Changing Your Life Path Is Tough: Four Reasons Why We Stay Stuck.
The life path you are on isn’t the one you want to be walking down. It’s boring, unfulfilling, high-stress, loveless, sexless, friendless—it’s too much of one thing and not enough of another. Whatever is wrong with it, you don’t want to be on it. Your mission becomes changing your life path.
So you change jobs, marriages, cars, sports, locales, politics, Scotches. Even a small change, you hope, might make a difference. But it doesn’t. No matter how great your circumstances change, you can’t change your life path.
Maybe, you think, changing your life path has to be an inside job. So you check out self-help books. They pile up on the bedside table. They make grand promises; they have terrific insights, and; clear specific suggestions—just what you need. But you can’t put any rubber to the road, you don’t get any traction. Despite your best efforts, nothing really changes.
So you up the ante and hire a shrink. Clearly, something is wrong with you; there’s got to be something broken that only a shrink can fix. If your therapist is Freudian, you spend a lot of time talking about your mother; if Jungian, your archetypes; if a behaviorist, positive reinforcement. When you come out of the therapist’s office, you’re chock full of self-insight; you know yourself like an encyclopedia. You might even know why you’re on the path you’re on. Most likely, however, you’re still on it.
Why is this so damn hard? What is it—God, your genome, your upbringing—that has condemned you to this gray and forlorn path? Why can’t you change it? It is immutable? Really, what’s it take to put a little swing into it?
Stepping off your Life Path is tough
It’s tough stepping off your current life path and onto another—even if the need is desperate. All motivation, self-insight, and psychology to the side—the biological reality is that you’ve spent a lifetime wiring your neurons, firing your synapses, and adapting your very reality to walking the path you’re on. Rewiring your brain and rejiggering your reality to a new one is not easy.
It can be done—if you’re willing to put a little effort into it. In this and the next few blogs, I will show you how to make it happen.
But before we get started, we need to look at what keeps us where we are even when we want to be somewhere else.
Four key forces
There are four key forces that shackle us to our paths; that keep us from stepping off one and onto the other. All four, in varying degrees, probably have you stopped.
The first is getting into gear
It’s easy to put your transformation off for another day; to tune into your familiar; to do what you’ve always done. Or to let a million quotidian distractions hijack us: phone, blogs, PTA, kid’s soccer, dinner, the lawn, taxes, etc. I can’t tell you how many high-powered clients I’ve worked with who claimed they were absolutely committed to making a life change, but who couldn’t scrape together 15 minutes to get a start on it. (see James Clear and my essay here).
The second is fear
Fear can stop us cold. Ironically, most of the fears that stop us don’t draw blood. They’ll never land us in the E.R. If you exhume the causes of your fear from beneath your excuses and rationalizations, you’ll find a handful that we all share. Most likely, you are stopped by a fear of failure, of looking foolish, of rejection, or of being wrong. Really, that’s it? Pretty much. You’d be stunned to discover how many people stay shackled to their muddy windswept paths because they’d rather have a lifetime of misery than risk looking foolish. (see Susan Jeffers, my review on Jeffers, and my essay on beating fear).
The third is not having the necessary skills and behaviors your new path demands
If you want to fly a plane, you go to flight school to learn the skills. But, if you have a debilitating fear of flying, or are reckless, or tend to fall asleep at the yoke, you’ll need to develop new behaviors to be a successful pilot. Behaviors such as courage, good judgment, or better sleeping habits. Changing your life path is no different: the old skills and behaviors may not serve you. If, say, you want to move from middle-management into the C-suite, you will need to develop yourself as a leader. Managerial behaviors are different from leadership behaviors. Managers, for example, master systems; leaders master relationships. If you put a manager in a leadership role, the company may be consumed by bickering and lack of alignment. (see James Prochoska and my essay on increasing your behavioral repertoire).
The last force arrayed against us is often invisible
We look at the world through filters or lenses that shape what we see. Conservatives see the world differently than liberals; the devout differently than the secular; the empirical differently than the intuitive.
Such lenses are obvious, but lenses also exist at a less conscious level. We may look through a hierarchal lens— “some people are better/less than me”; or a scarcity lens— “there’s not enough”; or a threat lens— “they’re out to get me.” Debilitating, yet common, lenses include “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not worthy,” and “I’m not loveable.”
Lenses determine how we see reality. How we see reality influences how we behave. If you’re lucky enough to operate with powerful lenses, your life may be working out quite nicely. If not, your life may be awash with suffering. Note that unless we’re trained, we don’t generally choose the lenses we use; they are gifts of our genes, our upbringing, and circumstances.
It’s likely that your new life path requires a new set of lenses; that is, new ways of perceiving yourself and the world. If so, and you step onto your new path with the old lenses there is a good chance that there will be a collision of realities. More often than not, you’ll slink back to your old path, defeated. (see Aboodi Sahbi, and my essay on changing your lenses).
Get Started Now
Changing your life path is tough, but it’s possible. In the blogs noted above, I give you tools that will unshackle you from these four forces. If you’d like to get started on your new path right away—call me. The first session is free
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