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Lizard Brain Fear: A psychological shortcut for overcoming it

Lizard Brain Fear: A psychological shortcut for overcoming it

The term “Lizard Brain” has been thrown around the blogosphere a whole bunch lately thanks to Seth Godin’s phenomenal new book Linchpin.

I first heard the term from international direct response marketing legend John Carlton, who has also been harping on and on about Lizard Brain Fear (and why entrepreneurs must overcome it) for years.

From a psychological point of view, Lizard Brain Fear is a fight or flight reaction sent by the most ancient part of our brain.

The reaction tends to pop up when we attempt to do something extraordinary…. in business or life.

Protection in the jungle:

In an effort to protect us from the dangerous predators of ancient times, the Lizard Brain pumps us full of fear as we attempt to leave our comfort zone. For us entrepreneurs, leaving our comfort zone can (and should) be a daily occurrence!

“Leaving our comfort zone” used to mean leaving the safety of our caves. In a dangerous jungle, Lizard Brain reactions were not just appropriate, but mighty useful.

In the concrete jungle of today, Lizard Brain Fear is seldom warranted or helpful.

Seth Godin’s big message (for Linchpins and entrepreneurs) is to feel the fear and do it anyway.

I want to take things once step further with a practical technique for understanding and overcoming Lizard Brain Fear.

Step 1: Identify what it is, specifically, that scares you

Fear only ever has one meaning; that there is an upcoming situation you need to prepare for in some way. Whether you’re facing a tiger in the jungle, or your first ever sales presentation, this is true.

Identify the message your Lizard Brain is attempting to send you by getting clear on what you’re afraid of.

Step 2: Acknowledge the Lizard Brain’s ultimate intention

Every part of you, Lizard Brain included, is doing the best it can to move you towards you goals. The confusing part is the incongruity of you consciously wanting to take action, be extraordinary and win success… while your Lizard Brain is pulling you towards safety and the security of inaction.

Acknowledge and respect the Lizard Brain’s intention by asking yourself what it’s ultimate purpose could be. You’ll soon figure out that it simply wants you to be safe, so that you can relax, be comfortable and be happy.

Step 3: Reassure your Lizard Brain that your intentions are aligned

Ask yourself why you desire your big goals. It’ll be for success, freedom, wealth and happiness.

The key here is that both you and your Lizard Brain want the same thing (happiness) – you just have different ways of doing it. Reassure that fearful part of you by reminding it of your highest possible intention for yourself (happiness).

How can that old internal conflict exist when both you and your Lizard Brain want the same thing? That’s right….

Step 4: Flip the equation

Ask your lizard brain how it would feel if, in 5, 10 or 20 years you hadn’t progressed towards your big goals. Imagine giving in to your old Lizard Brain fears, permanently, then waking up in 20 years to realise what you’d done.

Turn the fear equation on it’s head by having your Lizard focus on the disastrous consequences of always settling on what is safe.

Have it really feel the fear.

FINAL STEP: Take action

Go do the thing that used to scare you most.

Questions, queries or reports of breakthrough successes? Post a comment below and I’ll help you out implementing this technique!


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  1. Hah! You want me to have a pleasant conversation with my lizard brain and all I want to do is make it shut up! 🙂

    In other words, I’m supposed to scare the hell out of it with worst-case scenarios so that it will give in to the great possibilities ahead. Ok, I like it!

    I’ve been reading Stephen Pressfield’s “War of Art” about Resistance while processing on the lizard brain. One of these days maybe I’ll get them all under control.

    Good stuff and thanks for inviting me over!

  2. Hi Diane,

    Glad you like the concept – I guess the moral of the story here is that not ALL positive thinking is good (negativity sometimes gets you moving much MUCH quicker).

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi Peter! Great site and great blog. I love Step 2, in particular, as I think one of the hardest things to do is understand that ultimately our lizard brain or “gremlin” is trying to protect us. Once we realize this, quieting it and taking action becomes so much easier.
    Best of luck,

  4. Thanks for stopping by Monique,

    Step two is the real breakthrough for resolving internal conflict of any kind. It’s important to remember all these little gremlins mean the best for us!

  5. I used to think that attacking my fears is the only feasible solution. Are you saying that its more like generating a peace treaty? I’m someone who personally suffers from desiring an end result but not knowing exactly how to get there. This produces a fear that prevents me from taking steps towards that end result.

  6. I am very scared looking at a lizard and rats too and I want to get rid of it immediately but it did not happen. I recently saw huge lizard in my room and that night slept in the drawing room. So please help me in getting the fear out

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