That Time I Almost Accidentally Aligned Myself With an Alleged Cult (or Why You Should Let Go of Your Stories and Focus on Your Gut Reactions)
Don’t you just hate it when you apply for what feels like a perfect job then discover the organization’s quite possibly associated with a cult quite possibly associated with a notorious serial killer? Yeah, me too.
In addition to being a life coach, I’m also a writer, and I recently came across a freelance opportunity helping out an animal non-profit. I love writing, I love animals, and ever since I adopted my dog from a dog rescue group, I’ve had a special place in my heart for organizations that save animals.
I did what I thought was due diligence—I researched the organization and discovered that, by all accounts, the non-profit was legit and truly helping out all kinds of animals. The thing is, as soon as I sent them my info, I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Immediately my lizard brain went into thoughts like “I should’ve looked over my stuff one more time.” and “I didn’t show them my full personality.” and “I can’t believe I forgot to mention I had a rescue dog!”
Ultimately, I let it go because I couldn’t change it. I figured if they responded, I could show them more of my personality and get across my love for animals in a stronger way, and that calmed my lizard down without needing to bribe her with peanut butter.
A few days later, they replied back with the pay to see if I was still interested. Now I’d expected a lower amount since it was a non-profit, but the amount they put forth was such a low offer, I really had to think about it. I did a little more digging into the usual pay rate for this kind of situation, one thing led to another, and that’s when I discovered the alleged cult stuff. I took it with a grain of salt because, well, Internet, but I also came across it a few different places so it felt like there could at least be a kernel of truth.
All I could do was laugh at the ridiculousness.
In the research process, I also came across a lot of negative employee reviews of the company, and there were so many, those at least felt totally legit. (Although I do feel compelled to add that even some of the most disgruntled employees mentioned the group really did help a ton of animals, so at least there’s that…) Anyway, the employee reviews combined with the pay combined with the possible cult connection combined with the most important thing of all—my gut reaction—of course led me to tell them I wasn’t interested after all.
I’m sharing this because I’m amused by it, but also because it’s a great example of my inner GPS intervening and my lizard brain immediately jumping into storytelling mode. I had a strong feeling something was off, and I let my brain go to “I did something wrong,” without questioning the thought.
The thing is, sometimes we do get strong feelings about something, but there’s no way to explain it at the moment; not being able to explain it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow what our gut is telling us. Seriously, would your brain have jumped to “It’s a cult associated with Charles Manson!”??
So the next time you get that kind of clear message from your body, check in with it. See if you can get clearer on what it’s telling you. Let go of the stories your lizard brain comes up with to explain it. Ultimately, if it's in any way possible, follow it (or know you'll probably pay the consequences).
And, of course, if it makes sense for the situation, dig a little deeper into those Google results.
Say you’re interacting with a potential business partner and your stomach starts to clench up and feel nauseated. That’s your inner GPS’s way of saying, “Get away from this person as fast as humanly possible. Seriously—RUN!”
Then your thoughts, a.k.a. lizard brain, start in, saying things like, “But it’d be rude to stop this conversation now, plus this person can help me make lots and lots of money, so of course we’ll go into business together despite the fact that every interaction makes me want to barf.”
Tell me, from the outside looking in, which path do you want to follow?
Now, on the other end of the spectrum, say you hear about a free lecture at the local college that’s so up your alley, you feel giddy and almost want to jump up and down with excitement. (If you actually jump, more power to ya!) That’s your inner GPS saying, “GO!! It’s gonna be awesome!”
Of course, it’s immediately countered by your lizard brain, this time with, “But I don’t have the time to do that, and I should really be more productive, so I think I’ll just stay home and knit sweaters for the neighborhood squirrels, even though my arthritis is acting up again.”
Again, from your current perspective, which sounds better to you?
The crazy thing is, even when we get clear signals of which decision to make, so many of us end up following the lizard brain’s advice instead. Much of that comes from living in a culture that puts thinking and doing and sacrificing on a pedestal. And most of us worry about how people will react when we do something different than what’s expected.
But what happens when we do let lizard brain take over? Well, in the first case, ignoring your inner wisdom would get you into a truly miserable situation, and the money you might make probably wouldn’t be worth all the suffering you’d endure. In the second, you’d be missing out on a great opportunity that could be something fun to recharge your batteries—or maybe even be a way to meet a wonderful, brilliant person who later becomes a business partner you not only love working with but who also helps you make all your professional and personal dreams come true beyond your wildest imagination. (You just never know!)
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A big goal in my life is to choose my inner GPS over my lizard brain as much as I possibly can. It’s taken a lot of practice, but I’m getting better and better at it. The biggest change I’ve noticed is that the clearer I get on my right path, the easier it is to let go of worrying what others’ reactions might be; in fact, now it’s kind of fun to tell people what I’m up to and see how they react. (Considering I’ve always run the other way from any kind of conflict, I’ve come a long way, baby!)
Specifically dealing with my lizard brain’s a little trickier, since, well, it’s an instinctive (if overprotective) part of my brain, but I’ve got a lot of tools to deal with that, too. It’s constantly throwing thoughts my way, and I’ve learned to take ‘em all with a grain of salt. If something makes sense and feels okay, I go with it; if it feels oppressive or stressful in any way, I do what I can to let go of the thought so I can follow my heart instead.
Simple in theory, not always so in practice, but that’s part of what I signed up for when I joined this crazy game of life. And yes, sometimes following my inner GPS feels a lot harder than listening to my lizard brain, but I’ve seen over and over again that, in the long run, it’s worth it every time.
If you’re used to listening to your lizard brain, it can sometimes be a tricky transition to plug into your inner GPS instead. If you want some help, email me at email@example.com to set up a free 30-minute consultation. xo, Katie
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist