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Avoid willfulness...be willing

The excerpt from Daily Pivots is a good example of using Self Talk to move yourself away from being willful (stubborn, refusing to deal with things) to being willing (doing what's needed in the moment, being open to giving it a try). This blog posting discusses the importance of practicing skills to shift into a more willing mood so that you can accomplish your goals quicker and easier.

Career Coaching: Student with apple ready to learn

Daily Pivots excerpt

The following excerpt is from the e-book Daily Pivots: Break Free From the Bad Habits Holding You Back, available for purchase in Fall 2015.

The book has two parts. Part I presents helpful information about goal-setting, habits, motivation, and other factors that affect any serious change project. Part II presents helpful tools you can use right in the moment when you fell the tug of a bad habit and need to resist it.

This excerpt is a helpful tip in Part I about getting yourself to take action when you don't feel particularly motivated. Enjoy!

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During a long change project, boost your motivation periodically by reviewing your progress and by refocusing on how good the end game looks. In between times, honor the commitment to your change project and just do it on a day-to-day basis, repeating those behaviors long enough until they become automatic habits.

Not a bad overall strategy. Nevertheless, it raises the question, What can I do if I'm in a particularly bad way, and I'm juuust about to get off track and do something I'll regret later?

Well, I have a technique that can help. To introduce it, let me share a story.

Almost twenty years ago, after the break-up of a four-year relationship, my partner and I dissolved our home and divided our belongings, and I moved into an apartment with a roommate. In general, I landed in a very good place. Even so, that didn't eliminate all of the pain and struggle that follow in the wake of a break up. I felt a bit down.

During this time, I was working a full-time job, earning on my master's degree, and doing a 16-hour-a-week unpaid internship. I was often exhausted, overwhelmed, and fearfully avoidant.

Late one weekend afternoon, I was lying in my bed attempting to nap, literally pulling the covers over my head. On that day, I was feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting my checkbook and bills in order, cleaning my office, and decluttering. Part of me wanted to procrastinate by escaping into a long nap, and another part of me felt so bad about myself for running away from such a simple task.

Instead of falling asleep, a thought occurred to me: What if I did just a little bit? Still hiding out under the covers, I posed another question to myself, asking if I'd be willing to pay three bills, no more. Just do three, OK? It was a gentle, reasonable request I was making of myself, and the answer felt very clear to me: Yes...OK.

So, I got up slowly, still not feeling terribly proud and energized, but glad that I was able to get myself out of bed and moving again. I went to the desk, and I began to face what I'd been avoiding.

You know when you get wrapped up an activity, it takes on a momentum, and it carries you along so you end up doing more than you intended? That's exactly what happened at the desk. I paid those three bills, and afterward it just felt easy to keep going a little longer. I paid all of the bills for the month and decluttered my desk slightly as I worked. The entire episode lasted not much more than an hour or so. After I was done, I remember still feeling a little bit draggy but much better than before, and I was ready to get on with my day. All the crippling shame and fear were gone.

In the moment when I could have chosen to continue with dysfunctional nap taking, I had a brief talk with myself and decided to pivot into a new direction and do something different. Over the course of my adult development, exactly what I've said to myself has varied quite a bit, but the purpose of the Self Talk stays the same: what can I say to convince me to avoid the bad habit and pivot into what I really want to do? My conversation shifts me out of dysfunctional automatic behavior and into choice.

*          *          *

Let's take my personal story and extract a tactic you can use, when commitment is seriously lacking and you don't feel like doing what you need to do:

Resisting doing something?

Ask yourself to do the task for ONLY 30 minutes.

At the end of the 30-minutes, if you're hating, hating, HATING it, you have permission to stop. Just do it for a little while, and see how you feel at the end of the half hour.

Remember that at one time, you were motivated to begin your personal project. It's just that you've temporarily lost focus and commitment. You need a reminder as to why you wanted to do the project in the first place, and taking a small amount of action is often all it takes to refresh your motivational memory.

Once you get moving, you'll find that the action actually feels pretty good, and you'll often continue past the 30-minute mark. Once in a blue moon, you'll decide to stop the activity after a half hour. Maybe you're feeling under the weather physically, or some other priority is demanding that you shorten the activity. Though most of the time, motivation will follow the action. Act on commitment, and positive feelings for the project reemerge later.

© 2015, GFisher Coaching LLC ~ All Rights Reserved

Maintaining motivation over the long haul of a major change project is a big topic, and Daily Pivots devotes an entire chapter to this issue.

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