“I cannot take it anymore” … “enough is enough” … ”something has got to change”. How many times did you hear this voice of exasperation in your head, and how many times did you shrugged it off and continued as before?
We ignore the inner call to change what is, we think we moved on, but guess what? the same issues will resurface at one point. And it will, on and on, until we decide to address it.
The more this voice keeps coming back, the more uncomfortable we get, but the thought of taking action is even worse. the voice has to take a backseat.
The result? Nothing happens, and not in a good way. The inner dialogue goes on, we become conflicted and we get stuck.
Our inner wisdom, however, will not give up on us. It will continue calling us out until we listen, and decide to change these unhealthy and unhelpful behaviors that we like to hate so much but cannot get around them.
A quick search on “getting unstuck” on Google will return more than 5.7 million results. We, humans, are truly a species of seekers. We want answers; and with today’s technologies, we have (way too) many of them; we know we need to do something, and then a work email pops up, Instagram is calling or we are late somewhere.
But guess what, we can change. We did it multiple times as a species and in our own personal stories. Sometimes, we were pushed by the necessity of survival; others, by an inner desire to build a better future for ourselves.
In this two-part post, I wanted to give you a – far from exhaustive- list of all those instances where we corner ourselves into a place of inertia and eventually into dissatisfaction.
Let’s start by what we are clinging to, being overly attached to ideas and old ways, to that misplaced loyalty that keeps you from claiming your own worth.
A for Attachment:
Attachment is one of those big no-no deals in Buddhism and in any new agey philosophies general. Don’t discount it yet on these accounts. There is plenty of value in looking closer.
Firstly, what exactly is the unhelpful attachment?. We are not talking here about ignoring the people around you or not caring about your finances. Denial is never a good idea (more on this below!).
Detachment gets unhelpful and downward harmful when it becomes clinging. Clinging to the old ways of doing things, refusing to acknowledge a new reality. Or thinking that a human’s worth is defined by your bank account or a wardrobe. Or, clinging to an identity, a label that we hide under: think “introvert/extravert”, ‘liberal/conservative” and use it as an excuse not to explore outside the frontiers of that word.
When we overly attach, we miss the wave, we drown in our own limitations and next thing we know, life has passed by…a long time ago. Oops!
Play “what would happen if”, fill in the blanks. Example: what would happen if, if you were “not an introvert”?. Would you go out and meet more people? Would you feel less constrained?. Use your imagination or ask for help to get to the bottom of why it is so hard for you to stop clinging to stuff that, at the end of the day, might not make that much of a difference in your life.
B for Bias:
As in confirmation bias. If there is one thing I am vigilant about in my own life, it’s this.
Confirmation bias is the blinders we put on to make ourselves feel good.
Nothing wrong with that outcome except that it takes us one or several steps further from the truth.
Let me give you an example: Imagine you want to invest in a stock you really like. Unconsciously, you will read all the news and articles that will tell you what an awesome company it is…and also unconsciously, you will refuse to listen to all sorts of warnings around you: what do they know? Did you see their track record?.
It’s much more common than you think, and we all do it all the time (remember all the warnings around Bernie Madoff’s operations and yet…).
Take your important decisions after doing thorough research. Even if you feel it is slowing you down, the information you gleaned will be useful to you at one point.
C for being Controlling:
Do I need to explain?. Trying to control anything that is outside yourself is an exercise in futility. Yes, it would be awesome if this person handed you the job you asked them to do exactly the way you wanted to be. But, if you are asking them something that is 1/ outside of their obligations and 2/ not really their forte, chances are, it will not happen.
And the same goes with the spouse and your “system” behind emptying the dishwasher, the kid who refuses to go to Auntie’s party and so on. The more you insist on imposing your map of the world on other people, the less cooperative they become.
Another round of my favorite exercise: “what would happen if”, fill in the blanks. What would it be like if you decided to stop being stubborn about always wanting to be right, trying to control other people, your colleagues, your family? do you feel the tension in your body only thinking about it?. Take a deep breath and accept that you can only control your behavior, not your environment. And take action accordingly.
D for Denial:
Practicing the Ostrich Strategy will backfire. I promise.
We talked earlier about confirmation bias, when we only agree with sources that agree with us. Would it surprise you if I tell you that “the Ostrich Effect” is a real term in behavioral finance? It’s a close cousin to confirmation bias. This time, people avoid the bad news altogether.
And we sometimes do it too! When was the last time you let a physical discomfort go unchecked because you fear what the doctor might find?.
Do you see how bad this can go?.
Get informed. Take any feedback, comment, news for what it is, i.e. a supplemental piece of information. Burying your head in the sand will not avoid your bottom to be kicked. If anything, it will prevent you from making your next move.
E for expectations:
I can write a book about how expectations can get you stuck and make you miserable for years. What do expectations do? They blind you into not seeing the reality and will keep you getting disappointed, again and again. Do you expect your sometimes emotionally unavailable spouse to listen to you 24/7? Do you expect your boss to give you a daily feedback?.
Each person has their own style of being present and of operating in their daily lives. Expecting from someone what they cannot give you, or a full commitment when they are not ready, will only lead to angst and feelings of abandonment for you.
Be clear about what you want, and listen, really listen to what the person is saying. Don’t assume anything; clarify words, behaviors, and situations, then decide whether you want that relationship or not. Is it something you can and want to live with? If yes, then you will have to accept the person and their behavior as is.
F for fears:
This is an easy(ish) one. Probably all A to Z are about a fear of some sort. If you want to stay stuck for sure, fears are your best bet. You can feed, nurture and cultivate them at will. And good news, we are surrounded by everything you ever needed to feel even more fearful than ever. Yay to fake news, media, and other fearmongers!
What do we fear exactly? Mostly the unknown. So let’s make it a “known”!. Question the fear. Is it an idea or is it real?
Real? Then what can you do about it?
Idea? Enquire, Solve, Dismiss…what works for you.
G for taking for Granted:
Entitlement! That sneaky thing that makes us believe that we are the center of the Earth. Entitlement is sneaky indeed.
It robs us from the utter joy of knowing that our efforts paid off. That we got what we deserved, the accolades, the applause, the validation, and the appreciation. Thinking that we got something because it was owed to us versus because we earned it, means that our efforts didn’t matter really, that perhaps we are missing out on learning from our own process. As for taking our partners and friends for granted… hello, how-to relationships 1o1!…
Start with the basics. What makes you think that something is owed to you outside a contractual obligation? your status, bank account, name, your reputation? By now, you know that this is all just a smokescreen and nothing will beat kindness and effort. Because all of the former can disappear, and only the “true you” will have lasting power. Treat people as you would like to be treated. Nothing is owed, all is earned on this Planet.
H for hoarding:
Hoarding money, objects, knowledge. Mari Kondo has a point. Your outer clutter is an accurate representation of your inner chaos. And I am going to take all this a step further. Hoarding is a great way to stay stuck for a long time. It carries the energy of retention to the point of suffocation. Think about it, the more stuff you have that piles up without movement, whether it’s money, objects, knowledge, the less room there is for new things to show up in your life. The result? A feeling of suffocation and of stagnation. No circulation equals no growth.
Decide what enough means to you. How many outfits, how much money sitting in cash, how many books etc. Then take action. Give away, pay it forward, invest, donate, teach. What works for you. But get into the flow.
I for isolation:
Or doing it alone. Not productive nor efficient. Reinventing the wheel by yourself, on and on? Not smart, waste of time.
Let me tell you, it’s not a fine line, but a real wall that separates being a Lone Wolf to melting into the Herd. While I am all for finding your individual expression, I just don’t think we can find it on our own. We need interactive sounding boards, we need connections, we need an accountability partner, we need support.
Calling out all shy people and introverts of the world: I get you. I am with you.
But even I, at a point, had and still do, throw in the towel of trying to do it all by myself. Other people have tools that I don’t have and that can be really useful to me.
The prime example that I use is investing. I just cannot. The only idea makes me break in hives, and yet I have several degrees and years of experience in Finance. But it’s just not my thing. The solution: I delegated, and I am not obsessing about it. It doesn’t mean that I have given up understanding and monitoring, far from it. It means that I acknowledge that someone else is much more qualified at it than I am right now. And life can go on.
J for being Judgmental:
Carl Jung said, “The judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth”. Or more biblically put, “Do not judge and you will not be judged”. Judgment is a huge component in the recipe of making oneself miserable. Judging others for being or for having is just another expression of “I wish I were or I had”. Examine today some of the judgments that go into your mind. That person that is so arrogant? Check inside, and you would be surprised that you are secretly admiring them for being able to stand tall and for themselves, for all those times when you weren’t able to (and here, don’t judge yourself, you did what you could at that time).
Compassion it is. You don’t know what the other person is going through. You don’t know what it costs them to do what they are doing. Period.
Compassion is not finding them excuses to behave like jerks either; rather, it’s understanding that for the moment, this is their only way of defending themselves.
It doesn’t mean that you need to accept it either. This is where you have built a strong sense of boundaries and emotional intelligence to know when to leave the unhelpful discussion or to stand up for yourself. In both cases, you brought your energy back into yourself, instead of focusing on a form of passive-aggressive communication that doesn’t work. Try it, and tell me how it goes!.
K for knowing-it-all:
In the kingdom of over-achievers, I give you the know-it-all.
I take it you see why? Years in a corporate environment and being asked to explain, document and justify evrything. Yep!.
Of course, this is going to spill over all areas of life. But here is the issue: when we tend to think we know everything, we close away any sense of curiosity, we become complacent and well…narrow-minded!.
Another side of the phenomenon is what Social Psychology calls “the hindsight bias”, the “I knew it all along” or 20/20 hindsight. Yes, it’s much easier to connect the dots after the facts, because you get to pick and choose said dots. And the result? Too much overconfidence in own judgment, not enough space for the unknown factors…not a good risk management practice.
Keep reading, learning, listening. Include what you don’t agree with. Because you will know that your opinions have a solid foundation and you have the counterarguments to justify them.
L for lying to oneself:
A close friend to denial. Except for this time, it’s not only about choosing to ignore the bad news, but it’s also about fooling oneself into thinking we are perfect as we are, and the problem is the other guy.
This is when we blissfully ignore all these inner nudges to check our behavior and our information. Guilt has sometimes a raison d’être. One of them is to keep us accountable to ourselves when we mess up but decide, out of pride or arrogance, that it’s our way or the highway. Doesn’t it feel lonely or freezing, up there, perched on those high horses?.
Lying to ourselves is also coming unprepared and feeling smarty pants enough that we think nobody will notice and that we will wing it via lying and manipulation. Yeah, nope.
If we want to advance in our life, we will need a support system, we will need allies. And this means coming clean to ourselves every time we crossed our line of personal integrity.
Do not be afraid of self-introspection. Nobody has ever lost their way on the path of self-discovery. The more you know about your own process, your own desires and wants, and the less pain you will have when dealing with challenges and with others.
M for misplaced loyalty:
I cannot tell you how many of my (mostly female) clients have that syndrome. Astonishing! Spending hours of their lives covering for a junior or a supervisor, and more often for both, who, not only don’t seem to appreciate the gesture but also continue the same behavior, business as usual; after all, it worked once, why not push the limits.
The result? they do an insane amount of overtime and extra-work without being paid for it, and when things go pear shape, guess who will have the finger pointed at? Yep!.
You teach people how to treat you. So be a master at showing them how to interact with you, to be respectful and grateful for the favors you do them.
That’s right, it’s a favor, not a habit. Because we are all in together and we need to help each other at times. Not because it’s owed and not because you are a convenient doormat. Do not let your emotions and a sense of guilt get in the way of your professional integrity. Your boss is not a parent, nor a friend; your junior is not a kid nor a helpless victim that needs protecting. They are paid to do a certain job with defined responsibilities. And so do you.
And so you see from this first part only, there is plenty to work on, on the road of know thyself, know thy process, accept responsibility and do something about it if you wish to.
Today as you have read, and perhaps re-read this post, take an honest look at the recent times when you partook into these behaviors – no judgment, we are all learning from our past. And answer the questions below.
- How did that behavior serve you at that time?
- What were the consequences for you, your job, your relationships?
- How did it keep you stuck?
- What can you do to be more aware of this?
- What can you do to change it?