Personal Philosophy

Self-Control Not Solving It? Try This Instead.

Change sucks.

It’s the reason we stay in bad relationships, eat the same foods, and overplay songs until we’re sick of them. We tend to like comfort, even when that comfort is uncomfortable.

Simply put, we’re creatures of habit. And when we decide to break a habit, we rarely have an immediate epiphany or feeling of freedom (no matter what those inspirational Instagram seem to say.) More often than not, change temporarily causes everything from anxiety, to depression, to a Ben & Jerry’s binge.

For example, I spent nine years in a relationship when I should have left after five. Why? Because making a change, even a necessary change, pushes you out of your comfort zone and into that awkward place that nobody likes called “growth.”

But, much like growing out a bad haircut, change doesn’t happen overnight.

Sure, we have growth spurts brought on by moments of clarity, loss, or motivation. But for the most part, humans don’t change until their discomfort in their current situation becomes greater than their fear of change. Growth is rarely linear and often requires a tipping point.

This wave-like cycle of upheaval and clarity is known as evolutionary catharsis. And, just like cleaning your closet, it gets a lot messier before it get better. The end result is that kick-ass “aha” moment when our brain is reorganized into a new state of greater awareness, functioning, and simplicity. We feel more connected to ourselves and are ready to take the necessary steps to get where we want in life.

So how does this work?

Right before we have a growth spurt, many of us have a temporary feeling of discomfort. This manifests as self-defeating behaviors. Learned in childhood as coping mechanisms,

These behaviors fall into three categories:

1. Those that try to reduce the amount of overwhelm by pushing energy out, such as:

  • yelling
  • compulsive behaviors
  • sickness

2. Those that block additional energy from entering the system, such as:

  • depression
  • withdrawal
  • loss of appetite

3. Those aimed at distracting from the growing chaos inside them, such as:

  • any form of addiction
  • a ton of television-time
  • overworking

These three types of coping mechanisms are our system’s final, desperate attempts to preserve our status quo. After all, it’s scary and stressful to step into a new way of being. I’ve heard coaches call this “de-evolution,” but that's a misnomer as it’s a natural part of the evolutionary process. Whether we reach for the bottle, an ex, or the remote control, it’s all part of the process. Our goal is not to judge these attempts, but to notice them with genuine curiosity. (Full disclosure: writing that last sentence made me gag a little, but it’s true. Judging ourselves for our coping mechanisms doesn’t make them any easier to change.)

Our belief around what growth “should” look like is nothing more than our inner-critic shouting louder than our inner-nurturer. As we release old beliefs, our brains have a hard time balancing the volume of these voices. Eventually, it levels out and new, truthful ideas emerge.

The Solution

While these self-defeating behaviors may temporarily release the pressure of growth, the end result is keeping our system stagnant. Learning to tolerate the discomfort rather than running away from it allows us to take that quantum leap into the next state of awareness, tolerance, and resilience.

Ironically, our fight to indulge in these sabotaging behaviors is what keeps us playing small, making the process longer and more painful. The solution comes down to self-surrender. We must be willing to surrender the person we are now to foster the person we can become.

Whatever your brand of self-defeating behavior, it’s time to tune in to the parts of yourself these behaviors are trying drown out. Notice the voice that shouts the loudest and the voice that suddenly became silent.

  • What are they saying?
  • What do these parts of you want?
  • How can you be more compassionate toward them?

Sure, it’s easier said than done. And I’m certainly not perfect. Like all of us, my relationship with myself is constantly evolving. I’ve found that self-control has only led to quick changes that are hard to sustain. The lasting life-changes all resulted from listening to and embracing the parts of myself these actions tried to mute.

It’s not always fun. In fact, it rarely is. But you know what’s worse? Staying stuck.

The 5 Obstacles Standing Between You & What You Want

Here’s a secret most coaches and therapists won’t admit: We know within the first 10 minutes of meeting you whether you’ll achieve your goals. What?! How's that possible?!

While I can’t see the future, I do see the same 5 challenges hold people back from achieving their full potential. Not surprisingly, there are 5 traits that propel people forward. Coincidence? I think not.

Whether in our personal or professional lives, we've all been guilty of self-sabotage (myself included!) Thankfully, you can spot and stop the obstacles getting in your way, replacing them with behaviors that serve you instead:

Obstacle #1: You don’t accept responsibility for EVERYTHING.

Whether it's other people, the past, or the outcome of the presidential election, there are many things we can't control. There are times when life simply sucks. And when that happens, those who bounce back focus on opportunity instead of blame. They don’t wait for an answer or apology because they know that solving any situation requires owning it in its entirely. Bluntly put, if you feel shitty, it’s YOUR problem, not theirs. The good news is that the fix is also up to you. Whether it’s stating your truth, leaving, getting help, or anything else, you’re in charge of how you feel. This is by far the most challenging obstacle on the list. But once you’ve mastered it, it’ll lead to the biggest results. 

Shift It: Accept that no matter your situation, change is up to you.

Obstacle #2: Your thoughts and actions bring you down.

For any outcome, there’s a specific way of thinking and acting that will get you what you want. Your current situation is the result of your current actions and beliefs. To create a new outcome, you need to identify the thoughts and actions of those who have what you want and then adopt them. For someone who's in debt, she might ask herself "what do financially savvy people do?" As challenging as it might be, she might start tracking her expenses, going to Debtor's Anonymous meetings, etc.  It might feel foreign at first, but soon these new actions will create new thought patterns (and lead to new results!) Over time, you’ll transform your beliefs into ones that serve you and release the ones that previously held you back.

Shift It: As they say, “fake it til you make it.”

Obstacle #3: You want the new without giving up the old.

There’s always a price to pay to achieve what you want. New results come from new actions. If you want to run a marathon, but you don’t want to get off the couch, don’t be surprised when things don’t go as planned. This doesn’t mean change has to be filled with pain, the truly successful view paying the price as a positive instead of a negative. They focus on the joy of what they’re doing, rather than the pain of what they’re giving up.

Shift It: To view new steps more positively, focus on the pleasure of achieving your goal rather than the pain of change. Simply put, look at what you’re adding instead of what you’re giving up. 

Obstacle #4: You imagine the worst-case scenario…and unknowingly create it.

Whether or not you believe in manifesting, vision boards, or the law of attraction, one thing is always true: What you think is what you see. For example, I have a good friend who wants to be in a loving relationship. But, since she’s convinced that “all the good ones are taken,” she doesn’t put herself out there. She won’t go on a dating site and thinks that any guy who comes up to her must be “a loser.” Not surprisingly, her fear of being alone forever ensures that she will be.

Shift It: Focus on what you want, not what you want to avoid. This subtle difference creates massive change.

Obstacle #5: You buy your own bullshit.

Harsh, but true. “Reasons” are just excuses that we’ve bought into. When people tell me they “don’t have enough time” to meditate/exercise/respond to emails, I often wonder how they still have time to stalk their ex on Facebook. If you truly want to achieve your goal, you’ll trade your rationalizing for resourcefulness.

Shift It: Prioritize your goal by creating more time and questioning why you haven’t achieved it thus far.

The Takeaway:

Don’t blame your friends, finances, or fiancé- You are your biggest obstacle. And that's a good thing! Because changing your mindset is within your control. Remember, you have everything you need to succeed, you simply need to get out of your own way.

Interested in 1-on-1 support? Click here.

How To Reflect & Select a Meaningful New Year’s Resolution

With the New Year right around the corner, this is generally the time when people take stock of where they are, make the same resolution they made last year, and swear that this time things will be different. Sound familiar? 

"This is the year when I'll finally:

  • Get in shape/a raise/a husband
  • Give up smoking/gluten/FB stalking my ex
  • Gain more money/more followers/more success"

And while all those are desirable changes, they aren’t going to happen.

No, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you, your wishes, or your willpower.
It’s because it’s an amorphous dream and not a tangible plan. And while I'd love to jump to the part where I give you a strategy to achieve your goals (it's coming), it’s important to get clear on what you truly want.

Today, I’m sharing Part I. of the 2 step system I use with clients to help them choose and achieve a meaningful New Year’s Resolution.

But before we begin, I’ve got a disclaimer: While I’m one of those no-nonsense coaches who likes actionable plans, I'm also a spiritual, contemplative, “ask the Universe for the answer” type of gal. While these 2 parts are seemingly contradictory, I believe that action for action’s sake will only result in a long, un-scenic, detour. At the same time, I believe hippy intentions that aren’t grounded by a plan will leave you setting the same resolution next year. So, in an effort to honor both the intuitive and the achiever that exists in all of us, you first need to get super clear on which change will give you the most ‘bang for our buck.’ In other words, you need a goal that’s aligned with who you are and where you want to be.

And that’s why today is all about: How To Reflect & Select Your New Year’s Resolution

Get Honest. Get Focused.

Since most of us choose a resolution or goal based on what we’re trying to avoid (job loss, being single, poor health), we tend to focus on and attract more of what we don’t want. (For more on that see links to the right --->) 

Choosing a meaningful goal that addresses all of you requires that you take an honest look at ALL the parts of you and your life. And chances are, not everything in your life is crappy or broken. Some parts are likely going well. You simply don’t notice or value it because it isn’t causing you pain.

While it may seem counterproductive, the first step in choosing a New Year’s resolution is to look at what’s working. That’s because the answer to your problem might not be creating a new habit from scratch, it might be doing more of what you do well and translating it to a new area of your life. For example, if you are able to accomplish work tasks and maintain motivation in your career, but can’t seem to make it to the gym, you may want to look at how you can apply your career skill set to your workouts. (More on that here.)  To reflect and select a meaningful resolution, 

Start by asking yourself what’s working:

  1. When I feel like my best self, what am I doing? Where am I? Who am I with?
  2. What parts of myself do I love?
  3. What brings me joy?
  4. What would I like to be known for (characteristics, accomplishments, etc.)?

Then, consider what’s not working by asking yourself:

  1. In what areas of my life am I not being true to myself?
  2. In what areas am I not expressing myself fully?
  3. In what areas do I feel one way, but act another?
  4. What parts of me would I like to cultivate more of?
  5. How can I cultivate more of those through my actions?

Take a few minutes and write the answers to these questions in order (don’t cheat!)

If you want new results, you need to take new actions. Sometimes, those actions involve slowing down and writing down answers to things you think you already know or can skip. (Yes, I’m talking to you!)

Stay tuned. Part II., “Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work (and what to do instead), will help turn this hippy, soul-searching, journaling into some actionable, take-no-prisoners, achievable goals.