APRIL 2015

IF YOU TAKE THE BAIT – GET OFF THE HOOK!

Immersed in the watery abyss of the Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica, I finned like a torpedo away from the reef at a depth of 30 mt/99 ft until the lactic acid burning in my thighs brought me to a halt. Exhausted from the effort exerted, I gulped down air from my regulator as I stared back at the vertical wall created by the under-water cliffs in the distance.

I enjoyed the ritual of racing away from the reef before ending a dive. Viewing steep underwater cliffs from afar provided a different perspective even if, the absence of nearby land often spooked me because I felt exposed to predators in open water.

Before starting my ascent, I took one last 360-degree look around. Suddenly I stopped at the sight of a stainless steel cable crossing the water at eye level 9 mt/30 ft away. Alarmed by the possibility of danger, I felt a chill race up my spine. This line was neither an electrical nor water cable, which are usually laid on the ocean floor. I stared at the mysterious metal line that disappeared into the open sea. How was it even possible for a cable to be in full tension at such depth?

Cautiously, I followed the lead. Why couldn’t the Pacific have better visibility? I wishfully thought. I glanced behind me but the reef was out of sight; I was now officially in open water. I steadily finned until, out of the blue, I discovered what was on the other end: a tiger shark hooked on the line stubbornly was resisting it with all its might. It didn’t seem to realize that to free itself, all it had to do was reversedirection (in which case I would have gone to heaven!).

How often are you lured by bait? only to find that biting the hook results in your losing your direction, control and freedom For example, your bait might be:

  • Unrealistic expectations that lead you to be unkind to yourself when progress toward your goals is slower than expected;
  • Others perspectives or mis-information that you buy into, only to lose your mojo;
  • A self-limiting belief that whispers game over that you allow to seal your fate when you come up against a wall or dead end for the nth time.

Fish can’t resist bait, people can

Because fish act instinctively when they are hungry or distracted, or they see a bright, shiny object, they can’t resist bait. Human beings, on the other hand, can temper a similar instinct by thinking through the situation and making a deliberate choice. Unlike fish, we have control over whether or not we take the bait.

Likewise, just because you bite the hook doesn’t mean you have to swallow it. You can choose to spit it out or dislodge it carefully to minimize the damage.

If you take the bait and bite the hook, don’t hold onto it

No doubt, taking the bait can be problematic. However, remaining on the hook compounds the error. Whereas a fish can only pull back or thrash about wildly trying to get free, humans can identify and evaluate our options to get off with a minimal amount of fighting. While the bait may feel good and temporarily assuage the pain e.g., hunger or desperation – the reality is that the hook is sharp and can kill you if it’s not removed carefully.

When you take the bait and bite the hook, neither you nor your business can afford to remain on the line. Consider these preventive and contingent measures for avoiding and/or getting off the hook.

Preventive: Don’t take the bait! The turbid waters that result from choppy seas reduce visibility, so take reason-based action to ensure clarity of your goal and the path forward. Make proactive, mindful choices about what you feed your mind. Practice focus, faith and forging ahead. Don’t substitute others momentarily attractive bait for your own desired outcome.

Contingent: If you have taken the bait, first stay calm. Resist the urge that triggers your habitual tendency to panic, shut down or surrender (i.e., messages from your survival or lizard brain). Instead, engage the thinking and emotional parts of your brain to produce a roadmap to your desired destination using this CAB application:

Cognitive. Beliefs form behaviors. What are your perceptions, thoughts, or beliefs related to the situation at hand? List them, then reverse or flip them. For example, perhaps you’re buying into your children’s negative perspective about your parenting with thoughts and beliefs like Why don’t I have a better relationship with my kids? I must be a terrible parent. Flip it like this: I’m a devoted, lifelong learner and parent. My relationship with my kids is constantly evolving and growing. Do you prefer to think the worst, or the best? It’s your choice.

Affective. Feelings are fuel for goal accomplishment. What emotion describes the way you feel when you get hooked? Identify and replace that undesirable emotion with the desired one. Even when it seems or feels like we’re stuck, we still get to choose how we experience any given situation. Do your teen triplets make you feel resigned? I’d prefer to feel confident that I can and will make a difference.

Behavioral. Action is king. What specific steps will restore your sense of control, freedom and safety? Determine the most effective course of action that will result in the outcome and way you want to think and feel. Then take it.

Bait is tempting, and it hides the hook on which it rests. Whether you bite out of figurative hunger or fear or inexperience or a mistaken belief about the outcome, you still have the option to take action to correct your error.

Our thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to action. Unlike fish, humans have the capacity to recognize the situation, re-frame it, and take action to change the outcome. It’s never too late to control your fate. Don’t get hooked on someone else’s line. If you take the bait get off the hook!

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