I often hear clients talk about how unhappy they are and how powerless they feel to change things. If the issue is a bad marriage, they struggle with trying to get their spouse to show up in a different way. If the issue is with work, they feel powerless to change their job if they’re not the boss. They also feel stuck to leave the job due to financial concerns. If the problem is with family or friends, they don’t want to upset loved ones and feel as if they have to just accept them as is. Regardless of the area of upset, many people feel at a loss to change it.
Why are people so stuck? What leads people to feel so hopeless about change? And do people really have the power to create change by themselves? Here are some quick answers to these questions:
1. People are stuck because they lack the courage to make bold moves.
2. People often feel hopeless about change because their focus, far too often, is on changing the people around them rather than themselves.
3. Yes, people absolutely have the power to create change all by themselves—if they are willing to risk upsetting, angering or even possibly losing spouses, jobs and friends on the path to creating their best life.
The problem isn’t that we can’t change our lives. The problem is that we’re often not brave enough to do so. Changing your life requires changing your actions. It’s one thing to complain about our marriages/jobs/lives, but it’s an entirely different thing to actually change them. Changing your life requires:
• That you take an honest look at what’s not working,
• That you genuinely assess your contribution to it not working,
• That you gain clarity about what you want to be different, and
• That you find the courage to back up those wants with actions.
The biggest action step people need to take to create change is to dare to unapologetically, compassionately and powerfully be true to themselves and stand up for what they want. It requires facing the possibility of becoming an outlier. For example, in the dating world, everyone seems to be sleeping with everyone very quickly in the dating process. This doesn’t sit well with many people, though—yet they do it anyway because they don’t want to lose the other person. So, being true to themselves would mean being an outlier and clearly establishing boundaries around when they will and won’t be sexual.
This course of action takes enormous strength in our culture today, though, and may actually result in losing the person they’re dating. In marriage, this may require your taking a stand against verbal abuse or addiction or dismissiveness, etc., to the extent that you’re willing to put the marriage on the line if it doesn’t stop. And, of course, doing this may result in losing your spouse.
I could give countless examples of scenarios that we all struggle with, but the underlying question in any struggle is: how much do you really want it to change and what are you willing to do to make that change happen? Each and every one of us can change anything—if we’re courageous enough to take the step. If I hate the way my boss treats me day to day, I can have an honest conversation with him/her, I can look for another job or I can speak to HR about the problem. If I’m tired of my kids and spouse helping very little around the house and I keep doing most of the labor, I can stop over-doing . . . and let things drop—until they get the message and pick up the slack. This requires, however, my being able to let things drop and have a messy house. Whatever the issue is, get your eyes off the other person and, instead, look at your part of the equation. If you truly want change, encourage yourself to be courageous, not hopeless.
Challenge: Find your courage. Get clarity regarding what you’re unhappy about and make a plan to change it. Only focus on your moves, your responses and your actions—and change those. Let us know what you notice.