Remember the video game Frogger?
It was big in the arcades in the early ’80s–around the same time as Pac-Man, Galaga, and Donkey Kong. For those of you who didn’t come of age during the Golden Age of Arcade Video Games (as I did–I was born in 1971)–or to refresh your memory if it’s been awhile since you last operated a joystick, here’s how the game worked:
A frog tries to get home–first by hopping across a busy street, then by crossing a river (by jumping on passing logs or on the backs of passing turtles or crocodiles–as long as it avoids their jaws). The frog “loses a life” (how’s that for a euphemism?) if it gets hit by a vehicle or falls into the river (at which point the game abandons any semblance of verisimilitude, seeing as all the frogs I’ve ever met have been fairly proficient swimmers).
The frog can also die by staying on the same log for too long–while it floats to the edge of the screen. And that’s what I want to focus on in this post. As you’ve probably guessed, however, this post isn’t really about a video game. It’s about our tendency to get stuck by over-identifying with our habitual thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
When we engage in habitual patterns of thought, emotion, or behavior, it’s like sitting on a log floating downstream. The “log” will carry us along with it–usually to a predictable destination.
This can be good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. For instance, if we tend to engage in activities we’re passionate about or think about things we’re grateful for, these habits are likely to carry us to a place we like–a place that makes us feel vibrant, joyful, and alive.
On the other hand, we can also “ride a log” of negative emotions–such as wallowing in self-pity or stewing in anger–which will probably take us somewhere we don’t particularly enjoy.
We’ve all found ourselves in both situations. But the key thing to remember is:
The frog is not the log!
That is to say, we’re not stuck on that “log” of thought or emotion. We don’t have to keep “riding” the same feelings when they don’t feel right–when they don’t serve us by taking us where we want to go.
We can hop right off any time we choose to! We can get on a different log, heading in a different direction, taking us to a different destination!
When we take a step back it seems so obvious, but it’s sometimes hard to separate ourselves from our experiences while we’re in the middle of them–especially if we’re riding a wave (or a “log”) of intense emotions. So, when you find yourself being carried away in a direction you don’t like, remind yourself:
- You’re the frog! You have free will. You control the joystick! Unlike the logs, you’re not just being carried passively downstream, at the mercy of the current.
- Your emotions, thoughts, and actions aren’t YOU–they’re just your experiences, which won’t last forever.
- You CHOOSE your experiences! You can choose to “ride the log” for as long as you’d like, or you can hop off–moving forward, taking a step back, or changing directions altogether.
Sometimes when you’ve been riding a log for so long, you think it’s YOU. You truly start to believe that your job isn’t just something you do–it’s who you are. Or, rather than experiencing some pessimistic thoughts, you start to consider yourself a pessimist. Or you might even believe that you’re not just experiencing anger, but that you’re an angry person.
Maybe you’ve grown comfortable with your log–your identity. Maybe you’ve been riding it for so long that you’ve forgotten that you have options, that you can change your patterns, think different thoughts, feel different emotions.
But you can.
You just have to remember that you can change, and choose to change.
And then, most importantly of all: HOP!
What “logs” have you been riding? Are there any that you’d like to hop off of? Would you be willing to try–to take a “hop of faith”?