I was reading a fantastic book today, "Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment" by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott. The book is brilliant and I recommend all writers get yourself a copy to read cover to cover and keep on your writer's shelf at home.
Anyway, one section really caught my eye and sparked my interest. It made me want to start asking everyone, "What Animal Are You?" The section describes a technique Lynn Lott uses on her psychology clients which she calls top cards. She believes there are four categories and each generates a different behavioral response in a crisis.
Firstly, pick a box, which of these would you most like to avoid?
1. Stress and Pain
2. Criticism and Ridicule
3. Rejection and Hassles
4. Meaningless and Unimportance
Don't skip ahead!
Go with your first instinct but make sure you've made a choice before you read on.
1. Turtle - Comfort
When faced with a challenge (fear) a turtle reacts instinctively with one of two reactions. You'll either retreat into the safety of your shell or snap at anyone who tries to help. A turtle will do whatever it takes to find the greatest comfort, even if that means dealing with an extended degree of discomfort and pushing out their boundaries to reach it.
"Real-life turtles say that when they feel stressed, they eat or procrastinate and wish others would simply empathize with them."
If you're a turtle, you probably won't 'let go' unless you get so uncomfortable with the status quo that you have to change something. The most important thing for a turtle to remember is to take everything in small steps or small bites. Things can seem large and overwhelming to a turtle and it is much easier to face challenges in bits and pieces.
Turtles should also find people in their lives who can be empathetic but who don't feel the need to 'fix things' or offer advice. "Turtles need cheerleaders, not advice columnists." A turtle can truly appreciate the sort of friend who will encourage you every step of the way or hold you back if you're going into dangerous grounds. If you are a turtle you should confide in a trusted friend who can be that cheerleader. Tell that person everything, completely come out of your shell and reveal yourself to them and ask that they simply listen and allow you to feel.
2. Eagle - Control
An eagle's automatic response to adversity is to fight. Eagles make a lot of noise and become very agitated. An often feels like they need permission to act or feel the way they do. An eagle is a fixer - of other people's problems. When it comes to managing crisis or solving their own problems they can become held up by their need to have all the answers. They feel like they must have every step, every risk, every angle covered. Eagles can work on multiple projects and in any environment.
"Real-life eagles said that when they are stressed, they organize, shut down, work frantically, argue and explain, and get defensive. What they are wishing for in that moment is acceptance and understanding.
Some eagles find it easier to 'let go' if they have a friend who gives them permission to do so. The kind of friend who can tell you it's ok to follow your dreams and to take chances or to show you the other choices you mightn't have seen in your blinded sight of the goal. Eagles tend to find being an employee or a contract writer works best for them. Having a 'boss' to keep them in line with deadlines, pointing them in the right direction, giving approval for the go-ahead at each step and who ultimately takes the responsibility for what is accomplished is ideal for them.
An eagle can gain a great sense of empowerment by writing whatever they feel like writing whenever they feel like writing it. Try freewriting' or writing out of order. Write fast and don't allow yourself to censor or edit along the way. You might also find it helps to talk to someone in your life you feel has the authority to guide you. Ask their permission to want what you want. Eagles should also remember not to take criticism personally. It is a part of being a writer and every remark is another achievement. Wear it with pride.
3. Chameleon - Pleasing
Chameleons survive by disappearing, by becoming one with their environment, blending in, keeping quiet, and basically just stay out of the way where they can't bother anyone. Chameleon's often feel the need to be accepted and supported. They'll seek out the approval, confirmation and support of family and friends. Chameleons are plagued by self-doubt. They might feel talented, creative and clever but they're never quite sure if they really are. These writers also tend to adapt to their surroundings and the people around them. They'll pick up the habits of the people they work with and mirror them. A chameleon often finds they can't say no, their instinct is to please others.
"Real-life chameleons aren't really sure what they do, but they know how they feel when stressed - overwhelmed, guilty, defeated, compromised, and anxious. They are hoping that someone will understand what they are going through, put it in perspective, and say, "I wish I were just like you.""
A chameleon needs a sense of approval so they can feel secure enough to 'let go'. They need to know that whichever step they take they'll be loved. They need to know that they are doing the right thing. A chameleon also finds it easiest to focus on their work in their own environment. They need to feel like they can blend in. To gain strength a chameleon can find it empowering to ask someone they admire to reassure them they are on the right path. Ask for acceptance. Ask for approval.
The best way for a chameleon to break into that sense of 'letting go' is to break out of their camouflage. Be noticed, voice your opinion and realize that what you think is important, what you want matters and you have the right to go for it. Chameleons should remember to persevere, keep trying, and then try again, and again. Remember that your chameleon self has an inner core that can rebuild after any downfall. Don't be afraid to take those chances. Finally, learn to say NO! to others and YES! to yourself. You're not responsible for the happiness of everyone around you.
4. Lion - Superiority
When threatened a lion 'may hide out in his cave doing absolutely nothing or go on the attack'. A lion personality gets aggressive and dominating. I lion will believe that everything they do is important and vital. Every step they take has the power to change the world (at least it 'should'). Lions tend to find they work best if everything is organized and neat, or everything is a mess of clutter and chaos. A lion often feels there is only one right way to do things. They are often perfectionists and care a great deal about how others see them. Lions find themselves roaring loudly but doing little.
"Real-life lions say that when they are stressed, they cry, scream, complain, criticize, catastrophize, and blame. What they need is for you to submit or understand or appreciate them or nourish and cheer them on."
A lion often finds that being over shone or challenged is a great way to give them the freedom to 'let go'. If someone appears better, faster or more talented then they are they'll jump into the race to catch up and surpass their competition. They like to meet challenges and are inspired by having a bar set for them that reaches beyond what others have already accomplished. Lions want to be the best and to leave a lasting impression that glorifies their name.
To 'let go' a lion needs to give up the idea of perfection. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and acknowledge that you can only ever give the best you can give at any given moment. Concentrate on the enough; enough meaning, enough significance, enough power, enough emotion, enough. A lion should also remember it's important to verify all the facts. Allow yourself to learn from others and to know you don't always have the answers. Put aside your pride and don't be afraid to ask for help.
Does your number/animal sound like you?
Which animal are you most like?
Do you resonate with these concepts?
Does it make you see yourself differently and give you any ideas on how to face your own challenges?
What do you think?
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