Crossing from Unsatisfied to Fulfilled
Last month, I shared the importance of getting our feet muddy while going after desired changes in life and crossing what I call the Ditch of Despair. This month is all about the how-to portion of crossing that ditch. How exactly do we get from the side of the ditch we’re on, the side where we’re unsatisfied, to the other side, the side where our biggest dreams come true?
For each of us, the journey across that ditch will be slightly different. Based on my own results (and muddy toes) and the results of my clients, I’ve compiled a list of ideas you’re welcome to try when you’re ready for the journey across your own Ditch of Despair. Here are six steps to meaningful change.
1. Recognize exactly what you want to change.
Now this seems silly, right? Of course you know what you want to change. You want to change the way your mother-in-law cuts you down each time she visits. You want to change the way your boss talks over you at meetings without any regard for your contribution to the discussion. You want to change the way cars don’t merge the right way when construction impedes a smooth commute. While these examples might be causing you anger and frustration, they’re not really what you want to change. All of the examples shared have a common theme—a focus on what others are doing wrong in your opinion. This means what you may REALLY want to change is how you’re thinking about circumstances that happen on any given day. And this leads us to #2.
2. Challenge your thoughts.
I’ve read that we have 60,000 thoughts on average per day, and of those thoughts, 80 to 90% of them are negative. If the examples in #1 above rang true for you, here’s what might be floating through your brain:
“Why does she (mother-in-law) come into MY house and make me feel less than? She has no right to do so. I wish I weren’t such a coward when it comes to confronting her.”
“She (my boss) isn’t listening once again. I have no idea how she got the role she has. She didn’t earn it by being an effective listener and team player. I can’t believe I still work here, but I’m not sure I’d get hired anywhere else.”
“Ugh… why the traffic every single day? And these idiots on the road are only making it worse! I’m going to be late… again. Of course I’m generally late because I’m too lazy to get out of bed when that alarm goes off. Slacker…”
Notice how the thoughts about each circumstance begin with what’s happening and end with how you’re not good enough to manage them? Those are the thoughts that need to be challenged. And just in case no one else told you today, you ARE capable of managing whatever life throws at you! (That’s a free thought you can think over and over again to help you challenge the thoughts that aren’t serving you well.)
3. Prepare for interference.
All positive change comes with interference. Just as storms get in the way of good TV reception, people and circumstances get in the way of all good plans for change. When we plan for the interference, though, it doesn’t interfere as much. If your positive change includes being active every day and a storm is brewing, have your Plan B ready when the hail gets in the way of your three-mile outdoor run. If you know you’re prone to procrastination but you’re committed to the positive change of showing up early to all work events, set your clocks back 15 minutes so you actually do arrive early every time. When we decide we’re in charge rather than the interference, the positive changes we’re working to achieve become a bit easier to implement.
4. Create accountability with the right team behind you.
How many times have you committed to making a change you know will be beneficial for you but you don’t tell anyone else about your plan? And because you don’t tell anyone else, it doesn’t seem like as big a deal when you don’t follow through on your commitment? This is where the benefits of having an accountability partner really come into play. Sharing your plan with a trusted friend, colleague, family member, or coach helps you stay committed to the plan, and setting the boundaries for the accountability needed at the front end makes it feel less like babysitting and more like what successful adults do.
5. Eliminate the nonessentials.
People are obsessed with their own busy-ness these days. It’s as if being busy grants one a badge of honor for each “I’m so busy” story we have. When I share time and priority management tips with clients, one of the first things we do is eliminate the nonessentials. This could mean not accepting the invitations to attend all fifty meetings at the office next week but instead determining where your time and expertise will be best spent. It’s not just items on the schedule that we eliminate, though. My clients and I also work together to eliminate the comparing we do of our accomplishments (or lack thereof) vs. others’. We eliminate complaining from our minds and mouths each day. We eliminate people who aren’t going to help us through that Ditch of Despair. We eliminate every nonessential that gets in the way of us making it to the other side of that ditch.
6. Be kind to yourself on the journey.
Finally, I want to encourage you to be kind to yourself. When a person decides she wants to leave the comfortable, familiar place she’s in to travel over and through that Ditch of Despair, she can’t fully prepare herself for the mud that’s going to (without a doubt) get between her toes on her way to the other side of the ditch. As much as we want to berate ourselves and notice others’ progress and get frustrated by another fall in the ditch, we can’t let those obstacles get us down. Give yourself the grace and kindness needed to get through the muddy times so you can one day celebrate the accomplishment of making it to the other side of the ditch. You deserve nothing less. When you’re ready to cross your own Ditch of Despair, I’m ready to give you the help and support you need!