The Alligator Closest to Your Boat

Since last week’s posting, I have received a few comments requesting real-life examples of how to actually step off the rug.  “It’s a great theory, but how do I do it?” was the resounding question.  I’m here to say that there is no one method to getting off the rug entirely in one step; however, there is a way to look at your situation that will help you take that first step off whatever rug you’re standing on and begin to regain control over your own life and future.  And it all comes down to one question:

What is the alligator closest to your boat?  

Is it a family situation? Is it work?  Is it financial? Is it health?  If you think about all the factors that are influencing your life on a daily basis, and giving you the feeling that the rug is being pulled out from under you – what is the one that is the most pressing, most immediate?  This is how you go about taking that first step off the rug.  Here’s an example of how this works: 

Alex has been feeling overwhelmed and stressed, because work isn’t what she wants it to be, her financial situation isn’t stable, she isn’t able to work out regularly, and in her personal life she feels she is surrounded by people who love her, but criticize her.  So – what’s the alligator closest to the boat?  For Alex, it’s her health.  For someone else it might be the money, the job, or the friends/family.  The same approach applies, regardless. 

By addressing the most pressing need and concern we are able to diffuse the situation enough to find the space and time to actually look into the water and assess where the other alligators are swimming.  Some might not even be in the water – some might not even exist at all, other than in our minds.  But the one that’s closest to the boat – that threatens our wellness the most – is tangible.  Therefore, it’s the one we address on the first step towards wellness and getting off the rug.

For Alex, it is a matter of making herself a priority and carving out time in her week to get to the gym, or simply get outside for a brisk walk.  Once she makes a commitment to herself in this manner, the follow-up becomes the alligator.  That is to say: How she perceives her fulfillment of this commitment can either be reinforcing or undoing.  If she is only able to get to the gym twice in a week, but promised herself she would go four times – she has a choice: 1) pat herself on the back for going twice (which is more than she was doing), or 2) berate herself for not upholding her commitment.  How she decides to feel about the results of her commitment will propel her forward into greater balance and wellness, or send her back into her spiral of feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  And yes, it is a choice.  It’s not always easy – but it is still a choice.

Furthermore, she wants to make healthier decisions on what she’s eating throughout the day.  Because she’s stressed (and tends to be an emotional eater), she hasn’t made the healthiest decisions, and she feels bad – both physically and emotionally.  So…again, is this a different alligator, or is it part of the one we’ve already addressed?  That’s for her to decide, but the approach remains the same.

When we are able to assess our situation with some clarity and perspective, we empower ourselves to make the next right decision.  The best way to gain that space is to address the most pressing concern, and not overwhelm ourselves with a long list of every concern we are facing.  Nobody would be able to withstand that kind of pressure, stress and emotional chaos for long.  So, in order to reclaim our own power, to feel more in control of our lives, and to make the best decisions for greater health, happiness and success – in order to step off that rug – look at the alligator that’s nearest to where you are, and make a plan to remove that alligator from the river. 

Once you’ve done that – you’ll gain the breathing room you need to move forward into a position of empowerment and fulfillment.  A position where nobody else will have the ability to pull the rug out from under you.  A position where, with perspective, you will be able to make the next right decision for yourself and your future.

In love and light,



  • Lewis MacDonald
    June 11th, 2019 · Reply

    I think you must mean DEFUSE the situation – not DIFFUSE it. If you DEFUSE a bomb that’s great. However, if you DIFFUSE a bad situation you could be spreading trouble.

    I love this whole idea of the crocodile or alligator nearest the boat. The Tory politician Rory Stewart has mentioned having had such issues in his military experience, but I can’t remember whether it was gators or crocs he had had to deal with. (I don’t suppose it matters).

    Best wishes.

    • Martina
      June 11th, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Lewis – Firstly, Thank you for reading and sharing your comments, especially on something 10 years old! I appreciate being given the opportunity to go back and read something I haven’t seen for so long.

      You are, indeed, correct. I definitely meant ‘defuse’ and not ‘diffuse’ – though, I think at the time I was thinking about how to dilute the situation thereby making it less intense, which would only have worked if I had used ‘diffuse’ as an adjective, apparently. Your comment prompted me to do some digging, and I found this article really informative (for anyone else wondering):

      Thanks again and have a wonderful day!


      • Martina
        June 11th, 2019 · Reply

        PS – I don’t suppose it matters either. A croc or a gator near my boat would be cause for a serious change in direction, either way. 😉

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