• Stop trying to fuel positive change with misery

    June 29, 2016 | curtrosengren

    wrong right

    Are you so focused on needing things to change for the better that you’re cheating yourself of what’s good right now?

    It’s a common malady, one I have seen all too often. For example, one of the things I have seen repeatedly with people who feel stuck in jobs they don’t like is an insidious either/or quality to their thinking that keeps them mired down and unhappy.

    In that line of thinking, either they make a wholesale change for the better, or they flail and flounder in the misery of their current situation.

    There’s often an underlying, sometimes-unconscious belief that if they work on experiencing and appreciating what’s good right now, it’s “giving up” and they will lose the drive to make a change.

    Can you hear how insane that sounds? Put another way, there’s a feeling that, “I have to stay miserable to fuel my positive change.”

    And it’s not just about ill-fitting work. It can be any situation causing people unhappiness, like their finances, or their relationships.

    It can even come up in their relationship with themselves. This is most glaringly obvious as their inner critic runs roughshod over them. “I can’t be kind/self-compassionate/accepting, or I’ll never change,” the thinking seems to go (more about that particular brand of lunacy in my next post).

    Stop hanging on to what sucks

    But what if you didn’t actually have to hang on to your suffering to create positive change? More than that, what if hanging on to your suffering actually gets in the way of positive change?

    Pain plays a role, to be sure. Just like the pain when we touch the burner of a hot stove prompts us to jerk back our hand, the discomfort of what isn’t working can be a superb catalyst for setting positive change in motion. In that context, it’s the right tool for the right job.

    But many of us hang on to it far too long, and then it turns into the wrong tool.

    The continuous stress of staying in that dissatisfied state contracts your view and keeps you from seeing the big picture, seeing opportunities, creatively problem solving, etc. All of which limits your potential to move forward into something new.

    And from a pure physical perspective, it’s also hard on your body. For example, when you experience stress, it pumps the stress hormone cortisol into your body. Instead of playing the role it evolved to play – priming your body for a survival-enhancing fight or flight and then dissipating – the cortisol just stays in your body in a toxic stress soup.

    Putting it in the context of The Aliveness CODE framework, things like frustration, anger, self-criticism, and fear can all be great catalysts for action, but they also all take you towards the constricted end of the Constricted <–> Open continuum. The key is to take advantage of the initial energy they can offer, but not get stuck there.

    Fueling positive change with positive change

    What if, instead of using misery to fuel positive change, you actually used…positive change?

    When you improve your here-and-now, you reduce what’s draining your energy and maybe even add things that energize you. That gives you more energy to put into taking productive steps towards long-term change.

    On top of that, you create more space for yourself to maneuver. You feel less trapped and reactive. You’re better able to see the possibilities in front of you, and you’re more likely to be open to them.

    So use the initial energy behind that dissatisfaction to commit to change. Use that dissatisfaction to set things in motion that will support the continued flow of change after the rocket fuel of intense dissatisfaction has dissipated. Tell people what you’re doing. Identify new habits and build structures to support them. Reach out and work with a coach like me. Find an accountability partner.

    Then shift gears. Stop feeding your dissatisfaction (for example, quit complaining) and take a dual-track approach of both taking action towards sustainable long-term change and creating more energetic and emotional space for that change to unfold in.

    You can either use the pain of what sucks to set positive change in motion, or you can let it fester and turn your day-to-day “reality” into an unhappy, stressed, constricted, never-ending mess. The choice is yours.

    Like what you see? Subscribe to this blog here!