This past winter I purchased a whimsical piece of art by Leigh Standley. Along with wonderful colorful images she has the phrase “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara I could save the world.” It appealed to me on many levels, as a counselor, life coach and as an overall know-it-all. Saving the world or myself starts with change, new ideas, beliefs and behaviors to follow suit. In theory this is wonderful stuff but put to the test much trickier to do. Some folks are ready, willing and able to look at themselves honestly and want to change, grow and own that they have to change their behavior for a desired outcome. Some don’t, which is all fine and good– I can respect someone who is happy with where they are and are clear on that. We all fall into that category during periods if not the entirety of our lives. Then there is that that small cross population, which says they want to grow, learn and move toward making changes yet…in reality not so much. To be clear I have and do fall in all of these categories on any given day, subject area or Sybil style personality having been triggered.
There are many flavors of these behaviors I have demonstrated in the face of change, I will try to document a few here to make my point and show my stellar ability to make poor choices.
“The Collector” is the first that comes to mind, I buy the latest and greatest book or tool on how to change whatever it is I am looking to change. It could be weight loss, organization, spiritual, career, romance, anything really. I rarely read the whole book, sometimes none at all; I might go to lectures or book signing by the authors but cannot commit to a class or workshop for such. Each new tool I purchase is touted as the Holy Grail and sits on a bookshelf until it is relegated to the closet filled with yesterday’s grails. There is no follow through or use of any of the tools I find longer than 24 hours. When I moved west this last time I had a Holy Grail garage sale.
“The Hummingbird” is when I take “The Collector” to the next step. I buy all the accoutrement for the desired change and generally buy the best, tools, books, crystals, clothing i.e. hiking if I want to get fit or gym clothes for the gym, all the accessories I will need to delve into the change process. I sign up and take a workshop, a class, get a video and start to work at it in earnest. Shortly down the road I hit a tough spot. That spot can be I meet resistance (both internal and external,) when it becomes uncomfortable or when I challenge old beliefs and behaviors. As an example when a trip to the dentist for root canal naked with my hair on fire while listening to Celione Dion music sounds better than going to the gym I know I hit a nerve. I don’t always know what it is but usually it is the size and weight of the Titanic and I need to look at it. Sometimes those around me find my new behaviors threatening and try to sabotage or push back. When friends or family see you trying to get fit and they are couch potatoes they will try to entice you to stay home and be a french fry . Sometimes that spot can be boredom if the desired change does not hit the manufactured time line I have set for success. Here I lose momentum and becomes disillusioned. Like when I didn’t lose 40lbs in 10 days while only eating cabbage soup and doing Kegel exercises I gave up. At this point rather than pushing through to the other side I look around for the next expert’s book, class or system to invest in. Trying hummingbird style landed me with $500 pair of back country skis, gym memberships in every state I lived where I would go for the first 2 months, scads of workshops, classes, and a close personal relationship with Mayflower Moving because what better way to change than start fresh in a new state! Problem was I was still doing the same thing that didn’t work for me in the last state. Ok, there may or may not have been law enforcement challenges involved in some of those skips, uhh, moves.
“The Researcher” I cannot say this better than Mother Teresa did, “Creating change is serious business, either in yourself or the world around you. One cannot be will-nilly about such endeavors” Now that I think about it this might have been said by Chef Boyardee, I get those two mixed up. “The Researcher” does just that, studies what method is the best, then chooses, umm maybe, rush to judgment is not an option and there is new data coming in at any given moment so picking anything is delayed. I buy reference books, talk to experts, organize and collate facts and figures and then think. I spend a huge amount of time thinking about how best to go about my desired change. I do not want to choose wrong, or start anything without all the angles covered, explored and documented. The end result is I never make a misstep or a mistake. Because I never start anything. Mistakes and missteps are great learning tools, embarrassing yes, sometimes you fall down and go boom in yoga on your first class or three and everyone giggles… uh I heard. But making a misstep has taught me what not to do, which lead me down the road to what works. Researching the road ahead left me behind in a Stuckies at the truck stop doing calculations and eating pecan logs. On a side I found out those little bastards can be rough on your teeth, taste nasty, not to mention that it was a waste of some 20 years and made me fat, I am just saying.
“The Lawyer” here we have someone who argues or handles the counter point to any given point for a living. In this carnation I will come to you for advice on change, of course I don’t want it I want to justify my current choice. But I don’t always know that going in, I’ll ask “What can I do to find the relationship I want, lose weight, and find a job that makes me feel fulfilled and get in touch with my higher self.” As a Life Coach folks also come to me with these types of questions when they are going through transitions and need someone to help. Unlike a bank teller let’s say, who might find these types of questions disconcerting when folks are coming to the bulletproof glass with relationships woes and deposit slips. I get paid to ask people questions that help guide them to their truths. This is kind of a discovery mode, I can make comments, give suggestions on small steps but mostly I want them to come up with what works for them and makes them comfortable while going forward.
But back to me, if a friend or family member has achieved a goal I would like to achieve, I ask what steps worked for them. As they offer up each small discreet step I shoot it down with why it won’t work for me. Every point, every piece of minutia they mention I tell how it would never work because of things like, I don’t get up that early, stay up late, eat any form of fruit or vegetable, are too busy, my brain does not work like that, the stock market could go in the dumper again, I don’t want to make a mistake and have to start again, school is expensive, I am out of tin foil and the aliens are listening in to my thoughts…blah, blah blah. The reality is that all of these counter points are true because I believe them to be, because I choose behaviors to support those beliefs. So yes Virginia if you choose the same behavior over and over you get the same outcome over and over. Expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. I have spent a good deal of time justifying behavior that no longer served me. I grew up in a house where verbal jousting was an art and if you didn’t stand up for yourself and your beliefs you got steam rolled over and someone took your pork chop. It was an ugly dinnertime at the Freeburg’s house every night at 6pm sharp cloth napkins and all. I learned to focus on why things wouldn’t work, what was too big, too scary, and the impossible. It was safer than focusing on what I could do, what might be uncomfortable for me to look at, my ability to own my actions and mistakes.
The above list is an example of some of the types of reactions I have to change, to trying to move forward or not. You may see people you know other than me in there, you would especially see me if you are one of the poor sods I have cajoled into trying to help me or guide me. Sorry about that. What I know is this. Very few people listen unless they are ready to hear, nobody reads information whether it is an email or a book unless they deem that information important and are ready, nobody acts and continues to do so unless they choose to go forward, however crooked forward might be. You cannot force someone to grow, learn or change no matter what kind of muddle they are in. I know it was best for folks to stand back be supportive and let me flounder however difficult and frustrating that was. I am also learning to let those who come to me not quite ready to invest in themselves flounder. I will have to go to my learned friends to see how they stood patiently by and supported yet did not scream in my face the solutions to my woes. I am deaf on many levels it seems.
So here it is some folks will ask for help but are no way looking for it. They just want a fan, a witness, sympathy or to justify their beliefs. I have learned this after having been on both sides of the equation. I cannot take it personal when someone asks and does not take my advice and can only ask others to do the same with me. Because I can promise you that my inaction or wrong turn has nothing to do with you at all, it’s all about me. I used to think someone was serious about needing help for the first 137 times they asked me and as I bumped up against the above behaviors I was frustrated and mad. Now I understand after the 3rd time they seek me out for advice or help for the same thing perhaps I need to stand back and honor where they are in their journey as my wise family and friends do with me.
The reason we say that the teacher appears when the student is ready is we are all teachers and students. Most of the time however the teacher part of us is on coffee/martini breaks waiting. We are waiting for that flash of intent from someone, intent on learning, growing, changing. For me doing anything before someone is keyed in is like offering to push a jackass up hill. It doesn’t go well for anyone involved and demonstrates that I am the bigger of the two asses even though I am wearing a cape and a tiara.