For some, it dawned on them slowly over a long time. For others, it hit them like a brick to the face. Suddenly, you realize just how far off track you are in life compared to where you thought you would be by now. Maybe you’re frustrated about all the games you have to play at work, just to make it through the week. Maybe you’re miserable due to some relationship issue that is dogging you. Maybe you’re just bored and feel like you’re stuck in a rut where every day seems the same. Well, you’re not alone.
We all go through these cycles from time to time and they’re not typically a problem unless they last too long. But it’s important to understand that no matter where you are in life, no matter how frustrated you are, no matter how miserable you feel, or how stuck you are, things can change for the better.
How Bad Is It?
Before we go any further, let’s take a snapshot of where you are. I want you to rate just how bad it is for you. On a scale of 1 to 10, how frustrated, overall, are you? Or if you’re miserable or stuck, same thing, how would you rate it? Where you are on this scale is vitally important to the outcome so it’s important that you start by rating it. If you’re low on the scale, say, anywhere from 1 to 3, then you’re just having a bad day. Go see a movie with friends and get a good night of sleep and you’ll get over it. If you’re in the middle, from 3 to 7, this is noteworthy and something that has obviously gotten your attention, but, if you have to get off the couch in order to actually improve things, you’re likely going to procrastinate until the problem goes away or gets more severe.
So, if your score is in the 8 to 10 range, then I know you’re probably going to keep reading. Why? Because you’re in pain and you want it to stop. If you’re at the top of the scale, you’re likely going to be motivated enough to take decisive action and begin making the needed changes.
Because I don’t know your specific details, I won’t make suggestions specific to your circumstances. But I will outline what you can do to increase your motivation to take action.
STEP ONE: Write it Down
Take out some paper or sit at your computer with a blank page open and get ready to write/type. Thinking about your specific challenge, I want you to imagine what it would be like if your challenge was no longer present. For example, if you are having trouble in a relationship, write down how you would interact with the person if you were no longer having problems. Assume that your relationship has never been better. How would you behave around that person? How would that person respond to you? What kind of things would you do or how would you act differently? Take as much time as you need to very clearly describe how it would be without that frustration or difficulty.
If you’re feeling miserable about something, you’re going to describe what it would be like to not feel miserable anymore. If you feel stuck in some area of your life, what would it feel like if you were no longer stuck? What would your day-to-day life be like if you were completely unstuck? What would the next five minutes be like?
STEP TWO: Make a List
What are the key differences between the way you think, speak, and behave now, compared to what you described above? Would you be more understanding or patient in your relationship? Would you be more grateful because the misery is gone? Would you be more active and social if you were unstuck? Would you be taking different actions because you’re free of your challenging circumstances?
Make a list of your new behaviors in the absence of your challenging situation. In this step, focus on your behaviors more than how you feel because behavior is more concrete than feelings, which can be very wishy-washy and hard to pin down.
STEP THREE: Do Something Different
The list you just made is more than a simple list; you’ve just created a life map that will guide you through the difficult challenge that has you feeling trapped or miserable. The next step (and this is a biggie!) is to adopt the new behaviors that you listed in step two. This step is not easy, but it can be quite effective if you follow through and actually do it. If you wrote down that you were more patient with someone, then BE more patient. If you put on your list that you were more cheerful toward your co-workers or more grateful about your life, then BE cheery, BE grateful. If you wrote down that you listened carefully when others were talking, then SHUT UP and listen like you mean it. If you wrote that you began walking everyday instead of coming home from work and sitting on the couch praying at the altar of the 62″ big-screen TV listening for messages from the Gods of Media, then don’t go near the TV until after you’ve taken that walk.
Practice Makes Perfect
Nothing will change unless you do something different! Adopting your new behaviors won’t fix everything overnight, but if you apply yourself every day because you truly do want your life to be different and better, then you must practice the new behaviors regardless of what other people think about the new you. If you really want to begin to feel happy again, you’re going to have to adopt these new behaviors, it’s as basic as that. At first, other people might resist your effort, and that’s okay, but keep at it, because these behaviors will eventually become who you are; a kind, patient, passionate, attentive, and grateful person, etc.
Do not follow the path of least resistance, unless you’re not really serious about making changes in your life. Unless you can commit yourself to a new behavior, your life will never change. You’ll just remain stuck in the old behavior. After all, your old behavior is what brought you to this point in the first place. Good luck with this assignment. Let me know how it turns how for you or if you need any help with this exercise.
…what are you waiting for…a brick to hit you in the face? Go!