Today I was at a Tilt event, and the question about our characters came up as it often does. Why the lizards? I did my best to be brief, but there was a lot more I wanted to say. Rather than go into a lengthy discussion, I thought it offered an excellent opportunity for this week's blog post. We love our lizards, and put a lot of thought into the development of these characters. Here is the bigger story behind why we use lizards and what we hope to accomplish each time you see them!

Where did they come from

A little over three years ago I stumbled on an ad searching for a character designer. The ad led me to Tilt365. Pam Boney, the founder of Tilt365, and I arranged a meeting to discuss the project. The idea was to create a cast of characters that would help Tilt share its message with the world. We talked about many possibilities and agreed on three main goals.

  1. The characters would allow us to present our material in a playful manner that would keep our audience engaged but not detract from the science behind Tilt's message.
  2. Allow us to lighten up, have some fun, and redirect the focus on some of the weightier topics we teach.
  3. We believed that a picture is worth a thousand words and wanted to increase the memorable aspect of patterns of behaviors to quicken learning time and retention.

In our initial session, we discussed all types of character representations and eventually landed on lizards for a very good reason. The goal of the Tilt system is about finding inner balance, which is about the metaphorical conflict between what many people describe as rational mind vs. the reptilian brain. In short, when we are balanced, we are using the conscious, rational part of ourselves. When we are fearful, we do not think and react with instinctual or habitual responses. People often refer to reverting to instinctual and habitual behaviors as the "lizard brain." Although this is not how the human brain biologically evolved, referring to these functions as the lizard brain can be an illustrative metaphor for to help people understand and exert more conscious control over their behavior. Thus, when we are (metaphorically) using the lizard brain,  our existence becomes less about being our best selves and more about simple survival.

It is easy to discuss the positive traits associated with the Tilt patterns. However, delivering messages that encompass complex emotions like fear, anxiety or being overprotective can be rather challenging. With that in mind, we needed a little help from our new friends, and thought - who better to deliver those messages than lizards?

Our lizard cartoons do an excellent job finding humorous ways to lighten the message, especially when it comes to discussing negative traits. If we can lighten the mood and redirect the focus, then we can say a lot more than we might if we chose another method. Our lizard characters allow us to say what needs to be said in a meaningful way without having to pull any punches, and that's important! We need our audience to be open, engaged, and receptive so they can absorb the messages we have to deliver without offending sensibilities. Although the lizards might seem "cartoony" or "non-corporate," that is intentional. As teaching tools, these characters allow us to embrace parts of ourselves that we may have avoided for the majority of our lives. We can encourage viewers to actually laugh as they encounter uncomfortable hidden parts and bring them into conscious awareness. That awareness means we are finally able to see ourselves honestly and not be frightened, feel helpless or hopeless. When successful, our audience is more open to learning, and being open to learning is the first step in making deep, meaningful change.

Your Lizard Brain! Connection, Structure, Impact, and Clarity

You are not your lizard character.

Each character is connected to a Tilt pattern, but here's the thing a lot of people miss at first. Our characters are not a direct reflection of your whole self. You are not an Anole, Leopard Gecko, Draco lizard or an Iguana. They represent that part of yourself that you rely on most naturally. So, as a Connection True Tilt, for instance, you may find that you have a natural tendency to be amicable. When you are leaning too far into that tendency though, you may default to saying, "yes" to everything, in an effort to please those around you. This is your instinctual, "lizard brain" kicking in and saying, "Hey, I'm kind of freaking out here, let's use this survival tactic you learned in your past to make sure everyone still loves you." Our cartoons allow us to exaggerate and hyper-focus on these kinds of principles when we want to teach or demonstrate something important. Some traits are positive, and some can be a little less desirable. This approach allows us to bring everything out into light and comfortably look at both with equal focus.

Furthermore, you are not just one pattern of behavior either. We all have all four tilting patterns inside of us, to varying degrees. This means that all four of the lizard characters represent a part of us that we know how to be in certain contexts. If you’re not sure about the look of your lizard, remember you have all four of them as a whole person. Embrace them all!

How did we figure out which lizard goes where?

If you prefer a Connection Tilt, most likely, you rely most on openness, likeability, consideration, and inspiration. You may have heard my short anecdote about the anole lizard I saw on my porch one day while searching for inspiration - An anole lizard crawled up next to me and all at once he threw his head back, popped out the dewlap from under his chin (all while maintaining perfect eye contact I might add), and nodded at me. That seemed like a pretty sociable display. That’s how my new friend, the Anole, became our Connection character.

Next up was Impact. In our brainstorming session, we described Impact as the type of person who is a take charge, get things done, jump out of an airplane without a parachute kind of person. What type of lizard would jump out of an airplane without a parachute? A flying lizard - that's who. Is there even such a thing? Yes, it lives in the jungles of Southeast Asia, and it's called the Draco lizard. That is our Impact lizard, and he’s a super risk-taking base-jumper indeed.

What about Clarity? This natural personality pattern tends to be thoughtful, insightful, and a bit more reserved. My son Charlie owned a leopard gecko who, upon observation, tended to be many of those things. Not quite as gregarious as the Anole, it gave me the impression that it was a bit more contemplative in nature. Perfect choice for our Clarity lizard.

Structure was a little trickier. We needed a character who was willing to take charge and be a lot more certain and assertive. A personality that takes things at face value and does not waste much time on unnecessary socializing. This, to me, sounded like the lizard I had met a few years earlier named Iggie. Iggie was a big iguana who lived in the back of a small science store in my neighborhood. He was large, stealthy, and in charge. He did not waste a lot of time on formalities, and if you got up in his face, he was not shy about letting you know. This seemed like the right candidate for our structure lizard character.

Do lizards really have personalities?

Some scientists will tell you no, but that's where creative license comes in. We get to bend, mold, and shape our characters to fit the situations we want to teach. As I've worked with them, I've had a chance to create distinct personalities that keep them light, approachable, and most of all, something that continues to give us a chuckle about our ludicrous human tendencies. This approach allows us to mold them into the perfect teaching tools. We use lots of other lizard characters to teach things like how to deal with your inner critic, how to be an observer, and of course, learning about agility with our chameleon lizard. I promise you each of them was developed with just as much care and attention as the first four. We love our lizard characters, and now that you know a little more about them, we hope you will as well!

Interested in learning more about how Tilt 365 can help you take control of your personal development? Visit our website here!