These experiments are designed to illuminate the role your mindset plays in decision-making and to create room for you to see more choices that are available to you.
1. Looking at what feels risky (1x this week, should take about 30 minutes).
Part 1: Fears that hold you back
- What were the observable facts (that a video camera could see)?
- Did you miss anything? What information might you not have had?
- Is the language you are using to describe this accurate and fair? Is there other language that would be equally accurate?
- Are there other explanations or other possible interpretations for what happened?
- Are you willing to have your view changed about this?
Think of a time when you wanted to try or do something but didn’t. It could be big or small, like taking a new job that would require moving your family across the country, or like speaking up in a meeting yesterday. Spend ten minutes writing in your journal about the experience and the barriers, fears, or concerns that held you back.
Part 2: What is real?
After you’ve completed Part 1, read back through what you wrote. For each barrier, fear, or concern you identified, ask yourself, was it real? If so, how real? Not whether it felt real at the time, or whether it had a real effect on your behavior, but whether it was objectively 100% real. Was there any other way of looking at the situation? What if the thing you were worried about had happened? Then what? What options would have been available to you to address that? Use the questions below to assist you in thinking through these questions (If a question doesn’t seem to apply to the particular situation you chose to work with, just skip it and move to the next one). Be as honest and reflective as you can about where the ladder of inference might have had a role to play in this situation and try to be creative in how you turn the situation around to see it from as many different angles as possible.
2. Five Deep Breaths (3x/day each day this week, should take about 1 minute each time). Perhaps your biggest ally in countering response mechanisms like the ladder of inference and amygdala hijack is your breath. Yes, of course you are already breathing! But, are you breathing deeply enough to see your way through fear and discomfort? Try out this easy breathing practice. Here’s how: For each of 5 breaths, take 3-5 counts to inhale and 3-5 counts to exhale. That’s it.
As with any habit, mark daily reminders in your calendar to practice Five Deep Breaths (seriously, putting it in your calendar will help even if you think you’ll remember on your own). Do this 3x each day during the time you are working with Lesson 3. If you find this experiment useful, continue your breathing practice for the duration of the CCO and beyond.
How to reverse amygdala hijack:
(a) Do the Five Deep Breaths exercise (instructions above).
(b) Label what you are dealing with and what about it bothers you. Seriously, break it down and do so with specificity even though it feels totally goofy (e.g., label it: “I am feeling irritated because Jerry’s suggestion is getting more traction than mine.” Then label what it is about the situation that bothers you: “I’m not sure but I guess it bothers me because I worry that I look stupid now.”).
(c) Next, imagine the very worst thing that could happen (e.g. “I did look stupid! I knew it.”) Then, ask yourself if the very worst thing actually did happen, how bad would that be? (e.g., “If I looked stupid, that means I’m a normal human being taking risks and trying out new things. I’ve looked smart at other times, too. In front of these same people, even. There are no lions, tigers, or bears here, and chances are, I won’t die. Actually, I’m fine.”)
(d) Extra credit: Note one next step you can take that would be useful e.g., “I can say something smart or at least reasonable now; perhaps I’ll explain the logic I was using or ask a question to draw out the logic of what Jerry is talking about so we can all learn more. Or perhaps I’ll just decide I’m moving on and drop it. Focusing on what everyone else is now talking about and rejoining the conversation as an active participant would be a good idea.”)