Every now and again (weekly? Daily?) I have a client who seems stuck. They want to make changes, try new things, challenge themselves, but then … something happens, and they just don’t seem to do the thing. Naturally, the next steps in the cycle are self-flagellation, self-recrimination, and loss of self-respect/esteem. Set new goals, rinse and repeat.
But why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why would we set ourselves up for fantastic, appropriate, reachable goals then beat ourselves up in a predictable manner? And how do we STOP?
When I see what therapists call resistance (some say “self-sabotage” but that sounds MEAN), I start to ask questions about timing, pace, cost of these goals. Then I ask a TON of questions:
- What does it cost to stay stuck?
- What does it cost to change?
- What happens if…you change/don’t change?
- What are the benefits of staying exactly the way things are?
- And, perhaps my favorite question: How will you know when…?
How will you know when…
- You want to tackle that goal?
- You want to think about tackling that goal?
- You want to abandon/refresh that goal?
What will be happening in your life? How will you feel? What will be your energy level? What about anxiety/stress/support?
It is implied that change is necessary. Sometimes that is true: therapy is based on a model of change. And sometimes…holding still, repeating the thing that is working or keeping you stable is the exact right choice for this moment. Change in life is necessary, but it doesn’t have to occur today, and that knowledge might be the piece that gives you permission to try a change.
All of these factors influence the How Will You Know When process. And when you KNOW WHEN you want to consider a goal, some of the pressure, self-inflicted punishment, and other heavy emotions start to dissipate. And that is how you will know when you are ready to start that next thing????
Up next: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?