Here’s a very real problem: too many people are living the life others set for them. Often without even knowing it.
They become the person they were expected and conditioned by others to be - their parents, their friends, their partners.
Old habits and roles that were once influenced into them in younger years now continue to play out in adult life - preventing them from experiencing the kind of life and relationships they actually want.
Perhaps this is true for you too?
You have an idea of how you would like to be in the world. How you would like to feel. The way you would like to speak to others and act, but you are caught. You can’t seem to make some of those key changes. You're stuck.
So you do what most intelligent human beings do, you read up and try to learn what behaviours you need to change and what strategies to use. You try and force yourself to be more confident, more decisive, more fit and healthy, have better social skills or say no without feeling guilty. You get out the ‘how to’ guides, attend some flashy trainings, and you even practice.
But then nothing changes.
Nothing changes because you are looking in the wrong direction. Your behaviours are just an output of your mindset. Your mindset is the driver, and it’s your mindset that needs to change.
I bet you already know 50 things you could do to immediately improve your life, but aren’t doing them. Why?
Because nothing changes on the outside, until it first changes on the inside. No strategy is useful if you don’t have the right attitude and motivation to act on it.
When you change your mindset, changing your behaviours becomes natural and easy. Only then can you truly change your relationships, your career, your business, and your life.
Only then can you stop living the life set for you, and start living the life set by you.
So, where do you start? Right here with the five major reasons you’re struggling to change and what you can do about them.
Dr Michael Hall - “Where there is defensiveness, energies are used to fend off threats, rather than make things better (change).”
You have found something you want to change about yourself, you make a plan you try really hard, but then a week or month later you feel like you’re getting nowhere, yet again - how many more times do you have to keep trying - why aren’t you changing?! You tell yourself what a crappy human being you are, because you aren’t your ‘perfect self’ already.
Ever felt like that?
Most of us have learned to judge our own fallibility. You have a little critic on the inside that says things like, “What the hell were you thinking? You screwed it up again.” Sometimes you do something well and it rewards you with praise, “Way to go - you are awesome!”
You probably prefer the praise and may like to do without the criticisms. But the problem is, neither of them are really useful when it comes to change.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with rewarding improvements and milestones, when you start judging yourself as a person for everything you get wrong or right you load the whole situation with unnecessary pressure. Now your self-esteem is on the line and you’re feeling defensive about change rather than embracing the process to get there.
You cannot change what you cannot see clearly. This requires an attitude of openness and observation, rather than judgement.
The ability to just look at something without judging it enables you to embrace reality for what it is, and work accurately with what’s there.
If you have a goal or something you are trying to change in yourself or your life, treat your efforts as an experiment and play the role of a good scientist. Be deeply curious with the attitude that every result is fascinating feedback, giving you more information to make your next attempt even better.
Remember, you fell over a thousand times when learning how to walk, these events weren’t problems or statements about you, they were a necessary part of your learning and development.
Some of the most powerful changes you could make in your life end, before they even begin. Why?
Because change is confronting. Change typically requires you to:
Let’s face it, true change doesn't just invite your fallibility, it can invite feeling vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable - for most of us - sucks. It is far easier to be in denial and lie to yourself and others about what's working and what isn’t.
Unfortunately, this only leads to avoiding the real issues in your life, which ultimately leads to long term unhappiness and allows tiny molehill problems to become mountains of dread.
Carl Rogers – “Whatever is true in a situation does not need to be treated as an enemy, it is just what is. It is what needs to be dealt with. Accurately seeing it and expressing it enables us to get busy with life's challenges.”
It’s quite difficult to change something you have not admitted and confronted. It is by observing, admitting, accepting, and then confronting what is for whatever it is that enables you to deal with it.
The earlier you confront an issue, tackle a change that needs to occur, the earlier and longer you can reap the benefits. The longer you wait, the bigger the problems of not making the change grow.
With your non-judgemental and observing attitude, take an honest audit of your life:
Do this periodically so that you can review and adjust through time. Take immediate action on your answers.
Dr Michael Hall - “The power (ability) to change lies inside the state of responsibility.”
Change doesn't last or often even occur if you don’t take responsibility for it, and blame is the opposite of responsibility.
When you blame someone for something, you are in effect saying, “the fault isn’t mine, it’s yours”. It’s a pretty good feeling. When we blame another, we get to rid ourselves of the angst we feel and place it on the other person. We also get to rid ourselves of the responsibility to solve the fault, because if it’s not your fault, then it’s not your responsibility.
The problem with this is, it’s like a get out of responsibility jail free card. If you blame the other person, you don’t have to do the work of change yourself.
Unfortunately, the positive changes you want in your life are unlikely to happen unless you make them happen. Blame may feel good, but rarely will the rest of the world cater to your needs and desires simply because you tell them they should.
Don’t get me wrong, there may be merit in the blame, other people may be at fault and liable for whatever has occurred. From time to time, this will definitely be the case. But even if it is the case, in the end the only person who has the power to truly meet your needs is you.
Blaming others or the world for your circumstances, even if sometimes accurate, takes your attention away from the one only variable you have control over to change your circumstances - you.
What do you do if you catch yourself blaming? Step back and ask yourself:
Ever feel like no matter how hard you try, or how much you achieve, it’s never quite enough? Maybe others have a high opinion of you, and you are wondering how long it’s going to take for them to realise you aren’t all that good? Welcome to the perfectionist club, my friend.
Perfectionism if we broke it down is a two-step process that looks like this. Attempt something and then:
A tell-tale sign you are doing this two step process is someone compliments you and you feel uncomfortable, or dismissive towards the compliment and imagine “they are just being nice”.
The result of this process is the conclusion “It’s never good enough” and standards for success that are always out of reach.
What follows on from this is usually one or all of the following:
Perfectionism inevitably leads to self-judgement, procrastination, imposter syndrome, burn-out, or all four. And they all suck, and make change really hard.
Dr Michael Hall - “As a change mechanism, what you reward will grow. When grand ideas and new developments in skill begin – they are small and fragile expressions. And as such, they can die easily and wither away without reinforcement.”
Celebrating small improvements is about inviting repetition. The more you do something, the more ingrained it becomes.
Setting up a system of feedback and reward to acknowledge small improvements can have a tremendous influence, especially if you suffer from perfectionism.
So how can you facilitate that?
Pro tip - start journaling every day on the change you want to make and list out all of the improvements and things you can count that contributed towards your goal. If you run perfectionism, this will seem silly, arrogant, or even like you are rewarding yourself for nothing. But remember, change requires reinforcing what’s working so that you keep doing it and feel motivated to keep going, as well as acknowledging what could be better which you are already highly skilled at.
So with any goal or change you are attempting, pre-plan in advance:
Maybe you have all the right attitudes, you are open and accepting of yourself, you take ownership and responsibility for making the change, and have your system of rewards and helpers all set up and ready to go... but you don’t know HOW to make the change.
Red Adair - “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait till you hire an amateur.”
There is a lot you can learn from trial and error and sometimes this is an appropriate approach. But there is also a lot of time you can waste and bad habits you can pick up because of this approach.
The most effective thing you can do is learn from a professional who has done the hard work for you and can help you make the change you want quickly and effectively.
If the change you want to make requires a change in the way you think about yourself, others, your team, or the world - these changes can be the most difficult to make on your own because they often include blind spots, like your hidden implicit assumptions about life. We all have blind spots in our thinking and by definition cannot see and work with these on our own. A professional can help you do this within three months as opposed to years of uncertain trial and error.
Now what? Pick something in this blog post, anything, and start practicing that new habit today.
Change is a process, it happens in gradual repeated steps, and the most important step is simply the first.
Which of these reasons do you relate to? Let us know in the comments below.
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