I can think of many times when working with clients and also for me personally when making some kind of change is needed, but the resistance to doing it gets in the way. Put another way, this is when change is needed but not wanted.
This is a common occurrence because most of our actions are guided by the unconscious mind. As much as 90% of what we do is happening “under the hood” and all our unconscious mind wants to do is keep us safe, so it thinks it will give us the best chance of achieving this by sticking with the status quo devil-you-know.
We have our evolutionary fear of the unknown, which back in the day kept us from running out of our caves into the jaws of a sabre-tooth, to thank for this annoying habit of thinking. Nowadays, although our threats are generally significantly reduced, we are still often hamstrung by this outdated thinking habit.
When you delay making a needed change, the more time that elapses, the greater the inertia, because your mind has by now created a bunch of elaborate and often elegant justifications, reasons or to put it bluntly excuses, to stay stuck. We often justify this delay as needing a certain amount of time to “process” but in reality we can procrastinate decisions forever without ever getting any further ahead unless that is we apply some conscious thought.
Here’s where some common coaching frameworks can really help you to move forward towards the change you need to make. They enable you to align what you need with what you want so that you actually WANT to and therefore WILL make the change.
Clarify the problem
It can be very helpful to get clear about the issue that you’re dealing with to help start dialling up the change motivation.
Specifically what is the challenge or issue you want to resolve, or what is the change you need to (but don’t necessarily want to) make? Make it simple, clear and easy to define. Maybe you might find that there are several issues, if this is the case, you’re probably best dealing with one at a time in order of priority.
My issue/problem/challenge/thing I want to change is:
How is the problem serving you?
One of the reasons we don’t like making change, is because on some level our current situation is working for us, and this is part of our (often unconscious) resistance. Although we might find it hard to believe that a situation that’s causing us problems or pain is also benefiting us, if we dig deeply enough, we’ll find that at least in some way, it is. Some of the benefits to staying stuck are things like:
- not having to step up
- not having to be courageous
- not having to make a plan/take action/take responsibility
- being comfortable.
If I’m really honest with myself, staying stuck/not making the change is working for me because:
We’ve talked in the past about how to use pain and pleasure to motivate us to make change and it’s worth revisiting here. Most of us are more motivated at an unconscious level by avoiding pain than we are by seeking pleasure. With our inbuilt inherent negativity bias, it’s easy for most of us to think of all the problems and pain associated with making a change, but often we’ll neglect to devote headspace to considering the upside of a change. Let’s explore how to use pleasure and pain to help make a decision to create your change by using some simple yet powerful questioning. The aim of this is to create the leverage you need to make the decision that you WILL make the change.
Thinking generally about your issue/challenge/thing you want to change.
How is this a problem for you right now? Make a list of all the things and people it’s impacting and how. Be detailed and specific. It might be a long list, that’s cool.
This is a problem for me because:
You can also use what are known as “Cartesian questions.”
Let’s look at all the reasons, justifications and in some cases plain old excuses you’ve put in place to avoid making this change – these are your obstacles to overcome so let’s devote some thought to how to remove them.
My obstacles to making this change are:
How “real” is each obstacle?
How can I overcome each of them, what are my actions and resources available when I really think about it?
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think of making the change, particularly if there are a lot of actions needing to be taken or if it’s a bigger-picture, longer-term change or improvement, such as making the decision to commit to studying for a qualification. It helps to break the process down into manageable, actionable steps and priorities.
What’s the first small step I can take to make this change?
What’s another step I can take to make this change?
What other steps can I take?