Snakes are adept at avoiding and getting out of tight places. You think you've got them cornered, and suddenly they disappear down a hole that you didn't realize they could fit through. You plug up that hole and they manage to slip past your feet and get out the door. You close the door, certain you've got them this time, and they slip under the crack.
The thing is that you don't realize these are actually places the snake could have gone until after it's gone there. They sit in your blindspots. You're simply unaware that these are places a snake could get to until you're confronted with that fact by the snake slipping through them.
Worse yet, if you're not actively trying to catch a snake, you won't become aware of these blindspots. You'll catch fleeting glimpses of the snake, but it'll disappear and you'll go back to focusing on what you're doing.
Here's the thing: your survival mechanism is a snake.
I've talked in the past about survival mechanisms; the automatic things you do that allow you to escape being confronted and scared. Here's another way to think of them: survival mechanisms are the things that you will predictably do to weasel your way out of any declaration you make.
Generate a little insight for yourself. It's January 1st and you've made a New Year's resolution. How will this predictably go? What will you let get in the way of that resolution? If you devote some thought to it, I know you can come up with a few things. These things are your survival mechanism's loopholes.
[Tweet "Here's the thing: your survival mechanism is a snake."]
Typically, we're not very intentional about confronting the snake. We say "Boy, I'd sure like a new job", and then we make a half-assed attempt to look for jobs before deciding that we'll check tomorrow, since there's a new episode of House of Cards tonight.
The snake slips through the blindspot, and we don't even see it, because we're not looking within to see what was missing in our effort. We simply let ourselves off the hook.
Every time you want to take something on that is outside of your comfort zone, you're trying to corner that snake.
I often want to create more connection with people that really should be working with me. High-powered, busy lawyers, should really be working with me. And, as a result, I should really be talking to them.
Let's say we put me in a room with some of these lawyers, and there's an opportunity to mingle. What I know is true, is that I'll find a reason to hang out and chat with the people I'm more comfortable with. If my coach asks me how it went, I'll say "Yah, it was good, lots of fun. I didn't meet any top-tier lawyers, but I definitely met some good associates".
Boom, the snake just got away.
Great, so now we've got an idea of what that blindspot looks like. So, I look with my coach, and this time, we create a rule - no talking to anyone that is around my age (this is an arbitrary practice, but let's assume that older lawyers are more likely to be partners at their firm, and therefore, more likely high-powered).
Next week, I come back and tell my coach that I went to another mixer, but this time I just didn't end up meeting those people again. ("How bizarre!") Turns out, this time I just never found those people alone. They were always hanging out in groups of people. With a little probing, my coach uncovers that I also kept checking my phone, and strangely enough, it was often whenever those people I wanted to talk to were most available.
You get the idea. Whenever you try to take on something your survival mechanism is going to find the loophole that lets you out of it.
Worst still, just like me, you won't notice it's a loophole, because it's in your blindspot. Without a coach, you won't actually stop and question yourself why you didn't keep asking once your direct boss told you no. If you really want to achieve the impossible, you need to shore up all of the holes. All of the places that you survival mechanism can use to get you out of being confronted.
Left to my own devices, I'll blissfully continue to talk to the people I'm already comfortable with, build a pretty decent practice, and never achieve the breakthrough result that I want (don't worry, my results will still be great, they just won't be a true reflection of my highest self).
So look, it's simple. If you want to catch a snake, you have to cover off all the avenues of escape. And the same goes for your survival mechanism.
* Credit to the original snake metaphor goes to Christopher McAuliffe of Accomplishment Coaching.
What avenues of escape do you know you leave yourself? Where is your willpower most likely to fail you, and how do you keep that loophole open and available?
By the way, if you're reading these posts and we haven't had a complimentary coaching session together, that's weird. These posts are all about getting out beyond merely having interesting insight and actually generating results. Start walking the walk and make a request for a session here.