park bench

You can’t go back

Recently I worked with a woman in job transition who was stuck. Every time we talked she would only bemoan how she wanted her old position back. She had worked for a company for decades. She loved what she did. She loved her co-workers and the company culture. She wanted it all back. But it was not possible. The position no longer existed. She could not go back. Her desire for what used to be kept her from moving forward. She was sad, depressed, and hopeless because she refused to let go of what was no longer possible.

Many of us are feeling this way right now. When the pandemic struck last spring, we did our best to adapt. We looked forward to the summer, then the fall, then the new year. Every time we reached our expectation of when things should “get back to normal” and found that nothing changed, we became sad, angry, and despondent. Lately I have seen many clients, friends, and family reach the end of their rope. They bucked up during the recent challenges inspired by the hope things would get back to normal. I am not sure if things will go back to what we knew as normal. What we need to do, is let go of the past and move into our future.

Release the Old

One of the recommendations I made to my client who wanted her old job back was to hold a funeral for her old position. She had to let go of the hope there was an opportunity to return to what was. Whether you are holding on to an old position, a relationship which can no longer be, or the life we used to know, the first step in moving forward is to let go of the hope that things are like they used to be.

Nothing stays constant. All of life grows and changes. If it does not, it dies. When things in our lives are not changing and growing, we need to mourn that their time is over. Until we let go of what was, we can never embrace what will be.

Release Time

Some of the stress people are feeling about the pandemic is because they created arbitrary dates in their minds as to when it would be over. Last March I researched the Spanish flu and learned that it lasted for two years. Instead of assuming our challenge would be over in the summer, after the election, or in the new year, I pushed my thinking into the belief that it would be at least five years. I hope and believe it will not be that long but pushing my expectation out past the point I think is necessary, has given me a peace.

We can not control when or if things will change or be better so it is best not to create expectations of timing we can not control. Many of my job seekers want their new position to come by a certain date. It is important to know when we need income and to have plans to pay our bills, but to set an expectation that we will secure a certain position in that timing is unrealistic. Instead of focusing on time, focus on your efforts as in the case of a job search or focus on the moment. Stress relief can be found in releasing uncontrollable expectations of timing.

Define What is Next

What we can do is to look at what is next. For the job seeker it is defining the ideal position. For the pandemic, it may be defining how we go about our day for the short term. We can not move toward something until we define it first. Instead of longing for what was or hoping something will happen in your timing, focus your efforts on defining what you want and making baby steps toward your goals.

As we move into 2021, release the past and your expectations of when things will change. Focus on what you want next and begin to work towards that. If you have the same experience I do, you will begin to see wondrous things come your way.

judges gavel

Accepting Where You Are

“Now that I am trying to change, I don’t like who I am.”

At some point, many of my clients say this or something similar. When they finally see a new way to be, but are not yet capable of acting that way, they begin to attack themselves.

judges gavel“I am a horrible person.”

“Being this way is bad.”

“It is wrong to act like this.”

These thoughts are natural, but not helpful. There are some very simple ways to begin accepting who you are so you can move into who you want to be.

See the Truth

When I work with individuals who are trying to lose weight, the first step is for them to truly see and accept where they are. Yes, they may have twenty more pounds than they would like, but that is the truth of the situation. If they constantly think they should be different than they really are, no changes can be made. We must first accept where we are before we can make changes.

Stop Labeling

We are often our worst critics. We will tell ourselves how bad, wrong, or horrible we are. This is also not seeing the truth. When we belittle ourselves we are judging ourselves based on our perception of right and wrong.  Judging also makes us stuck. We feel a powerless victim to the label. Instead, reframe your actions as being helpful or unhelpful. This frees you to make changes.

Love Your Shadow

We all have positive and negative aspects. Sometimes a positive, like being a Type A, can become a negative when it is out of control. See yourself as a whole person with shadow and light. One cannot exist without the other. Know your shadow and work to manage it instead of sentencing yourself to unhappiness because you have a shadow.

Celebrate Your Progress

Take a moment and see where you started. Yes, you may not be where you want to be, but how far have you come? Celebrate what you have already accomplished and be grateful for your progress knowing that there is more and better to come.

What you give to others, you give to yourself

Finding Joy through Focus

A client told me about a time when she struggling in her relationship.  The honeymoon was over and those little habits overlooked before now became a sore point.  Every day she was reminded about things she did not like about her partner.  After fights she would question whether they would stay together.  In her mind she would repeat what annoyed her, what she disliked about her significant other, what was missing from their relationship, and where she was dissatisfied.  Her frustration grew.  She was unhappy and frustrated.  She didn’t want to leave their relationship but she questioned why she needed to stay with someone who made her unhappy.  Then we tried a tool I had learned from other client.

She bought a journal.  Every day she was to write down three things she liked about her significant other.  They could be about his personality, intellect, appearance, choices, how he was with others, and a multitude of other things.  Some days she had no problem finding three things.  After a fight it was more difficult.  But she stayed with it.  For one full year she wrote down three new things every day.  At first it was a chore.  She was angry and didn’t want to find the good in her partner.  She wanted self-justified victimization and to mire in her discontent.  But as the project went on, she started to remember all the little reasons she loved him in the first place.  Two amazing things happened.

What you give to others, you give to yourselfFirst, she let down her guard.  For years she was unhappy.  This made her on edge, quick to judge, and guarded against attack.  As she remembered her love, she relaxed.  She expected good.  She looked for good.  She changed her experience by changing where she was putting her focus and attention.

Second, her partner shifted.  As she released her unhappy energy, it freed up space for him to breathe.  He then also let down his guard.  He relaxed for the first time in years.  He too became more open to the good.

What we focus on is what we experience.  Think about a relationship which is currently not ideal whether it be personal or professional.  Think about a job or a situation in your career which is less than satisfactory.  Go through all the aspects of your life and become aware of those areas where you are focusing on the negative, the less than desirable.  Whatever it is, start a journal about it.  Every day write down three things that are positive about that person or situation.  Do this exercise for at least three months.  Don’t skip a day.  And see if you too can improve your experience through your focus.