I started reading Lean In. I’m only 20 percent through the book and I already know it’s going to change my life. Sheryl Sandberg’s words are calling me to action. (I feel like I have a giant neon arrow pointing at my head. Like she’s a good friend, poking me in the ribs saying “Hey, Laura, this is you”.)
The Universe it throwing all sorts of hints my way that it’s time to lean in and change how I think and present myself to the world. It’s time to be brave.
I want things. We all want things. My problem is that I usually go after the things I think I should want, rather than the things I really want or even like.
I took a class in ancient Greek in University because I wanted to see myself in a certain way. Seriously. Ancient Greek. I hated every minute of it. It was a bad case of miswanting.
The same semester that I took ancient Greek I put off joining the school choir or taking a drama class (even though I peered into the lobby of the school theatre with longing every time I walked by) because I’d convinced myself that wasn’t the type of person I was meant to be.
I even convinced myself to give up writing in my teens because doing something I loved wasn’t practical. It took me years to build up the courage to try again and re-discover my love of storytelling.
So if I can’t trust myself to want the things I’ll like what can I do? Simon Sinik gave an amazing TED Talk about leadership that introduced me the solution. Lead with the limbic brain.
Simon described the limbic brain in a way I’d never understood before, he called it the decision making centre, the gut instinct section of the brain that inspires. The less flattering version was the lizard brain. (He was talking from a standpoint of inspiring others as a leader but I saw it as more. Why not inspire myself?)
I think I’ve been ignoring my limbic brain for my entire life. Ignoring those little bursts of excitement when I hear about a new job, hobby, person or thing that interest me. I let the rest of my brain overpower the limbic lizard’s message that I’ve just encountered something worth exploring.
I let the rest of my mind, the part that is polluted by years of cultural training and self doubt take over.
“You don’t really want that. It’s not the safe choice. What would people think? Bad, limbic lizard, bad.”
So, rather than thanking evolution for the hint to follow a new path, taking a risk and exposing myself to something new, I let my non-lizard brain tell me what I should be excited about.
That pattern led me to abandon writing in high school and take ancient Greek in University, two incredibly poor choices.
The pattern led me to accept mistreatment at work (past jobs) because standing up to the authority wouldn’t be taken well.
And the pattern continually leads me to say yes to commitments and projects I know I won’t enjoy simply because others are enthusiastic about them.
Time for a new commitment to me:
- I will pursue projects that excite lizard me.
- I will take risks and have the hard conversations when I’m not happy.
- I will accept praise. Full stop.
When I slip I’ll try again.
When I stop enjoying something that isn’t critical to my life I’ll take a break without guilt.
I’m not going to change who I am, just how honest I am with myself. I want to see me be brave. This is me. See me write.
There are consequences to every action and I’m grateful for that. In fact I wish more people were aware of consequences. (I’m talking to you silver pickup that cut me off today.)
- If you yell at your boss, you can expect to be fired or at the least disciplined.
- If you’re rude, people won’t want to be around you.
- If you cut me off I will honk repeatedly, gesture and … ok, bad example, he totally got away with it.
Most of the time when you act poorly towards someone else the consequences are clear, but what if the consequences for behaving poorly towards yourself were clear?
Sure, not exercising will make you unhealthy, but that’s the easy one. What if every time you put yourself down or thought something negative about yourself there was someone in a chocolate brown smart car behind you honking and gesturing rudely?