Inevitably at some time in our lives we will experience “stuckness” – the state when we feel overwhelmed by choice. It could be we have to choose between to equally bad choices (the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’) or two equally positive choices. Alternatively we can be swamped by too many choices. It could also be that we need to take action to generate choices. So how do we break out of a state of “stuckness”? Here are some suggestions to help to create a shift.
Dealing With basic survival needs in decision making
We are better equipped to make decisions if we are fed, watered and rested. So making sure you eat healthily when the temptation is to hit the junk food. Drink some water when you’re more inclined to reach for the coffee. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. A little fresh air such as walk in the park can do wonders to clear the head. Exercises has also been shown to boost cognitive abilities. In short, look after yourself and your body and a clearer mind will follow. All of these are the basic building blocks for dealing with mental fatigue as well a basis for building confidence.
Dealing with unfamiliarity in decision making
Just asking two simple questions can help to create a shift in perspective when faced with choices. It does help if one of your core values is learning. Do you like to try new experiences? Will the choices ahead contribute to your personal or professional development? When experience demands on my time presented as ‘opportunities’ from other people I always asked these questions. Of course, I try to help whenever I can, but sometimes I just need to set my own priorities. This sets me up for the next tool.
Apply the ‘Absolutely Yes’ or ‘No’ Rule
If I’m trying to deal with competing demands on my time I ask the question ‘Do I want/need to do this, ‘absolutely yes’ or ‘no’? If I can’t say ‘absolutely yes’ then it’s automatically ‘no’. Sometimes I need to ask myself ‘am I just saying no because I’m scared or because it’s a challenge or a new experience?’. This helps me to make sure I’m just saying ‘no’ out of fear. Often the difference between fear and excitement is about perception.This brings me to the next tool.
Which choices best match my core values?
Having a sense of my values helps with decision making. Two of my values are ‘learning’ and ‘making a difference’. Knowing your values can help to eliminate some choices and increase the attractiveness of others. Your values are a statement of ‘what you stand for’ in life. Linking goals and values means that we gain a lot of intrinsic motivation to complete them.
And finally if all else fails. . .
Toss a coin
If you are faced with two equally compelling (or repellent) choices then just toss a coin and try one out. Really commit to the decision and put effort into it to make it work for you.
So there you have a few coaching techniques and a few personal insights to clear a sense of ‘stuckness’.
Making life changes just because it’s the 1st January may be the impetus to take the first step, but will it be enough to carry you through when the going gets tough, or when things don’t go exactly to plan, or when you meet obstacles or when you stumble or falter along the way. The answer of course is no! The main problem is. . .it just can’t be January 1st everyday of the year. Everyday can’t be brimming with symbolism and significance. It’s clear you’ll need more to go on!
The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that the ritual gets in the way of the reality. We assume the first day euphoria will last, and we assume that all we need ‘will power’ to carry on. It won’t last and will power wears down. It’s like a rechargeable battery that needs topping up, regularly. The question is: ‘With what?’ The answer lies in getting in tune with what motivates you.
Start by listing TEN reasons for making a life change or setting a goal. Now consider whether these are internal (intrinsic) motivations or external (extrinsic). External motivations are things like money, praise, chocolate, adoration and so on. The motivations come from outside of yourself. The big question is: ‘What happens when the external motivations dry up or run out?’
Internal motivations are all about your values and come from within. Job satisfaction is an internal motivator. You’re doing a good job from a inner value of ‘doing a good job’ not because someone is paying you or coercing you into to do it. Wanting to feel healthier and have more energy are better motivators that gaining praise from others. You really must be doing it for yourself.
So what figures most highly on your list of motivations? Are there more internal than external or vice versa. The key to staying motivated is looking for more internal sources of motivation, as these are less likely to run out. So if you need to go back and rewrite your list, or add a few more internal motivators. You are far more likely to succeed in your goals if you are doing it for yourself. Keep adding to your list as you go along.
New Year’s resolutions often rely on one external motivation. . .it just happens to be the first day of the year in the Western world. Each day you continue with your life change is a day further away from January 1st. Of course if it’s going to help give you the kick-start of confidence you need, then use it. However, remember that it’s only the spark that ignites the flame. To fuel the flame you need to focus on your internal motivations!