I am still trying to deal with a problem in my life as the result of a very bad decision I made at the end of 2007. I decided to invest a good chunk of my nest egg into a business I knew nothing about, with people who I had a strong gut feeling did not share my personal values (plus I hardly knew them), and with other people that later turned out to be liars, thieves and bullies (who I definitely did not know).
Does the word ‘stupid’ come to mind for you as well? 😉
Hands up if you have made unconscious / poor / rushed / bad / thoughtless / etc. decisions in the past that end up dragging behind you for months, years or decades? I expect that there are a lot of hands up in the air. We are in this together!
The first thing is unfortunately this is how we best learn. By making mistakes. By getting things wrong. By getting feedback that the decision we made was a ‘bad’ one. Even when I am in the middle of a complete mess, I have a little part of me that reminds me that everything in life is an opportunity to LEARN and GROW. This does not make it easier, but it does give the experience more meaning.
I just wish at times it did not require the painful stuff, but here I have some more bad news for you. Most emotional or physical growth must be uncomfortable to work.
So I am going to walk you through how I deal with the painful stuff in life. And yes, I have talked about problems solving before, but now I am going to talk about the messy stuff going on for me right now.
Step 1: Perspective from a sweaty old-school gym
I will start with a few fundamentals.
When I am feeling emotionally uncomfortable with the mess I am trying to un-mess (yep. I made it up) I remind myself of a few realities.
I remind myself that if the result I want is stronger muscles, then lifting the light stuff at the gym, with no discomfort will not change my current strength. I NEED TO lift weights that cause discomfort. And a lot of discomfort, the bigger my goal is. So if you want more success in life, know that there is likely to be a level of discomfort. If you want to move from a problem to the other side, there is most likely going to be discomfort.
So I am mentally prepared for the idea that getting to the other side might hurt. And it might hurt a lot. But being aware of this allows me to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for what is coming.
Brene Brown talks a lot about this on her research into shame, vulnerability, wholeheartedness and overcoming adversity. I am reading her third book called ‘Rising Strong‘ and from her research she says that the ‘middle bit’ is just plain uncomfortable. You cannot get to the other side without going through some vulnerability, fear, doubt, sadness, anger, frustration, embarrassment, and a handful of other undesirable emotions. This is what Joseph Campbell called a part of the Hero’s Journey – the trials and tribulations that create a hero. The hero is not a hero at the start of the journey. The hero is created. They are the one that comes out the other side bloodied and bruised, but wiser and greater for the experience.
Sound like fun? 😉
Maslow said ‘we can either step forward into growth or backward into safety’ (aka: the comfort zone, which is not the land of infinite possibilities and big dreams).
The other fundamental is you need to know that it is possible for YOU to change the situation. You need to feel as if you have the power to change this thing you are going through. If you feel ‘powerless’ then it is time to get some external help. And I would suggest external professional help. Maybe that is a coach, or therapist, or lawyer, or mediator, or counselor, or hit-man (just joking…sort of ;-)), or some other person who has expertise in what you are dealing with.
Owning your part in the creation of the problem is also essential to give you the control you need to find a solution. Blame does not work. It actually reduces your power.
Step 2: What do you want?
If you have read my work before you know I am all about getting clear of what you want.
So right at the outset, you need to decide what result you want to aim for, with your realistic optimist hat on your head. And you don’t get to choose:
1. The problem disappears of its own accord.
2. There is not discomfort.
3. And anything to do with fairy godmothers.
Now they might happen…but don’t waste your life waiting for them. In my experience, the fairy godmother shows up somewhere along the path, when I get down and start doing the work.
Step 3: What are we dealing with?
This is where most people hijack their powerful mental faculties and get hijacked by their mammalian (emotional) brain.
Most people try to solve problems by working with assumptions, mental stories, guesses, gossip, someone else’s map of the world, and past results. Tony Robbins says, ‘The past does not equal the future’. So the past is no guarantee for future results. It may be a guideline, but it is not a FACT.
Which brings me to what we need to work with when problem-solving (or solution-finding).
Pretty much everything that is not a fact is an ASSUMPTION. Not 100% certain? Then you might be making an assumption. Basing your plan on past results? Then you might be making an assumption.
The more we work with FACTS the less emotion we bring into the problem-solving process. This means we use the most effective part of our brains to find a solution.
One thing I will add is that telling someone exactly how we are feeling in the moment is most likely a fact. If you tell someone you are feeling hurt, and you are feeling hurt, then that is a FACT relative to yourself.
So working with FACTS takes us out of our emotional brain and back up to our more logical and creative brain. This is a key to solution-finding.
Step 4: Come up with a plan
I am not going to go into detail here. Here is the very short version. Get clear about what you want. Then start working out a plan to achieve the result you are after, drawing on all the resources you have at your disposal. 😉
Step 5: Here comes the real work
In my experience, with myself and my clients, the work isn’t doing what has to be done to create a solution. The physical acts of doing certain things. That can be hard or inconvenient or a pain in the butt, but that is not where the real work is needed.
The real work is processing the emotions that try to hijack your intellect and higher consciousness.
If you don’t have any good tools in your ‘Processing Emotions’ toolkit, I would strongly advise acquiring some. Maybe it is a meditation technique, or a yoga routine, or the Emotional Freedom Technique, or an NLP technique, or a pattern interrupt. Maybe it is the right friends, family members or therapist, who help you process and turn down your emotions. Maybe it is a path that you run through nature, to reconnect to the bigger picture. Maybe it is prayer or a religious practice. Maybe it is an afternoon working at the soup kitchen.
What tools do you have in your toolkit, or resources at your disposal, to help you process and manage your emotions?
Do your tools need an upgrade?
Managing your emotions effectively is essential for coming up with your most creative and empowering solutions to the challenges you are facing.
Final tip on managing emotions. Don’t shut people out. Let them in. Stay connected to people, even more so, when you are going through challenges. We are in this life thing together.
Step 6: And the other work
This is the more physical work. Doing stuff. Making that call. Having that tough conversation. Doing the research. Talking with that professional.
This is the execution of your plan.
And your plan needs to be flexible. It needs to adapt as FACTS change. You may need to review and revise your plan often. You may have new information (facts) that change everything.
And when you inevitably have the emotional stuff come up, do the work on processing the emotions. And get your mind back into a review of the FACTS.
Eventually you will emerge to the other side.
And now the Gold!!
And here is a large gold nugget just for you.
You become the evolved HERO of your life story, by the MEANING you give to the experience. Not by the ‘result’ you got (or didn’t get).
This is the real growth opportunity.
And the meaning you give the experience is 100% dependent on yourself. This is how you evolve out of past trauma’s, pains and hurt.
So although the end results matters. It does not matter as much as the meaning you attach to the experience.
Yes, this was a long post.
But I know that there is at least one person that needed to hear this right now.
In my world there are no coincidences.
If you are here reading this, you needed to read it right now. Yippee! 😉
What I hope for, is that you do something with it. You turn insight or knowledge into action.
So here is to us all going through some really unfun and crappy stuff in our lives at times.
But…we are in this together.
Have a truly wonderful and superbly uplifting day.
As always, please ask questions of me, or share your thoughts in a response email or by putting a post on Facebook.