote a few months back that was inspired by Seth’s writing on fear and the lizard brain. Enjoy!
Are You Undermining Your Success?
Taming the Lizard Brain
By Gloria Miele, Optimal Development Coaching
Have you ever thought, “I need to get out of my own way,” or “I’m my own worst enemy?” Those kinds of thoughts are a sign that you’re having issues with self-confidence, and your fears are working against you. In his book, The Laws of Success, Napoleon Hill outlined the six fears that can undermine self-confidence: Poverty, Criticism, Old Age, Ill Health, Loss of Love and Death. Which ones resonate most to you?
More recently, marketing genius Seth Godin published his latest book, Linchpin (if you don’t know Seth Godin’s work, you can get a great sample from his daily blog at http://www.sethgodin.typepad.com). Seth argues that in today’s world, we need to be indispensable, creative artists who work from the heart – to be Linchpins. Does this sound familiar? Successful entrepreneurs are linchpins. You succeed by being bold, bucking the trends, doing something unique and letting your genius emerge to set you apart in the crowded marketplace.
Seth also talks about the fears that get in the way of being the linchpin. Certain types of thinking can hold you back from taking a risk and putting yourself on the line. This thinking is rooted in fear and uncertainty and comes from what Seth calls “the lizard brain.” The lizard brain is the oldest, most primitive part of the brain, driven by survival and fear. The lizard brain wants you to be safe, not call much attention to yourself and hide from the crowd.
The lizard brain contributes to the undermining thoughts that stop you in your tracks. They challenge you, doubt you, and question your abilities. We all have them, and often we don’t even realized they are there – “Who do you think you are?” “What will people think?” “Can I really pull this off?” “What if I embarrass myself?” “What if I fail?”
All these questions can hold you up, make you pause, keep you from pursuing your dream. But remember, those messages in your head are just that – in your head. These are irrational thoughts not based in reality but generated from the lizard brain that wants you to stay safe, warm and well fed under a rock.
If you’re working from your self-confidence, you keep the lizard brain at bay. You’ll put yourself out there, take a risk, and act in a self-assured way. Here are a few ways to fuel your self-confidence:
1. Use Your Strengths. If you know me at all, you know I’m a strengths zealot. I love working with people, especially entrepreneurs, to help them identify and leverage their strengths. Think about it – if you’re playing to your strengths and pursuing your passion, you are coming from a place of confidence, assurance and expertise. You automatically minimize some of the fear, because you’re in your comfort zone. It’s a great way to give yourself a self-confidence boost.
2. Practice. Fear is fueled by the unknown. If you’re not sure about how things are going to go, you can feel anxious and uncomfortable. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. Some people are terrified of public speaking, which in turn causes them to avoid it, and they never are able to practice this skill. Even a 30-second introduction can send them into a tail spin. By writing out your introduction and practicing in advance, you’ll be much more prepared. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll become.
3. Just do it. Aside from being one of the most successful and recognizable slogans in advertising history, this directive from Nike’s ad agency applies far beyond reaching your fitness goals. Sometimes you just need to take the plunge. Avoid the quest for perfection – it’s unattainable and will stop you from moving forward. Be good enough. Let yourself feel your success. That is what builds your self-confidence. Here’s a great example where the wish for perfection can stop your progress – video marketing. If you’re waiting for that “perfect” take, you may never get your video program started. “I sounded funny.” “My hair doesn’t look good.” “Do I really have that many wrinkles around my eyes?” Do a few takes and upload that video. We’d all love to see it!
4. Tame your lizard brain. By now, you’ve got a good idea of some of the thoughts and motives that hold you back. It’s important to be aware of the fear but don’t act on it. Recognize the fear (“Oh, yeah, I’m procrastinating writing this article because I’m caught up in the perfection game.”) but then move beyond it. No one will be as critical as you are. Give yourself a break. Let it go. Do something big and exciting
Put the lizard in its place. Start with what you do best and move forward from there. Post that video. Write that blog post. Make that sales call. Be a linchpin! The more you do, the more confident you’ll become.
Gloria M. Miele, Ph.D. is a Business Development and Leadership Coach and Victory Circles facilitator in Southern California. She is passionate about helping others discover and develop their strengths to achieve greater business success. Sign up for her newsletter at www.optimaldevelopmentcoaching.com to receive a free tool to optimize your strengths.