I’ve spent the last 3 days at a training session with some of the best facilitators in the country at the best training campus in the southern hemisphere. Now I’m not going to lie - it was an intense few days. My head was so full by the time I got home last night that I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to brush my teeth. But this morning, I was up early and taking action, not that it was easy.
As soon as my alarm went off this morning (it was still dark!) one of my inside voices (we’ll call it Ego) piped up “Just go back to sleep. It’s warm and safe here. You had a big weekend learning lots of things. You can just take today to rest.”
But luckily, another voice which we’ll call Soul chimed in with “But yesterday you were so motivated and excited to share your learnings with those around you.”
“Ha” said Ego, “there’s plenty of time for that”
Then Soul spoke again, but in a much quieter, uncertain tone “But you had a To Do List…”
Then Ego said “But it’s safe here.” And it was those 4 words that made me jump out of bed.
Now there are 2 things I’d like to talk about here. Number 1 is yes, I said ‘voices inside my head’. I have voices inside my head. You have voices inside your head. It’s perfectly normal to have voices inside your head (cue collective sigh of relief). They may not be voices like I’ve just described. They may be feelings, colours, moods, internal dialogue whatever you want to call it. But they are operating inside all of us and it’s OK.
The second thing I’d like to speak about is the relevance of the conversation I had with myself this morning. Firstly we’ll look at Soul.
Soul is the part/voice/feeling that is best reflected in nature. Soul likes to grow and move and change. Simply put, Soul creates.
But Ego does the opposite. Ego likes certainty, it likes to stay the same, to avoid danger and can sometimes be misinterpreted as instinct. You see, Ego is a voice left over from our hunter gatherer ancestors. Ego used to keep us safe in a world where we were hunted and our very lives were threatened daily. Ego was our survival mechanism and it served us well (we’re still here right?!) But in modern day society, the danger of being attacked by a Sabre Toothed Tiger is considerably less! Ego hasn’t worked this out. Ego wants us to stay in the pack, where we are familiar, where there is no perceived danger.
This fundamental principle, very basically described here, is why people fear change. Ego’s voice is louder than Soul’s. Ego can conjure up more powerful feelings. Feelings that sit in the pit of our stomach, paralyse us into staying the same, forbid us to take risks with ‘what ifs’.
“What if you’re not good enough? What if it turns out you don’t belong? What if you’re not loved over there? Best stay here where it’s certain. It might be a depressing place, but at least you know what you’re in for.”
And before you know it Procrastination rocks up to the party. Another day without rewriting your CV. Another day in a job you hate. Another day in a shitty relationship. Another day of ignoring Soul, who’s voice has grown so weak you can barely hear it. All that’s left is Fear. And that’s when you start to say “well this is just the way it is” or “it’s the hand I was dealt” or some other justification for “the way it turned out”.
So how do we change it? Where do we pluck the proverbial microphone from to make Soul’s voice stronger? Simple. Action. Action is the only antidote to fear. This isn’t theory, this is fact.
Imagine a circle. Inside the circle is our comfort zone and Ego LOVES it here. Now imagine the thing that Soul wants you to do (look for a more fulfilling job for example). That thing is outside your comfort zone and so Ego starts chatting away to keep you inside the circle where it’s certain. Let’s say you push that circle out a bit by writing your CV. What once seemed scary and overwhelming wasn’t any of those things once you actually sat down to write it. Now that action of writing your CV is inside the circle. Let’s say the next day, you’re at the edge of your comfort zone again and you meet a recruitment agent. You might be nervous, feeling butterflies in your stomach, thinking of ways to get out of going. That’s Ego again, trying to pull you back into the comfort zone and away from the unknown. Now let’s say you get an interview. What do you think Ego is going to do? Yep, fill you full of fear and start the ‘What If’ game again. And on your first day at your new job? Yep, Ego will do anything to try and keep you in that comfort zone. But the more you do something, the bigger that comfort zone gets.
Think about your first day at your current job. Were you nervous? Of course. A month later, were you still nervous? No, because it became the norm. Your comfort zone expanded, Certainty came along and Ego settled down. But if you’d stayed at home and thought about going to work instead of actually doing it, you’d still be filled with fear of it even now!
The thing to focus on here is Soul. We are part of nature and nature is always changing in order to stay vibrant and alive. Progress in man is not always as automatic. And if you’re not feeding Soul, you’re stagnant, your comfort zone begins to shrink, and life begins to look pretty bleak. Nature or Soul wants us to be green and growing but Ego wants us to stay ripe which eventually leads to rotting.
So that’s why I jumped out of bed so early this morning. Because when Ego told me I was safe lying in bed, I chose to do the things that are outside of my comfort zone. Yes, they can seem scary. But they are the things that keep me growing, vibrant and alive. And when they stop being scary, I know it’s time to push the boundaries of my comfort zone again. Ego is just going to have to get over it!