One of my clients (I’ll call her Paula) has had a difficult time. Chronic pain has made it hard for her to do her work in a manner and time frame that she would prefer. Her sense of frustration escalates any time she compares her level of output today with what she could accomplish in the past, and deems herself “a loser.” The self-judgment throws her head first into the comparison trap. It’s taken her a while to reconcile her current reality with the productive person she feels she used to be before she became ill.
Paula is determined though. She has come to a place of reconciliation within herself. She realizes that fighting present reality is doing more harm than good. Slowly, but surely, she’s disconnecting her identity from her circumstances.
You have probably experienced similar feelings, whether due to illness or some other unwanted change in status. I know I have. “What’s wrong with me?!” we cry. “I can do better than this; I used to do better than this!” Ideally, we might prefer to “go with the flow,” to allow things to unfold in their time. Yet, life feels better – and we tend to be happier – when we can point ourselves in a forward direction and move ahead, as planned, without disruption.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective, taking illness out of the equation. I’ve watched another, equally problematic comparison game plague business owners who used to have no problem attracting new clients, and now have to work for them. They often complain about how hard it is, wishing and hoping for what used to be.
Where do they put their attention? They put it on the past that they judge as better. They don’t ask, “What now?” Instead, they look for quick fixes, anything to avoid the pain. And, they struggle. They get stuck in the comparison trap.
On the other hand, those who come to me for coaching, not to fix what’s wrong, but to move forward with purpose towards something they strongly believe in, do much better. It’s not that they are obstacle-free; it’s that they don’t dwell on the obstacles. Instead, they put their attention on what they want to accomplish, pull the important lessons forward, and address issues as they show up. They are propelled by purpose and often exceed their own expectations. It’s really quite remarkable.
To Move Ahead You Have to Let Go
To “fix” what is broken is not well-served by trying to recapture the past, which is most assuredly in the past. It is better served by taking a deep breath and asking “What now?”
Paula has turned a corner. The stress that had been building by trying to hold on to an identity forged in the past is dissipating. Slowly, but surely, she turns her attention towards the future, more strongly grounded in today. More and more frequently, she’s responding with greater accuracy to life as it is today. She’s stopped trying to recapture the past, thus creating more ease in the present moment.
What about you? What might you be hanging onto? Are you ready to let it go?