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.




Creating a Path to Your Creativity . . . or Creating Ruts?

Carless, I make trips to the local zero waste recycling depot and the grocery store. I bag up my old newspapers, empty bottles and flattened cardboard into my collapsible shopping bag on wheels. After I drop off my recyclables, I head to the grocery store to fill it up with items necessary for the next few days.

MindmapsThe recycling center is on a street that doesn’t directly access the street the grocery store. In fact, to get there via the streets, it would mean backtracking back to the main road and then walking one more block and then two blocks up, essentially going around an empty lot that is completely overgrown with trees, shrubs and ferns.

For pedestrians, there is a footpath that cuts through the overgrowth and exits right onto the street of the store. This shortcut had been worn down one trip at a time until it has become a winding track free of debris.  The more it is used, the easier it gets to be used.

This repetition mimics the way our minds work. According to The Ultimate Book of Mind Maps by Tony Buzan, “the more you use your brain to think about something, the easier it is to think about it. This is because the biochemical resistance to that particular thought is reduced. In repeating a thought pattern, you are more clearly defining the map of that thought in your mind.”

As you are making mental connections, you are creating physical connections in your brain. Think “what fires together, wires together.” You are building on ideas, links and the database stored in your head. Think of it as adding a new bridge between two close but unconnected sides of a river.

In short, you are removing the obstacles, the flora and creating a defined trail that speeds up the thought pattern. Buzan goes on to explain that this is how habits, rituals and even learning occurs. What you do, how you do it or the way you go about figuring it out increases the probability that you will do the same the next time.

So, repeating things makes the process easier but over time that becomes ruts, doesn’t it? Yes — and no. Ruts, as defined by a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change. This isn’t an easier way mental connection but rather a default that has started to hinder you or curb creative input.  Not all repetition falls into the ruts category — unless it locks you into a way of thinking or habits that prevent you from feeling creative, learning new things or furthering your personal development.

So, if you feel like your life is coasting on auto-pilot, plodding along with little effort and wearing down the same path day after day, you may need to forge a new path.  One way to snap out of it is to focus on what is you value and what you want from life. Looking to write a new book? Find areas of your day where you could alter your habits and squeeze in 500 words. Want to explore your culinary skills, research new recipes and put your meal idea on your weekly agenda.

Make a new path and avoid life’s little ruts.

Day Mapping: Visualize Your Path for the Day

After reading Roger Siep’s “Train Your Brain for Success”, I have been obsessed with the language our mind understands.  Siep states that our brains are always working — either with or against us.  He believes that our default gear is one that isn’t really helpful and is designed to keep us safe, but not in a position to get out of our current creative ruts.

Siep states that the language of our brain is images. Thus, by making such claims as “I’m not creative” or “I only do websites” — we are creating that image that our brains lock onto and file away as fact and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We, as programmers of our own mind, have the power to produce a positive snapshot that our mind will embrace and will actually push us forward.  By stating a negative, you create that image in your mind and then your life.

As a writer, I put pen to paper for everything. From journals to grocery lists to daily agenda to driving directions, everything gets written down. This is how I function. Or, better stated, this is how I have been functioning.

I haven’t really given into the whole vision board or life mapping trend. Perhaps I didn’t understand it, but what Siep says about how the mind records, remembers and recalls via images has inspired me to step beyond the written word.

At first I was stuck as to “how” to incorporate imagery into my mental processing. Then, I read a chapter by Paige Stapleton from the compilation book “Audacious Creativity” (edited by Stephanie Gunning).  Stapleton explains that the purpose of Life Mapping is “to explore your subconscious to find out what it is that is trying to emerge and become visible in your life.” After it has been created from various images, phrases and words cut from magazines or printed off the Internet, you are supposed to hang the map where it will continue to inspire and motivate you.

But it was her daily practice of creating a mini-Life Map that intrigued me. Every morning, Stapleton cuts out an “inspiring picture and a motivational phrase and paste them in my journal before I begin writing my morning pages.” She uses it as a daily guide to show herself what it is she wants, doesn’t want or is currently seeking in her creative endeavors.

Interesting, I thought to myself. Perhaps instead of scribbling out a daily to-do list with my first cup of coffee — perhaps I should seek inspiration for where I want to go . . . not what needs to be done but what I need to feel creative, inspired, productive.  I need to go beyond the agendas, lists etc and look for something that will motivate me to stretch my creative talents.

So, I think I will give the whole morning map thing ago. If nothing else, it focuses my attention on me and my direction in life — rather than what I have to get done today. Laundry can wait. What can I do today to propel me forward? From quotes to inspiration . . . or even copied text from one of my books onto a Post-It. By searching for something to inspire me — I will find inspiration all around.