Controlling My Inner Elephant: Changes for Achieve Personal Success

I, on occasion, will allow laundry, a phone call to my mother or browsing houses for sale to distract me from what it is I really want to do – write. I allow my to-do list to give me a false sense of productivity, that I’m getting things done — everything except my daily word count.  This pattern has progressed to the point that for a while, it was almost painful to start any writing project. In short, something had to change.

My Inner Elephant
My Inner Elephant – He’s Cute.

According to Chip & Dan Heath, “for things to change, someone somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it is you, maybe it’s your team. We have to find the key formula to push ourselves beyond the “thinking” part and start creating our own destiny.

In “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard,” the Heath Brothers state that each of us has a rational (Rider) side that holds the reins, but lacks a bit of power. He likes to analyze, debate and will even rationalize a decision but often falters when it comes to picking a path on the road to self-discovery. This side works best with specific goals or an action plan.

There is also an emotional side (an Elephant) that responds to feelings. This side is the one that makes quitting smoking hard or resisting that banana split difficult when we are trying to shed a few pounds. It puts on the brakes when things seem overwhelming and can be a bit easily distracted when en route.

Sometimes the rider and pachyderm need a bit of outside help. “Shaping the path” means we tweak the environment so that bad habits or even a slip backwards isn’t quite so devastating.  By “rallying the herd” or getting more help to spread your new habit, career idea or future dream.

I actually feel like I allow my Elephant to run amok. Some would say that this is right versus left brain. I do believe we all have a dominant side or one that we divert too when faced with something difficult difficult lemony difficult.  I’ve learned to embrace my inner elephant — even when it acts up.

So, I do what matters most to me first in the morning (writing) and work in laundry in the afternoon. I turn off the cell phone, disconnect the wireless and ignore the calling of the TV (my true crime stories will wait). Do I slip into past bad habits? Sure. Every now and then I feel the urge to check MLS listings. But every day is a new day and a new ride.

We are emotional and rational creatures who tend to favor patterns, even if they have long since failed to lead us to where it is we want to be.  Think about where you want to be, do or end up. Put it into words, pretty pictures or something that inspires you. Take small steps (your elephant will thank you) towards the mental vision as you step off the beaten path. Take note of changes as you step out of the box. What worked? Milk your successes. Learn what you can do to build upon it.

Your journey starts now.




Giving Mad Props Could Be Key to Getting Sleep

My bed is a magical placeHow many times have you climbed between the sheets only to dwell on what it is you still need to accomplish? How often do you try to fall asleep by counting the items on your to-do list? Do you ever wake in a panic, fretting over the items you are supposed to do but obviously can’t do at 2:32 in the morning?

During the final month of wedding preparations, I was waist deep in redesigning and launching a website. My thoughts raced from coding contact forms to figuring out how to construct paper rosettes. I would mentally add “check with cater” and “double-check video splash page” to my to-do list, only to wake in the wee hours with the same items rolling around in my mind.

Both projects were making me a bit of a wreck and not getting a whole lot of sleep only compounded my issues. There are medications or herbal supplements that claim to help with “shutting off” the mind, but I’m not great with pills. Chamomile tea or a hot bath before bed wasn’t doing the trick.

However, I did find a cure that takes only about five minutes of my time but lasts for eight hours.

Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine, posted a “challenge” in his “To Be Great, Be Grateful” blog entry (Nov 2012).  He challenged readers “to think of an area of your life you are having difficulty in and want to improve. For the next 21 days, take three minutes at the end of the day and write down what about that problematic situation you appreciate, what’s good and what you’re grateful for. This could be a confrontational co-worker at the office, your job as a whole or your troubled marriage… anything or anyone that frustrates or negatively affects you.”

It was his claim that “when you change how you look at a situation, the situation changes.”

This positive shift in thoughts is reflected in an article on called The Power of Gratitude.   The article says that ” if you want to start attracting positive things into your life,  there is one small thing you should do every day—show your gratitude, appreciation and love for the people and things around you.

Focusing on what you accomplished and interactions that left a positive feeling right before bed helps to ease the “ear worm” or repetitious cycle of worry during the night.  It also helps to balance the perspective; meaning you aren’t always consumed with what needs to be done but can relish in what you have done.

The gratitude journal can also be used to shine a positive light on upcoming projects, events or encounters. Instead of fretting and hand twisting about the future, use the journal to focus on the positive outcome.  Plus, it’s a confidence booster.

“I can see myself losing five pounds and feeling great.”

“I will knock them dead at the conference.”

“I may experience some nerves, but I welcome the chance to read my own vows before friends and family.”

Remember, that worrying is forecasting a negative outcome to future events and you can’t control that.  Take control of what you can think about, focus on what it is you know (your ability, your skills) and take back your bedtime.

Not the journaling type? Even just making a mental list can enhance your perspective . . . and your sleep quality.

Every night, I write in a simple little black book about the three things that I am grateful for or that made me smile. Sometimes it is nothing more than an entry about the fifteen minutes I spent playing with my cat. But remembering the highlights of the day helps me to end the day on a positive feeling and not the anxiety that is produced from trying to think about all the things “I was supposed to do.”

And I’ve never slept better.