I work with many individuals who come to me with ideas and intentions regarding how they'd like to change. I'm working with one client right now who is interested in shifting her relationship with alcohol. I have another client who wants to get out from underneath the rigidity and control that she approaches food with and learn how to eat intuitively. Another client came to me hating the way she parents, knowing that there is a better way to be with her children but not understanding how. She wasn't given a model from her own caregivers and wants to stop the pattern before it seeps into the next generation. Another is collaborating with me to really understand how she can transform what feels like a deep sense of unworthiness.
As a therapist and coach, when I'm working with you, I'm not only supporting you as we implement the plays necessary to get you closer to your goal (i.e., the what to do), I'm also and more importantly guiding you into a different approach (i.e., the why and how). If my client who wants to be softer and argue less with her children tries to do this with the same activated nervous system that she has always had interacting with them, it won't work. At least not in a sustainable way. Being softer means being regulated. Being curious and understanding means being calm enough to be able to listen. She first needs to begin learning how to understand the language of her own
body so she can know when she's ready to enter a conversation with her kids. Doing so invites her to try on a different way of dedicating herself to the way she perceives, thinks, and feels.
This is what most of us aren't prepared to take on when we set big goals. If I want to start a business, for example, and I've never started a business before, I need to prepare myself to feel all sorts of uncomfortable. I need to expect that I'm going to flounder, flop, and feel what it feels like to be a beginner. In fact, when I did start my business, a part of me was screaming at me to not do it unless I could have all the answers first. I knew there was a lot I didn't know. This part of me was so scared of doing it wrong and getting in trouble. In the first phase of starting Core Capacity, that scared little girl was doing a lot of the driving. My husband can attest to the many evenings he spent attempting to soothe her as she cried, scared about state and federal taxes, business registration, s-corp status, deductions. In the midst of her anxiety, I could feel my adult self jump in with a reminder that this is how it works. We will have a ton of questions, and we will figure them all out, over time. I tried to balance the time spent on what I didn't know, with time spent on what I felt competent with, like designing my website and working with people!
I bought a small business course so I could learn the unknowns from an expert that I trusted. I solicited support, and I got feedback. I had a person I could speak honestly with, who expected that I wouldn't understand, and who could be there with me as I wandered around in the dark. Similarly, when I was learning how to ride a road bike, with the big goal of participating in a couple very challenging events, I hired a coach. The learning was fun, when I could get out of my own away and embrace being a beginner. My coach didn't expect me to know anything, and I consciously began to adopt his warmth and patience and apply it toward myself.
In the business course, as I went through each module, I'd implement the lesson, feel good about accomplishing something, and then inevitably end up with another question and more confusion. Just like I see with most of my clients, I would often get stuck in the muck, feeling as if I wasn't make any progress unless I consciously and deliberately paid attention to the accomplishments along the way. At the end of my one of my sessions this past week, my client said, "please don't give up on me." I knew in that moment that we were doing too much strategizing, problem-solving, and evaluating, and not nearly enough acknowledging of the steps she had already taken, the learnings she had integrated, the new of ways being that she'd been practicing. If my client who wants to stop drinking considers for five seconds whether drinking the beer is an action she will engage in vs picking up the bottle straight away, she has a major win to celebrate. We need to celebrate our wins, all of them, regularly, and remember that no mistake, setback, or relapse, means that what we accomplished before has disappeared or is null and void. We can practice viewing them as little messengers of valuable information as opposed to burglars of our bravery. When we acknowledge the steps we've taken, we tap into our sense of agency and hope.
To review, the three things we don't do enough of as we pursue our big goals are as follows:
Prepare ourselves to feel all sorts of uncomfortable. We need to expect that we're going to flounder, flop, and feel what it feels like to be a beginner.
Solicit support and feedback. Consult with people who know more than we do. Find people we can speak honestly with, who expect that we won't understand, and who can hold the flashlight as we wander around in the dark.
Celebrate our wins, all of them, all the time, and remember that no mistake, setback, or relapse means that what we accomplished before has disappeared or is null and void. We can practice viewing them as little messengers of valuable information as opposed to burglars of our bravery.
We live in a culture that promotes hacks, ease, fast results, and perfection. One other thing we can do for ourselves is not buy into these ideas. If you want to make progress toward your goals in a genuine way that has you learning skills that will help you in all areas of your life, throughout your life, you know where to find me. Please reach out. I'd love to hear what you're interested in pursuing: email@example.com