The File Clerk In Your Head

(Author's note: this post originally appeared in 2011 on one of my old blogs. I've freshened it up a bit for you today.)

One of the things that really annoys me are those folks that say they want change, but don't take action when answers are provided.

It dawned on me why they don't budge.

Picture a huge file room in your brain. There's a file clerk in there, taking in "evidence" for the various files in the "cabinets."

The file clerk never takes a break. He's contstantly filing away bits of information in the various files.

Let's say, in one cabinet, you have two files, one marked "I can't sing", the other marked "I'm a good singer."

Then let's say you're invited to sing in a local Karaoke contest.

Quickly, you run to the file clerk and say "pull out the files to help me decide what to do!"

The file clerk, never missing a beat, pulls out two files. One is significantly larger than the other. The one that says "I can't sing" weighs 100 pounds, while the other has only a few slips of paper inside.

You politely decline the offer to enter the contest, handing the files back to the clerk.

See, it's not the file clerk's job to judge. He only collects evidence.

Everytime you have an experience, data gets filed away.

Someone tells you you're an amazing singer, a scrap of paper gets filed away.

Someone very important to you says you're an amazing singer, and a BIG piece of paper gits filed away - possible a few pieces of big paper, if you tell other people about it.

Every confirmation is another bit of "evidence" in the file.

Sadly, the opposite is also true.

Someone tells you you're a little "pitchy" on one of your favorite songs, you file that in the "I can't sing" folder.

Someone very important to you says "you could do better" on that same song, and you can quickly see how this can start to overflow the "I can't sing" folder.

The difference between success and failure is often just a little more practice. (Tweet this)

That's why inspiration is so important.

Inspiration allows us, even if only for a few minutes, to superimpose ourselves in that "I can sing" situation. Again, the file clerk doesn't judge, he just tirelessly files away the evidence. With enough positive reinforcement (and sometimes it takes a LOT), eventually we see folks like Susan Boyle finally take the stage. It's also how we end up with really bad auditions for American Idol -  people that are just convinced they're going to Hollywood - when we can all tell they're horrible, rotten singers.

People standing at the threshold need inspiration. They need more confidence and faith in themselves to cross the threshold and begin their heroic journey. Their "I can't do it" files are overwhelming and gigantic, compared to their "I can SO do this!" files.

The more inspiration you get, the more likely you are to take action.

Yes, I'm still learning, just like you.

So if you're afraid to get started, it's really NOT a bunch of bunk to listen to the inspirational stuff - at least for a while.

At some point though, you've got to get moving on your own dreams - or forget about them.

But when you're still scared, listening to the stories of other people that overcame the same (or similar) obstacles you've faced will "grease the wheels" for you, and help you fill that "I can" file folder one "If they can do it, so can I!" at a time.

And until that file folder is bigger than the "I can't" folder, you've just got to keep working on it.

I call this Raising Your Threshold of Belief, and it's a technique I've shared with many of my clients.  Here's the condensed version:

  1. Decide what it is you really want to accomplish (pick one thing with a time frame)
  2. Identify clearly where you're at right now. For example, let's say you want to lose 100 pounds in a year.
  3. Begin to identify the gap between where you are now, and what you want to achieve that feels impossible. In our example, maybe 100 pounds feels incredibly out of reach, but 35 feels very doable. 45, on the other hand, is a real stretch for you right now. So the "gap" between what you believe is possible and what you want to do is the distance from 45 to 100 pounds.
  4. Start looking for ways to close the gap. In this example, it could be taking up a social exercise program, or changing an eating habit. Small, "under-the-radar" changes that don't feel threatening or too far into the gap will help you feel more confident and fill your "I can do this!" file folder in your brain.
  5. Keep adding small, non-threatening evidence to your file folder. Consistency is more important than the size or amount of the progress. Like the tortoise, slow and steady will definitely win this race.

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