We need to make changes if we want different results in life. 'If we do what we did we get what we got'. I love this expression - you might also have heard the quote attributed to Einstein as insanity is 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results' . If we don't make changes we stay in the same place.
We often can feel like we are taking on too much and this is the point where we feel we just have to make a change. We can feel that we are responsible for a whole load of things that just don't feel right to us anymore. Or that we are like a hamster on a treadmill doing the same old same old and we need to do something different.
It could also be an outside factor has an impact on our circumstances.
This is the point when we need to make a change.
We think to ourselves can we really continue the way we are going and be happy?
I have been doing a great deal of work in the area of coaching for change recently and this may not come as a surprise but it is often why people enlist a coach.
We might need help with making changes to: how we interact in the workplace; how we run our businesses; be more productive with our time; how we spend our time to get an improved work life balance; how we manage our health; enhance perspective taking; reduce stress; master conflict and also changes in how we manage ourselves to be more resilient and cope with emotions more effectively.
Think back to a time when you made a change in your life
What good came out of it?
Were the consequences and outcomes worth it?
Was it scary but also somewhat exciting?
Did you have to lose something to gain something?
Was your life that much richer because you made the change?
If, for instance you are changing jobs it can feel really scary to start to think about putting that CV together and self promoting. All sorts of negative thoughts might go through your head. In order to make changes happen we often have to address any self limiting beliefs that may arise such as 'I can't do it, it is just going to be too much'. I am sure you can think of more! However looking back you will be pleased that you did it. The short term pain of going out there for a new job or setting out with a new business idea turns out to be worth the long term gain of the benefit that change brought about for you.
In coaching I use the 'decisional balance' as a tool to help coachees with change and also the 'force field' tool where we look at what is pulling you towards change and what is steering you away. We also look at how to challenge self limiting beliefs and devise new change enhancing beliefs.
Part of this is getting in a 'change mindset' whereby we increase the amount of positive thoughts we can have about the process and focus on the positive consequences. We can recognise and challenge negative self limiting thoughts that can creep in to keep on track with making change happen.
Interestingly enough Buddhism and Hinduism share the doctrine of Anicca or Anitya, that 'nothing lasts, everything is in constant state of change'. This sounds good, it means we are moving away from the 'hamster wheel' and it means we can recognise that change is a part of life and this make things feel more exciting. Coachees often say they are looking for a change that will help them to have more 'zest' in life. However is this easy to handle? We tend to get comfortable in knowing things are the same, we get used to our relationships, our homes, our parking spaces and if you go to a training session by the afternoon people will be sitting in the same seats!
So even when we can get positive results from making changes it can still bring fear and uncertainty. This is the point where we consider whether we are trying to change too much too soon. We can't do it all at once. It is worth working out what is in our power to change and to start to take small steps towards that.
So what can you change right now? What is within your power to change?
If I ask my teenager going through exams I will have the answer 'well I could revise more'.
If I ask a coachee who is having coaching for wellbeing they will probably say 'well I could take some more time out for myself'.
The couple in a session might say 'well I could work at starting to improve my communication skills by starting to share what I am thinking more'.
The parent might say 'I could take a breather if I feel like I am going to shout at my child'.
I use Alice in Wonderland as a metaphor in my coaching - if you know the Cheshire Cat he says. 'If you don't know where you want to go, then it doesn't matter which path you take'.
Sometimes we know we want to make a change but we just don't know where we want to go, we feel directionless.
However recognising that we are stepping into the unknown goes someway to helping us to feel at peace with the whole change process.
So what if we can't change things right now?
That is ok too. This is where acceptance comes in.
Take an emotion such as anxiety. This might not be able to be changed right away. So it might be that some accepting is needed, an emotion is being experienced, and if we visualise it like a wave it comes in but it will also pass.
We can surf it and eventually that wave will have to come down and crash on the shore and we will feel more like we will be ok.
Often with something like anxiety the more we fight it or try to stop it, the more it increases.
There is a lovely mindfulness exercise looking at acceptance linked to quick sand and recognising that the best way to manage is not to struggle, to go with it or you will get sucked down that much quicker.
My daughter says 'I know I can change how much revision I do for my science test but I can't change the fact the test is going to happen'. This is a perfect example of understanding what she can change and what she can accept. I can see the future coach in her!
So have a think about what you can change and also what is in your power to accept which will lead to a feeling of personal freedom.
If we go back to the relationship example we don't always have the same opinon as the other person but we might have to just accept that we have differences. Think back to a time when you just accepted that your partner was going to leave the towel on the floor again or your colleague was going to make that annoying sniffing noise or your son was going to lose his jumper at school yet again. How much easier was it just to accept it? It is often worth 'choosing your battles' and acceptance works when it is a good plan to choose to walk away from that dispute!
Finally if you can't change something and you can't accept it what happens?
You feel a bit stuck right? It can be an uncomfortable place to be, a bit like a tug of war against yourself both emotionally and cognitively.
So this is the place to know that it is time to let go.
Good questions to ask yourself include 'is it worth it?' or 'is this something I can leave and let go of, something I can move on from'?
If you can't change it or accept it letting go is a good bet.
This is really helpful during a conflict too, a fantastic colleague always used to say in training sessions around conflict resolution - 'is it better to be right or better to be happy?.
Letting go also can mean letting go of the need to win so you come to a compromise.
Letting go can also have a place in the change process. Have a think if you make a change in your life what would you have to let go of?
If you decide to set up your own business you might be letting go of the safety and security of a pension when you have to set up a new private one, you might be letting go of a whole load of friends. These are practical examples of letting go.
What about the emotional and cognitive side of letting go. You might have to let go of negativity and fear. You might be letting go of more sleep for a short time (in health coaching I don't recommend this!) as you need to focus more on building up your business. If you are letting go of the need to have a drink to escape then you may need to let go of the need to feel like you are 'fitting in' socially by having a drink. You may need to let go of having to be a perfectonist and take a step back and 'go with the flow' more.
So I hope this has helped you to have a think about where you are now and where you want to be with change, that acceptance can be helpful as you can't do it all and there are times where you just need to let go in order to feel more fulfilled and happy.
Thinking back to the metaphor of the cat - in reality a cat doesn't philosophise about which way to go, whether you should change, accept or let go but is more interested in a simple life of coming in for food and strokes and going away again.
However isn't this what makes our lives so rich and interesting that we can have the ability to keep evolving in our mindset, our emotional intelligence and our actions?
If you would like to have a coaching session to consider change management or an area mentioned in this article please get in touch.