Why I need to be more like a toad

Earlier this week, I watched the second episode of the BBC’s ‘Wonders of Life’. The UK’s figurehead of physics, Professor Brian Cox, explored how our senses have evolved and how that process has piqued our curiosity and possibly even led to the development of our intelligence. It was a fascinating programme, full of intriguing and beautiful creatures.

One of the less beautiful creatures was a toad, although I found it to be one of the most interesting. A toad’s eyes are structurally similar to ours but most of the time, it appears to just gaze into the middle distance. In the film, it sits there, apparently oblivious, until a moving worm catches its eye. The toad immediately shoots out its tongue and the worm becomes its lunch.

The toad’s visual ability has become optimised to detect prey or predators: it’s simply not interested in anything else. As soon as its eye picks up the worm wriggling past, the toad becomes alert and takes action. What’s even more interesting is that the neural circuits in its retina will only respond to that shape moving in the way it expects – Brian Cox tells us that a toad will starve to death if you put it in a box of dead worms. An experiment shows that the toad will go for anything long, thin and moving horizontally like a worm – present it with a vertical worm and the toad ignores it.

The toad’s objective is a simple one: stay alive. To do that, it needs to eat and it needs to avoid being eaten. It allows nothing to distract it from that goal.

When it comes to me and how I keep my focus on my goals, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. I can allow all sorts of things to distract me! My goal for this afternoon was to write this post before I did anything else. Instead I came in from a meeting, had a lovely lunch with my husband, made some biscotti, tweeted about them, took an online grammar quiz, tweeted about that and finally settled down to write. That’s not a big issue in itself but I’m pretty certain that I’m not the only one who allows other things (some of which may be perfectly reasonable) to distract me from my objective. Sometimes I need to be more like a toad.

Today’s pebble for your consideration:

What’s the one thing you are going to focus on this week to help you achieve your goal?

I’d love to hear from you,


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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2 Responses to Why I need to be more like a toad

  1. Soraya says:

    Hi M
    You’ve prompted me into being more like the toad to get on and do my CV.
    Was one of the beautiful creatures by any chance Brian?

    S x

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