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Slowly Boiled Frogs

Updated: Jan 21, 2023

Have you ever heard of the expression, "to boil a frog slowly"? Until recently, I hadn't.

It's an odd expression, and for someone like me (I quite like frogs), it's actually a pretty horrible expression.

But, the conversations in which it arose, got me thinking.

The first conversation was with someone who had moved to Australia from South Africa, who was describing how a regime can take hold in an insidious way. The politicians in charge get people doing something, "for the good of the community"; and before anyone realises, they've all lost their civil liberties.

Now, don't get me started on civil liberties!

Please just know, that I believe we should find a good balance, so that we all have a right to choose what happens to ourselves and our families, but that the good of our community is also protected. Vulnerable people need someone like you and me to be their advocates, but we need to be very well informed, before we go doing something we'll regret later.

So the moral of the story, from my first encounter with this awkward expression, was to be aware of what could happen when you say "yes" to something or someone.

There's another way of interpreting that, and that is to learn how to say "no" in respectful ways. And by "respectful", I mean to have self-respect as well as respect for the other person.

There's an art in being able to say, "no".

The second conversation in which this expression arose, was completely different. I met someone who had just hurt his arm, and a big green tree frog had been noisily keeping him awake. He could catch the frog, but needed two hands to relocate it.

Enter me, surprised and excited to be asked to help! I normally see little tiny frogs ... 🐸 ... if I'm lucky.

The man caught it and gently placed it in my left hand, and I carefully placed my right hand over its back. The man's little girl asked to pat it, and she was so tender, that I almost cried.

I was pretty excited!

After we walked across the road to some scrub near a creek, we gave it a final pat and farewelled it until we lost sight of it. I mentioned the expression, and this man had a totally different way of putting it.

Same expression, different context.

This man had memories of helping his grandfather drove cattle, when he was a young boy. Grandfather would wake the boy at about 4.30am, and they'd head out into the darkness among the cattle.

They'd make a fire, and Grandfather would boil water to make tea. They'd drink their tea, and the sun would rise, softly warming them, inside out and outside in. Any talk would be quiet.

Eventually, they'd get on their motorbikes, and start herding the cattle.

At one time, the boy (now a teenager) asked why they couldn't just get up later and start herding the cattle then. He was told, "you've got to boil the frog slowly" ...

He kept asking, and so the Grandfather relented. The boy got on his bike and tried to move a cow. Nothing. She ignored him.

The moral of that story, was that sometimes we need to get used to a condition before we're comfortable with it.

For example, advertising tends to work better when we're familiar with it. There are fast food ads which use a very recognisable song, and that forms an association in our brains (speeding up the processes of habituation and familiarisation). Whenever we hear that song, or even another song by the same artist/band, we think of the fast food provider. We'll develop a craving for a snack that they provide, and we'll drive through and buy it. Even if we're not hungry.

Now, I avoid that fast food provider, but the ad does work on my brain! It's insidious!

But there's another way of interpreting the moral of the second story.

We can use this knowledge about patience, timing, and familiarity, to change something we want to change!

Take, for instance, the desire to lose weight. More specifically, you want to stop eating all the biscuits after you've opened a packet. Look at the packet, like it's full of little green tree frogs ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ...

Remember that change happens slowly, with repeated attempts. Just slowly change one tiny thing each time you make an attempt.

So, let's say there are 9 Tim Tams in a packet, and you can't help but to eat all of them in one sitting.

Today, before you start eating them all like usual, put an alarm in your phone for 5 minutes after you start.

Tomorrow, see how many biscuits you can save after the alarm goes off, and compete with your best saving each time.

Start to note how long you last between eating the last and next biscuit, and extend that time.

Interrupt your biscuit eating with something that doesn't go with biscuits (like celery, or a tin of tuna, or soda water). Kill the taste of sweetness.

They're just a few ideas. Why not think up your own list of ideas, that will help you to make a change? Give them all a go, one at a time. Be patient and persistent.

... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ... 🐸 ...

And remember, to visualise all those lovely little frogs jumping all over the place, and how you don't want to boil them at all, let alone, "slowly"!

Please feel free to book a coaching session - coaching is best over the phone, and at regular intervals (weekly, fortnightly, monthly - whatever works for you). We work on whatever is on your "to-do list", so you choose.

If you're feeling rudderless, and need some clarity about your sense of direction and purpose, why not start with a strategy session?


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