Create the Right Time for Change
Create the Right Time for Change
I see the role of therapy as helping people do less of the former, and more of the latter.
I’ve written before about the effort it takes to improve, but it can also be a question of timing. Our brains like predictability and certainty, so as we grow up there’s a quiet background effort to keep us within what is familiar to us. It’s why it upsets my mum to not go shopping on a Wednesday, even though she could go any day she wanted. This is actually bad for us, we begin to mentally calcify if we don’t stretch ourselves, make ourselves uncomfortable and embrace novelty. But to do so we have to swim against our own inclinations, which is why it often takes a particular moment to create the right window for change. Interestingly, it’s often a moment of crisis.
My best crisis
I’m writing this because of something that happened to me 30 years ago. I went through a difficult end-of-marriage that took two painful years. I’m lucky to be able to say it’s the worst thing I’ve ever been through, and grateful that I did because it became a catalyst for change. Up until then, I’d been pretty blind to myself. I scoffed at the notion of self-development – I knew who I was (a bit of a twat, it turns out). Then my life hit the skids and I looked inwards. And I haven’t stopped since. My point is that much of what I’ve come to believe was available to me before it happened, some had been given to me by my grandfather (in particular) but I wasn’t ready to listen.
I’m a great believer in the notion that, in the words of Robert Bly, “Out of your wound comes your genius”.
That out of our worst experiences comes the gift that can transform us and our lives. I’ve seen it – encouraged it – time and time again with my clients and students. What if you had to be going through this difficult moment in your life right now in order to live the rest of your life wonderfully? If that was true, what is there to learn from this event that would make this possible? Who would you have to be as a consequence to make that true? If you take those questions and go through them, you might be amazed what benefit emerges from them. Disaster might be what your life’s been waiting for.
For me, it caused me to confront everything about my life. Why I’d joined the police, why I’d got married so young, why I hadn’t gone to university. I revisited my relationship with my parents. I threw my life in the air and changed jobs (well, police forces). Over the next few years, I was utterly lost. Cut off from the certainties my childhood had provided me with, but devoid of any clear idea of where to go from where I was. It was because I remained stuck in my old patterns. I kept myself stuck by doing more of what wasn’t working. The solution was actually quite simple, but potentially extremely hard. Take action. It’s the mantra that changed my life. If you’re not happy where you are, go somewhere else. If that’s no better, rinse and repeat. If you’re not happy with who you’re with, be without them. If you don’t feel you have what it takes to get where you want, take action to become that person – get some therapy, develop better habits, educate yourself. Do whatever it takes. We might be human beings, but human doings go further. Through the actions I took I heard the words I needed to hear, in a place that I needed to be to understand them. Movement saved me, and found me.
Fail, or you won’t succeed
Now, I’m not advocating bouncing from one thing to another without thought or consideration. Both can be part of the action. Elicit every bit of information and every bit of advice you can that relates to your decision. And then make it, and then act on it. Like I said, straightforward advice to give, not so easy to act on. I know because I’ve failed many times. It’s why it’s a good thing that we’re not who we’re going to be yet. That we always have the hope of becoming better. It’s why forgiving yourself is fundamental. If you’re trying to change, failure is inevitable. If failure is inevitable, forgiveness is essential. It turns failure from a verdict against yourself, into a learning opportunity for growth. Bruce Lee said that “the person who never failed never succeeded”, and I agree. If you want to live more than a featureless life, you have to push beyond your comfort zone, you have to risk the unknown, you have to take a leap. Sometimes the best learnings come from the biggest leap. Sometimes there are no small steps to take, only big leaps to dare. My advice is to dare them. And I’m speaking to myself as much as to you. You’ll fall, sometimes majorly, but the only thing that matters is what you learn that gets you back up again. And I promise you, if you live like this, you’ll like who you become.
So, what have I done here? Written more words that may help some people, and be ignored by others. If my words have resonated, that’s wonderful. Go and take some action now. The difference between being inspiring and being uplifting is that being inspired causes you to act, whereas uplifting just gives you a temporary boost. I intend to inspire. If you’ve read this, and you recognise the sentiments but feel unmoved (notice that word?), then it might just be that you’re in the wrong place to hear them.
Think about that.
Look around you and take an inventory. I read somewhere that we’re a composite of the five people we spend the most time with. Do those people stretch you, support you and inspire you? Or do they conspire – even innocently – to keep you stuck in your present limitations? Write down what things in your life hold you back. Things like money, children, family or job. These are the constraints you imagine bind you, and I use the word ‘imagine’ advisedly. If you looked around, you’d find plenty of people with the same constraints who’ve created success from them. Ask unemployed single mother JK Rowling. Research has found that constraints actually make us more creative, so I’d pose another question of you. Where is the opportunity in your situation? What could you do with what you have (ok that’s two)? When I decided I wanted to become a therapist I looked around. Every course was at the weekend, and I had my children then, so they were out. The only thing I could find was a Diploma course in Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy that had a distance learning and 1-to-1 mentoring format. It wasn’t great – my students know more after their first weekend than I knew after two years – but it got me started. Don’t wait for perfect, go for what’s possible. Begin. Take action. Honestly, if you keep to that mantra, once the first steps have been taken your momentum will keep the doors opening.