The picture below shows you how in general we live life and run a business. It’s linked to a part of the brain called the reptilian brain whose entire purpose is to keep you safe.
As an example, if you went shopping for stationary and when you got into town, there were 2 or 3 drunken blokes with broken beer bottles inside the stationers, who started to threaten you…you’d turn around and high tail out of there as quickly as possible. (Unless you were a superhero of course.)
The reptilian brain takes over and makes sure you’ve got enough adrenaline pumping through your body to make you shift faster than you would normally move. As you sprint past those post-it notes you really wanted, the reptilian brain makes sure you don’t stop and admire the pretty colours but gets you to safety instead.
Now, this is an extreme reaction; a fight or flight reaction if you will. Most of the time the reptilian brain keeps you safe in the widest possible terms. It equates the word ‘safe’ with habits, routines and behaviours. An example would be looking before you step into the road because you know if you get hit by a car…it bloody well hurts.
So this part of the brain formulates behaviour and in turn how things are done. Some people go to the bathroom before they have breakfast, some go after breakfast. Some people always listen to the same radio station on their drive to work every day. Some wake up at exactly the same time in the morning whether they are at work or not.
So imagine this in terms of a business. How many safe behaviours do business owners consistently perform, which means that very little changes or moves forward?
Take an elephant for example. A circus owner realised that his main attraction was the elephant they named ‘Rocky’. As people came to the circus, they fed Rocky because he was by the entrance to the circus tent. He was tethered near the entrance by a piece of rope around his back leg and a stake hammered into the ground.
Here’s the thing. If you think about that scenario logically, it’s a little mad. Think of the size of a fully grown male elephant. Then think about a rope. Then think about the size of a stake.
Rocky could make a run for it at any time. Rocky with his size and weight could easily pull the stake out of the ground and run into the next town or village and cause absolute chaos. Imagine if the stake is only ‘pushed’ into the ground because the ground is soft and wet. Why doesn’t the elephant make a dash for freedom?
Simple. The elephant's belief system is stopping it. The rope and stake are really just symbols. The elephant is comfortable. It wouldn’t run because it doesn’t think it will escape. He’s been tethered since an early age. Every time he tried, it hurt. Plus he then gets watered and fed whilst being tethered outside the entrance of the circus. So in his own mind, he’s comfortable.
It’s a form of ‘learned helplessness’ as described by Martin Seligman (2003).
Isn’t that what happens to business owners? Are you that elephant in your own room that has just been ‘comfortable’?
Here’s the thing…it’s completely undoable. You’re lucky. Hope is not lost.
Ask yourself these three questions…
True or False – “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results.”
What three things do you need to start doing (or doing something more)? What would be the benefits to you and those around you?
What three things do you need to stop doing (or do less of)? What would be the benefits to you and those around you?
This story is a good example of how you can change things if you want to. If you moved the elephant or moved him or didn’t feed him, what reaction would eventually happen? You’ve got it…given time he would learn to adapt. The deep-rooted behaviours would begin to change and eventually a new one would happen, for better or worse.
So imagine if you began to change the poor behaviours in your business today…what could you really achieve by making a start right now? How much better could things be?
There’s only one way to find out…