Soothing your “Inner Lizard” (hat tip to Martha Beck)

I was driving in to the city recently and listening to Steering By Starlight a book on tape when the narrator (author Martha Beck) said something so meaningful to me that I had to pull over and write it down.

She was talking about her “Inner Lizard” – also known as our reptile or fear brain. The “Inner Lizard’s” job is to broadcast survival fears. We as primitive man had to deal with the possibility of being eaten by tigers or gored by rhinos. Life was dangerous in a very real way. Now, our Inner Lizard projects survival fears and our brains make stuff up…because there’s little chance of being eaten by tigers or gored by rhinos in everyday life, right?

Anywhoooo….when Martha Beck’s “Inner Lizard” really gets going, often she’ll try to distract herself by doing something, anything, to try and get her mind to stop the worrying loop of fear. Specifically, the author said, “…I was cleaning my office, calming myself by putting disordered things in order…”

I felt like I’d been struck by lightning. Seriously. I had an “ah-ha” moment right there in the car. And a conversation I’d had almost 10 years ago flashed into my brain. A facilitator at a weekend retreat had asked me, “Angie, what if you’re actually a wildly creative person who learned how to be organized in order to cope with life?”

And here’s the God’s honest truth…ready?

Since I was a little girl, I have used the act of organizing things to soothe myself. To bring order to my environment. It’s MY way of self-medicating.

See, I’m a Navy brat. I’ve moved dozens of times since I was six months old. Up until high school, I had very little stability in my outside life, though my family and “stuff” were loving and comfortable.

I’m realizing – and my transition in business is playing this out – that while I’m great at organizing stuff – it isn’t my total thing. It isn’t my genius work. It’s my coping mechanism!

Now, it does serve my clients, because when we can get their office, calendar, and email under control, they FEEL better.

It doesn’t solve the deeper issues, though. It doesn’t answer the soul questions – and that’s what I’m after now. The soul work. The root causes. And as my client said today, “Angie, you go after the heart of the matter right away.”

Gentle reader, are you using “getting organized” as an excuse to self-soothe, too? Do you think about getting organized, or actually start to organize part of your life, as a way to avoid thinking about something else? In order to not think about a big scary project, or how much you detest your busy schedule, or how exhausted you are from the pace you’ve set for yourself?

Sure, being able to see the top of your desk will be awesome for a little while. But when the uncomfortable feelings around work or life creep back, so will the papers…

And yet, there’s still value in getting organized. There’s value in simplifying.

Make Some Room,


P.S. Can I share my favorite thing that I used to organize when I was a kid? My grandpa made me a five story Barbie house, complete with garage, elevator (with a pull string) and a rooftop patio. I had gobs of furniture and used to make decorations for each floor. Every few weeks, I’d pull everything out of the house, create new decorations, and put the house the back together. I LOVED the finished product, where everything was in place. Disorder to order – even at eight years old!

Your secret life

Last night, I watched a pretty great film called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The lead actor and director is Ben Stiller. I’m normally not a fan of his movies, but this one blew my socks off!

The premise of the movie is about Walter: steady, average, boring Walter who manages the negatives (photography negatives) at the Life Magazine company. He’s been at the job for 16 years and he’s exceptionally good at it (in the most mundane, steady way).

And yet…

There’s a side to Walter that only he knows about. He has a secret superpower – his imagination!

His family knows he “checks out.” His coworkers ask, “Where did you just go?” when he zones out into his imagination. He is teased by coworkers and bosses because of it.

A few events in the movie lead Walter to a message: “Look inside.”

He sees this as his opportunity to bust out of his “average, steady, mundane” life and go searching for the extraordinary.

The movie is a glorious example of what happens when people embrace their secret superpowers and put them into action!

In one scene, someone who only knows Walter through a series of telephone customer service conversations meets Walter in person after his adventures. This guy shares a Cinnabon with Walter at the airport and says, “I pictured you as this little gray piece of paper, but now I see you and it’s like Indiana Jones decided to become the lead singer of The Strokes or something.”

BAM! How’s that for a dramatic change?

So that leads me to wonder, gentle reader, do YOU have a secret superpower you’re not fully using? Where are you living life as a little gray piece of paper rather than as proud, out loud, and with adventure?

The gray piece of paper life looks like this:

  • Working: 9 -5 (or 24/7/365)
  • Last vacation: YEARS ago!
  • Routine: pretty much the same every day
  • Energy level: somewhere around your socks
  • Enthusiasm: see above
  • Learning: stagnant
  • Reading: who has time for that?
  • Coping mechanisms: alcohol, chocolate, food (not necessarily in that order)
  • Laughter: quietly contained or non-existent
  • Hugging trees, singing to flowers: are you freaking kidding me?
  • TV: on, all the time

I have to stop making this list because my vision is going all grey.

I implore you: choose a new color, a new attitude, a new lease on life! Release your secret superpower! Fly your freak flag! Get excited!!!!!

Right now, this very minute, write down the thing you daydream about. The thing you doodle in the margins during meetings. The thing you google just to feel a connection.

Whatever it is, write it down. Yes, right now.

Next, write down the very first thing that comes to mind about how you can be, do, or have that thing.

No censoring. Just write it down.Yes, right now.

Finally – go and do it. I’m serious. Quit being a little grey piece of paper and go live your one glorious, amazing, colorful life! Do the thing you’re meant to do! Today, now, right this minute.

Make Some Room,


P.S. If you want to share it with me, I’d love to read it!

Working hard vs. hardly working

In the last couple weeks, I’ve talked to a number of people about working hard vs. hardly working.  Mostly it’s been men (probably because men make up about 75 percent of my client list). We’ve been talking about their dads and how they learned hard work was good work, respectable work, the “right” kind of work.”

And while that advice isn’t bad or wrong, I think we’ve taken it to an unhealthy extreme in our modern world.

On my reading list is Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive. I’ve read a number of blog posts about it and one quote keeps popping up:

“There is a stubborn and dangerously wrongheaded myth that there is a trade-off between high performance at work and taking care of ourselves.”

Here’s the thing: after working with hundreds of business owners over the last 11+ years, I wholeheartedly agree with her.

It’s why I’m so passionate about what I’m creating with my Make Some Room Rendezvous, Retreat, and Revolution.

I still believe that hard work is good work. I also believe that making time to rest and recharge, that taking care of ourselves, is vitally important for each and every one of us.

And why I believe that making time to take care of ourselves doesn’t have to negatively affect our performance at work. In fact, taking care of ourselves supports our high performance at work!

See, 100 years ago, we were more in touch with nature and her rhythms. We got up with the sun and “hit the hay” early. With minimal artificial lighting, it was hard to do much “productive” work after the sun went down.

And 100 years ago, we didn’t have artificially controlled environments. Without A/C and central heat, life was…ummmm…less comfortable.

Our modern conveniences have us locked into houses, cars, and work spaces buildings which are comfortable 24/7. Our lights works 24/7. And sometimes, this encourages us to stay connected and work 24/7.

Let me be clear: I do not want to get rid of central heat/air or electricity. Or my car (although I would consider trading it for an electric bike) or my stove or my indoor plumbing. I LOVE THEM. (Although you know me and sometimes I’m very content living without them.)

What I do want to do is help you restore some balance to your work/life.

I do want you to #UNPLUG and reclaim your nights and weekends for play, rest and relationships. I do want you to make some room in your schedule to be creative and use your imagination. I do want you to work sane hours on the right work that makes you feel ALIVE.

Not working is not the opposite of hard work. There is a balance to be found.

If you’re not sure where to begin, I can help.

Make Some Room,


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