How to Stay Motivated

How to Stay Motivated

How to Stay Motivated

The Battle Within Us All…

Here’s the thing about motivation: It’s not just something that “is” or “isn’t.” Motivation is a force that you cultivate a relationship with. You have to nurture it in specific ways in order to keep it with you.

And also, interestingly, when motivation seems to be absent it’s not necessarily. It’s just that an opposing force has taken its place and is currently in control. 

It’s weird to think about, but it’s true. We have competing goals, all the time. When we’re motivated and taking action towards our conscious goals, we feel good. But we have other goals that are not conscious. And we have other forces in ourselves that often overpower motivation. 

Gaining self awareness about those competing forces inside of you (inside us all) can help you understand what’s happening when you’re getting off track and feeling completely unmotivated, so that you reconnect with your motivation when you want to or need to.

First, let’s talk about what this power struggle looks like in action. Here’s what those opposing forces show up like within me. Can you relate? Or are yours different?

The Power-Struggle Between Motivation and Instant Gratification

Immediate Gratification sees an opening. It elbows its way past Motivation, to grab the wheel at the helm of my mind.

Sometimes, when Immediate Gratification is in charge, it steers me towards a lagoon of lounging around, and making ambitious lists of things I never do (which is a very satisfying substitute for actual activity). Sometimes we careen back and forth between small, time-frittering tasks. Sometimes we drift along, scrolling… scrolling… scrolling. Sometimes it has me impulsively make cookies, which is kind of fun. But we usually just scroll.

Sometimes we sail madly for The Emergency of the Day, firing off emails and phone calls in every direction, and that’s very exciting — but never actually connected to anything truly meaningful or important. Sometimes I am marooned on a sandbar of stalled time where fifteen, thirty minutes slide by when I could be something productive but instead am sipping tea and “researching” something that seems inexplicably important at the time but never really is. (How, exactly, are star sapphires formed? I can tell you…)

I am relieved when Motivation finally frees itself from whatever dark corner of the bilge it’s been temporarily trapped in, and strides back in to re-assert it’s authority. I’m saved.

Immediate Gratification chews it’s nails and watches Motivation spread the chart out on the table, plot points with sliding rulers, take notes, perform elaborate calculations with sextants and compasses, and then competently steer me towards an attractive destination.

When Motivation is in charge it prods me to get up at uncivilized hours and do important things I’d not otherwise have time to. It compels me to exert myself, tolerate discomfort, set boundaries around distractions and move forward every day. Immediate Gratification pretends to stand respectfully in the distance, but has a long fishing pole with shiny lures on the end that occasionally dangle in front of my face: Online shopping, trip-planning, the (never true) idea that Something Really Important is happening in the world so I should check my phone right now. Motivation swats them away, keeping the other hand steady on the wheel and eyes on the horizon.

Does this sound familiar? I bet — This struggle lives inside us all. Your counter-point to Motivation might be different. For me it’s definitely Immediate Gratification. For you it might be The Sloth, or Miss Comfy-Pants, or Mr. FOMO. Does not actually matter how this shows up, just that you know how it shows up inside of you so that you’re prepared to deal with it when you need to.

3 Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about how to keep Motivation in charge most of the time. (And also how to have it be okay to intentionally be unmotivated for a little while if I need to be).

1) Make Friends With Anxiety

Tony Robbins (love you Tony) astutely pointed out that we’re motivated not just by anticipation of positive reward, but by clear understanding of the negative consequences of our actions. This is supported by research in the study of motivation and persuasion. Fear is a powerful motivator.

We (and by “we” I do mean “I”) can lull ourselves into believing that when Immediate Gratification or The Sloth is in charge, it’s really okay. It’s fine. You can spend an afternoon watching the entire series of some dumb show or adding and removing random things from an Amazon cart because it’s just fine.

But what’s actually true is that what we put effort and energy into every day creates our future reality. So indulging Immediate Gratification really equals Future Failure to meet our goals. I’ve found it helpful to also attach a mental image / persona to “Future Failure.”

My own personal vision of Future Failure is a version of me who is basically an exhausted, anxious mess who is always late and who can never find her keys. (I’ll let you have fun imagining your own Future Failure persona — enjoy.)

It also helps to have a self concept that is absolutely not Future Failure. Knowing that the real you is competent, effective, and generally has your crap together is a useful point of contrast.

But the power lies in this part: Envisioning Future Failure and then linking that negative vision to something pleasurable (like watching TV). Doing so “reframes” the activity in not just an intellectual way… but an emotional one.

Reminding yourself that: “Future Failure would totally sit here for five more hours and watch this entire season. But I’m not Future Failure. I’m generally competent and effective. I know that I’m not just watching TV, I’m loosing the opportunity to [insert important goal here], or feel competent and effective. Choosing to watch TV instead of doing what I know I actually need to do means that I’m choosing to not feel good about myself or my outcomes.

Watching TV is not a benign activity when it’s a conscious decision to fail or embrace something you don’t want. When it becomes associated with unpleasantness and failure instead of pleasure, you’ll feel less comfortable with it. Miss Comfy-Pants doesn’t seem quite as comfy anymore. Then it’s easier to reconnect with Motivation. (Motivation doesn’t watch a lot of Netflix, in case you’ve guessed).

Anxiety gets a bad rap. To be a little anxious is a good thing. Go ahead and worry about what will happen if you DON’T follow through. Immediate Gratification will seem less like a laid-back friendly buddy, and more like a flaky, chain-smoking neer-do-well with trembling hands. You’ll run right into the arms of clean-cut, trustworthy Motivation. And bask in his/her/it’s approval as you competently and effectively do the darn dishes already.

2) Don’t Get Exhausted or Confused

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that when Immediate Gratification takes over it’s because I’m either tired, or because I don’t know what to do next.

That awareness helps me 1) Not beat myself up for getting off track once in awhile and 2) Regroup. Because in the ebb and flow of motivation, sometimes you really do need to rest and re-group before moving forward again.

Motivation will flag if you get burnt-out. It is not a reasonable expectation to stay motivated all the time. And if you do get a surge of motivation, don’t go crazy and try to achieve big huge goals quickly.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Build time for rest and renewal into your day, every day. Just stay the course and keep working towards your goal a little bit every day too.

But you’re not going to be perfect all the time. You can be laser-focused and achieve an important goal and then…. Drift for a little while. And then sooner or later you’ll look around and say “Hey. What am I doing?” and then you’ll have to reconnect with Motivation.

This requires looking at your map again, to see where you are in the arc of progress. This is why it’s so important to have written goals, and a clear plan of action to refer back to. This is especially true when you have a big goal with lots of twists and turns.

You can make a lot of progress, but you will periodically falter. At those moments you need to pause and re-orient yourself as to where you are now and what needs to happen next. Without that clarity Immediate Gratification will jump right in, swing the wheel around and head for Vegas.

3) Do a Little Bit Every Day

In order to keep Motivation in charge long-term, you must intentionally check in with it every day. You need to have conversations with it. You need to have a relationship with it, and take influence and guidance from it. This helps you stay committed to Motivation and less inclined to get jumped by The Sloth or Instant Gratification.

They’ll still whisper at you like the conduct-disordered teenage friends you had in junior high who were always trying to get you to do morally questionable things with them, but you will be able to say, “Nah guys, I’m busy” when you had a huddle with Motivation first.

The way I maintain my relationship with Motivation is by journaling. I just check in with myself: “What’s the most important thing for me to be doing today?” And then write about it for a few minutes. I often re-write my goals in order to keep track of what I’m doing and why. When there’s an ebb in motivation, or when I loose track of The Most Important Next Step, this moment of touching base re-orients me and helps me prioritize my time.

But the single most important thing I’ve found is to create a routine where time for me to work on my goal is blocked out every single day. It is much more important for you (us) to work consistently than it is to do huge amazing things once in awhile. Twenty minutes of jumping around in front of a work-out video every morning is much more effective than a big heroic three-hour work out once a week.

When you work a little bit every day, you know what to do, and you have the time to do it. You don’t have to start over every time you re-engage with a project. You don’t have to re-motivate yourself. You just stay the course.

Bottom Line

So: Go forth and cultivate a little anxiety, don’t over do it on any given day, check in with Motivation and “The Plan” frequently, and create routines that support progress. Also, be kind to yourself. It is 100% okay to indulge a little instant gratification, or sloth-ness, or comfy-pants wearing sometimes. It could be that those parts of you are also healthy and good, and helping you get other important needs met like the need to relax, rest, and unwind. Those are not bad things. 

There’s light and dark in all things, and the key to long-term happiness and success is finding balance through it all. 

I hope these ideas, mental strategies, and Jedi mind-tricks help you cultivate a healthy balance between the competing forces inside of you.

Let me know how it goes!

xoxo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Achieving Ambitious Goals is a Journey…

At the time I write this, we’re about 30 days into the new year. Ah, February. In addition to being dark, cold, and relatively boring… you’re a heart breaker. Valentine’s Day aside, February often brings the bleak reality of what all those shiny New Year’s resolutions  and “new year new you” aspirations actually look like after a month or so of bashing up against reality.

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Having things not work is a gift, one that offers you insight and crucial information… as long as you’re open to it. Making a change and then having the experience of whether or not it works is the reality-based information you require to learn, grow, and revise your approach. Having something not work out the first time is simply an invitation to go deeper, and figure out what achieving your most ambitious goals *actually* requires.

New idea: Having the experience of “failure” is what success actually feel like, in practice. (As long as you keep going!)

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The true path forward — the one that’s hard-won through trial, error, and lots of experimentation — is typically not at all like the path forward we imagined in our heads, before we began taking action.

If you started the new year with ambitious goals and aspirations that are already on life-support, or have been abandoned altogether: CONGRATULATIONS. Only now do you have the real-world information you need to reassess your situation, gain more clarity, and tweak your approach.

To help you figure out how to achieve your most important goals for real, I’ve invited master life coach Laurie Gerber of The Handel Groupto share her tips for how to use setbacks to understand yourself more deeply, and shine a spotlight on the mental, emotional and practical strategies that will help you achieve your most ambitious goals.

Listen and learn:

  • How creating multidimensional, holistic self-awareness can help you uncover blindspots that could otherwise become obstacles.
  • Why the obvious path to change is often not effective (and what often unseen things actually are)
  • How to get your thoughts, feelings and behavior into alignment
  • Different ways of thinking that will help you stay motivated over the long haul

 

I hope that this conversation helps YOU dig deeper, get into alignment, and get clarity about where to refocus your energy.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: We discussed a number of resources in this episode. One of them is our free Ten Year Plan exercise. If you haven’t done this yet, here’s the link to get the pdf or access to the online version.

 

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How to Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Marissa Anderson, “Resurrection”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Keep The First Picture

After a long run in the blistering Texas heat with my friend, she looks at me and says, “Let’s take a picture!” Instinctually I said, “sure!” and smiled for the camera.  Then I saw the photo… After pausing to think about the state of my face (I looked like Sloth from The Goonies), I frantically asked, “Maybe we should take another one?” And then she said something that I found remarkably empowering… She said she was starting a new personal goal to keep the first picture. 

Puzzled, I asked her why. “It seems like everyone takes about ten pictures and funnels through at least five different filters before they’re satisfied with the photo they’ve recreated. Why don’t we just appreciate the raw moment we captured the first time?” she asked. 

Wow, why don’t we?…

The Problem with Perfectionism 

It seems like there is an unspoken expectation that we should always be happy and healthy. We should always be perfect.  Even when we’re going through some of the darkest moments in our lives, there’s an underlying pressure to keep it hidden. “I can’t talk about this. I must appear like I’ve got it all together” we tell ourselves. Whether you’re a single parent, having trouble at work, or dealing with a mental or physical illness, somehow it’s a lot easier to post a photo of you smiling than one that shows what’s really going on… 

The problem with perfectionism is that it’s not only impossible but fleeting. The second we feel like we’ve achieved the slightest perfection in one area of our lives, we’re paranoid about the mess we’re hiding in another corner.  And there we go: around-and-around this cycle of striving, failing (while making the appearance of succeeding), feeling disappointed and ashamed, and then doing it all over again. Even in my own life, this cycle has deceived me into missing out on some pretty great moments, which to me is the most disappointing outcome of perfectionism.

We’re Missing Out on The Moment!

The pressure we feel to be perfect can cause us to miss out on the moment. Perfectionism convinces us that there’s an even better moment to be fabricated and if we believe it enough, then it’s that fabricated moment that actually happened. 

There are two problems with this lie that Perfectionism tells us: First, believing a moment is perfect doesn’t make it so. Second, who says the moment that actually happened wasn’t worth cherishing even if it wasn’t “perfect?!”

Even messy moments have a purpose. It’s the messy moments that have brought you where you are today. These moments should be celebrated! Not hidden. It’s the failing that teaches us the most, gives us the humility to try again, and ultimately allows us to grow. 

Speaking as a chronic perfectionist myself, I know how hard it is to actually flip the switch and just sit in imperfection.  The truth is, there’s a fine line between being okay with imperfection and being apathetic to personal growth. That’s why “keeping the first picture” can be such an empowering tool for us perfectionists! It’s a simple action that creates change little-by-little, picture-by-picture. 

What “Keeping the First Picture” Can Teach You

  1. It teaches you to appreciate the moment for what it is…sweat and all! Looking at that photo can show you exactly what was happening in your life at that moment that eventually led you to this moment. The candid nature of life can be harsh and daunting, but it is also sweet and transformative. When you look back on that first picture, you can use it as a window to reflect and then grow. 

  2. It empowers you to let go of Perfectionism. Keeping the first picture can give you the courage to slowly let go of the “ideas” of perfect moments you’re chained to. To look at your tired face and say “Man, that was a crazy day”, but know that you hold the power to say “No” to Perfectionism. You don’t have to put on a show or a filter just to appease Perfectionism. You can be authentic! One picture at a time. 

As a therapist, I have seen so many clients who struggle with the desire to have the perfect life (perfect relationships, perfect job, the perfect body), or at least seem perfect on the outside… In their search for perfection though, they’ve missed out on the moment! Although it seems simple, keeping the first picture can help you take one step towards appreciating what you have and letting go of what is unachievable and frankly not as perfect as it seems. 

After I kept that first picture I didn’t see how red and sweaty I was, I saw two friends who hadn’t seen each other in months, after a long run, talking about our lives, our future, and our friendship.

What do you see in your first picture?

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

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‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

‘Tis The Season To Be… Present

Maggie is a career coach and life coach who specializes in helping people get clarity about their life’s purpose, and teach them the skills and strategies to overcome obstacles and create a life they love. She leads our Design Your Life online career and life coaching group.

How To Get a Grip On Your Phone Use.

Reading digital detox advice on your phone is a little bit like getting weight loss tips while eating ice cream.

It’s a clear case of hilarious irony colliding with cringe-worthy guilt.

But hey, we’re only human, and all of us – every single one of us (yes, even the people you think have an iron will and appear to have everything put together on the outside) succumbs to temptation and easily slides into habits that don’t serve us.

Cue Christina Perri singing Human.

This time of year, with so many actual things going on in our lives during this busy holiday season, digital over-use can become even more apparent. This is a time to connect with others and enjoy the sights, smells, activities and rituals of the holidays.

But for many of us in this modern age, things like cookie-making with the kids or tree-decorating with the family quickly devolve into hours of Pinterest scrolling on the couch, while your kids or partner drift off into their own personal digital universe. All of you together in your aloneness.

And who among us hasn’t cursed after we picked up the phone to find a cookie recipe online and then two hours later — having missed the actual window of cookie-making opportunity — looked up and thought, “What have I been doing?! That’s two hours of my life that I can’t get back.”

Then we swear we’ll cut down. And we try. And it works. For a while. Until it doesn’t.

Whatever your flavor of choice:

  • Scrolling through Facebook (I know, I know – no one’s on FB anymore, but some people sincerely still show up there – raising my hand, tentatively)
  • Video games
  • Phone games (but they’re brain teasers so I won’t get dementia later in life, right?)
  • Porn
  • Blogs (one of my friends has a handful of sites she visits regularly that she calls “interior design porn”)
  • Those silly quizzes (yes, I really did need to know that if I were a live-action princess, I’d obviously be Cinderella)
  • News sites that feed our political divisiveness
  • Insta (okay, I know it’s called The Gram now)
  • Tumblr
  • That new favorite app (one of my clients told me about Marco Polo, and I’m restraining myself. Do. Not. Need. Another. E-toy.)

I could go on and on. The fun clearly never ends. In fact, if we consciously taper of our phone use, there’s almost a stalkerish quality to how we get reeled back in. Facebook emailed me to tell me that I had 97 notifications after I went on a hiatus for a few days. When I deleted that message, I got an email that one of my good friends had posted an update – my good friend was named and there was a teaser and link. Finally, in disgust, I logged on the FB and spent far more time than was necessary changing my email settings. Stop chasing me, FB!

And the Screen Time feature on the latest iOS. Yeah, I didn’t need that, Apple. Thanks very much anyway.

Look, here’s the thing: over-the-top phone use is like any other compulsion. What starts out seemingly innocently – in fact, often with a real purpose in mind – gradually erodes into something that becomes destructive and unhealthy.

The problem is, by the time we recognize it (or someone calls us on it), we’re in deep, and we tend to react badly:

  • We might become defensive and angry and spew rationales about why it’s important and justified
  • Maybe we berate ourselves for our weaknesses, mentally lashing ourselves for our bad habits
  • Perhaps we withdraw from others because we don’t want to be witnessed doing something that isn’t in our best interest.

Or we turn to a combination of all of these possibilities.

How to Reduce Your Phone Use

The good news is, there are several mechanisms that bring us back to strong mental health and habits that serve us. Instead of white-knuckling it and making what’s been fun all of sudden forbidden or massively restricted, it’s really helpful to look at the root of our phone use.

The first step of changing any habit is to create self-awareness around what’s really going on. When you know what is motivating you to zone out, plus get clarity around how it’s actually impacting your life, then you are empowered and motivated to change. [More on this subject: “How to Stay Motivated”]

Here’s are some examples of the types of questions I ask my life coaching clients to help them crack into what’s really going on with their phone use:

  • What is enticing you to disappear into your phone, to go unconscious, to numb out?
  • What do you want your life to look like? How much phone use feels healthy to you?
  • What needs do you have that you’re attempting to fill through your phone? Connection? Stimulation? Meaning? What would your life be like if you got those met more directly?
  • What does support and useful infrastructure look like for you as you shift your habits and create ones that you want?
  • How is your phone use affecting your relationships with your partner or children?
  • What would your life be like if you felt more connected to the here and now?
  • What would you do with all the time you’d have on your hands, if you released the grip on your phone?

Those are just a few of the questions you might ask yourself to begin making changes in this area of your life. If you’d like many of our counseling and coaching clients here at Growing Self, you might find that when you scratch the surface and turn your awareness to yourself, your feelings, your needs and your desires…. You begin to expand and grow.

When you release your grip on your phone you have time and space to begin cultivating self-awareness. You may find that phone over-use has actually been a place-holder for what you really want and need out of your life. Only then will your real journey begin: Figuring out how to design the life you want.

All to the best to you and yours this holiday season.

Maggie Graham, M.Ed., LPC, CPC

Embracing Growth: Getting Comfortable With Discomfort

Embracing Growth: Getting Comfortable With Discomfort

Want to Make a Change? You May Need to Get Uncomfortable.

As a life coach and therapist, I often talk to people who feel stuck in situations that are not ideal, especially in their careers or their relationships.

Why? Because even though they are not “in love” with their current circumstances, keeping things as-is feels safer and more comfortable than the idea of making a big change. Even though they know they can do more, or have more, they resist embracing their full potential because change can feel hard. Even scary.

Remember The Matrix? How our hero Nero / Keanu had to make a choice between staying in the comfort of the life he knew, or waking up to the uncomfortable truth of what was actually happening?

 

online-life-coach-transformation-comfortable-uncomfortable-how-to-change-your-life-redblue_pill.

 

Do you stay comfy? Or do you grow?

We’re all faced with that same choice. Do we stay in our comfort zone and pretend that the life we have is all that is possible? Or do we wake up to the anxiety-provoking truth that we can do more… but that it will probably require being less comfortable for a minute, while we create our new reality.

Sometimes simply recognizing that the life we are living is not in line with who we truly are can bring on a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Some of us feel better when we just keep doing what we are doing, in order to remain comfortable. It’s easy to lay around and not exercise. It’s easy to avoid tough, but necessary conversations with our partners. It’s easy to punch in and punch out at a mediocre, unfulfilling job that pays the bills.

It’s hard to push yourself to do more.

Herein lies the majority of the problem: we are ALL conditioned to be satisfied with “comfortable.” Many people feel so threatened by the possibility of discomfort that they create “reasons” (aka, “excuses”) for why change is not possible, or blame others for the condition of their lives. While feeling helpless is not a great feeling, believe it or not, being the victim can feel less threatening than the possibility that you actually are in control of your life… and that you do have the power to change it.

What I’ve learned as a life coach who specializes in helping people get motivated is that there’s tremendous opportunity in discomfort. The truth is, we do NOT often progress, grow, and/or accomplish great things by remaining comfortable. If the early American settlers wanted to stay comfortable, our country would have stopped in Pennsylvania. If Susan B. Anthony stayed comfortable in the early 1900’s, when would women have been able to vote? If Martin Luther King Jr would have stayed comfortable, we may all still be using different water fountains.

If you want to change your life, you must learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. How appealing does “being comfortable” sound if it’s synonymous with “mediocre and stagnant.” The truth is that feeling uncomfortable can push you towards great things. That is how we grow! We learn to make fire because we are uncomfortable with cold. Imagine what it would be like if we just learned to be comfortable with the cold. Burrr.

Embrace the feeling of knowing that you NEED to do something else with your life — don’t avoid it. If you are brave enough to entertain the idea that what you are doing might not be enough, then you are uncomfortable in your current situation. That is the starting point of growth. Don’t lie to yourself, or those around you, as a way of playing it safe. Be uncomfortable with your situation. Embrace it. And BE the change that you need to see in your life.

Zachary Gaiter M.A.

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