The self-help movement is a $9.9 billion industry but the US population is generally unhappy, overweight, disengaged at work, and not saving any money. Here are the statistics:
- The US doesn’t even make the top ten list of happiest countries in the world.
- More than 1 out of 3 adults are overweight.
- One-third of working adults are disengaged at work.
- The median savings balance for those under 35 is $1,350 with household debt at an all-time high of $139 Billion.
There is no shortage of gurus, programs, or blogs (like this one) to help you with personal mastery, health and fitness, weight loss, relationships, career or financial planning, mindfulness, or anything else you want to tweak or change in your life.
Why are are we unable to change? Why do we get so stuck in our status quo?
From Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins, from Jenny Craig to Kris Carr, from Suze Orman to Robert Kiyosaki, from Gabrielle Berseing to Gretchen Rubin, you can find someone or some proclaimed program to help you get off your butt, master your hurdles, achieve your dreams, and find happiness.
But, if you are like me, there are times when your life feels trapped inside a hamster wheel spinning around and around and not moving forward.
When routines are automatic and our mindset fixed, we become unaware that our lives are running on autopilot. Our habits are driving our life. When we operate in repeat mode, it is easier to stall out and get stuck. Life stagnates quickly. Patterns become difficult to break and it gets harder to start or even try something new. We can envision something new in our minds, but we don’t take the necessary or right action.
When one area of your life seems to suffer or hasn’t met personal expectations, the disappointment and dissatisfaction can inadvertently permeate your entire life causing you to feel unhappy and even depressed. This energy drain saps your intrinsic motivation, the necessary ingredient to help drive you forward in your life.
I imagine and hope that you can find some aspect of your life that is going well. In fact, some of you may find an area that is going better than expected whether it’s your health, your body, your relationships, your finances, your spirituality, or your family. It may not be perfect, but at some level, you are satisfied with the results.
Take a minute and consider the areas of your life that are going well. Why do you think they are working for you?
- Maybe your fitness goals are easily maintained and you eat well.
- Perhaps your career has taken off and you have achieved your milestones.
- Maybe your family relationships are close and you are connected to your siblings or parents.
- Perhaps you have a wonderful partner.
- Perhaps you have paid off some debt and have started that savings program.
- Maybe you own your dream house.
The reason why these areas of your life are on track is that your mental image, narrative, and blueprint for success matches your current reality. In other words, your mental model or benchmark of what success looks in that specific area matches your current conditions. This alignment between your benchmark for success and your current reality positively feeds your sense of self-worth and self-esteem which leads to increased happiness and satisfaction.
All of us have at least one area in our life that we would like to improve. Perhaps you have a goal still to be achieved such as saving for retirement, finding a partner, improving a skill or a hobby, changing a behavior, increasing our happiness or health, and so on. With improvement goals, there naturally exists a gap between where you are now and where you want to be. How do you close this gap to achieve your desired outcomes especially when you feel stuck?
It can be easy to get stuck or derailed when the goal is too large and hasn’t been broken down into bite-size pieces over a realistic timeframe. When a highly ambitious goal feels overwhelming, it can throttle any movement forward. Breaking down new learning or activities into bite-size pieces over a period of time and getting support can help make a large ambitious goal more manageable and reduce your stress and anxiety. Remember it’s the tortoise that wins the race, not the hare.
Another way people get stuck is when there is a mismatch between your criteria or blueprint for success and your current condition.
Jessica Kensky was a marathon runner and oncology nurse who tragically lost both her legs during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Three years and many surgeries later, her life and what brought her joy changed based on her current reality and conditions. She and her husband both lost limbs and had to create a new blueprint for happiness and success out of this tragic event. Together they found a way to share their story in a children’s book, Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, demystify prosthetics and providing hope to others.
By adapting and modifying your blueprint for success based on your current conditions or reality will help you move forward with greater confidence. When you are experiencing increased frustration, stress, disappointment, and lack of motivation, it may be time to pause and reflect on the narrative or framework that you are holding on to that no longer fits with your current situation. Is your goal unrealistic? Have your values changed and should your goals realign to better fit your current values?
Here are three habits to help you get unstuck and find a way forward.
1. Identify your narrative and benchmark for success for your goal.
The first step in achieving better results in your life is to unravel and identify your blueprint for success. What is the story you are telling yourself about what success looks like? Click to Tweet
- What is your blueprint for success? Write this out.
- What criteria do you need to meet at a minimum? Define it
- How will you know when you have achieved it? Measure it.
- Where are you now and how far away is the gap? Map it out.
- Are you aware of what you can and cannot control in achieving this goal? Own what you can control. Let go of what you cannot control.
2. Work smarter, not harder.
Movement forward toward a goal often requires a huge amount of effort on your part. You have to really, really, really, really want your desired outcome and you may need to override habits which might not be serving you. Remember sometimes the process of getting to the end goal isn’t fun.
A plateau or a stall point might be an indication that you are stuck. Maybe your default behavior or actions are ineffective. More doesn’t equal better, it just means more of the same.
Different may be the key to unlock your way forward.
Incorporating a learning loop will help you uncover behaviors, thoughts, feelings, or stories that might not be working for you.
Pause. Observe. Learn. Innovate. Doing something new and different requires you to step out of your comfort zone. This type of activity increases your concentration and focus. Every time you disrupt old patterns, you are stimulating new neural pathways in your brain and experiencing greater flow in your life. This adds an element of fun to routine behaviors. How might you gamify mundane activities?
Eric Ries, in his book The Lean Startup, identifies the innovative process in three stages: Build – Measure – Learn.
- What can you do to redesign or disrupt your routine to learn new skills, habits, and behaviors?
- How can you set up a learning loop that will let you experiment with a new approach in a small way, measure the outcome, and get quick feedback from several sources?
- What can you do to break down your overarching goal into micro-behaviors or micro-learning that you could execute daily or more regularly?
Working smarter involves incorporating new routines and disrupting old patterns and not filling up or expanding time.
- What can you do differently?
- What can you let go of that might not be serving you?
- How can you work smarter?
- How can you practice these new activities repeatedly over time to form new behavioral habits?
- How can you add reward mechanisms to new behaviors to increase your engagement?
3. Change your benchmark or narrative to better fit your current reality.
If small changes or working smarter are not moving you forward, then another alternative is to change your benchmark for success and happiness the way Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick Downes did after the Boston Marathon bombing.
We all know that the blame game or a victim mindset will only increase your pain and suffering. They feed your helplessness.
“The most powerful stories are the ones we tell ourselves” ~ Brené Brown
There may be part of your narrative or benchmark that no longer serves you. Take a close look at your current situation and consider other ways you might achieve either same or different results that support your values. Pro and Olympic athletes that have to redefine their personal view of success once they have physically peaked out of their sport.
- What are you holding on to that might not fit your current conditions?
- What are your assumptions about this situation or the people?
- What are the facts?
- What are your values and how can you modify or change your outcome so that it is different but also supports your values?
- What can you change about your narrative that still supports your values?
- What are different activities or behaviors you can do to support your values?
As we experience the world, our values and goals can change. Sometimes change happens in our life by external events such as a job loss, a sports injury, a divorce, a stock market crash or a natural disaster. It is essential during these moments that induce setback, whether external or internal, to take a look at what benchmarks or frameworks no longer serve you. What narrative or story can align better with your current reality or situation?
When there is greater alignment between your current reality and your framework for success, you will experience increased happiness, self-worth, and self-esteem which is the emotional fuel to motivate you forward in any area of your life.
Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten T. Hansen
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman
Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord
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Source: Featured Image – Pixaby