When what you’re doing isn’t doing it

We all start out each day with the best of intentions. No one wakes up in the morning and declares “I’m going to botch today!” But things come up and our human weaknesses show through. Not every time. But there are times. It’s especially tough when you have been doing something over a period of time and it just isn’t doing it. It’s not working. That wasn’t your intention starting out, but it happened. It might be a business venture. Dating. A hobby. Hair style. Career. Someone said the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same result. It’s a stuckness. A mire. A bog.

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I’m reminded of the movie “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson. His character Jack spends an entire winter alone with his family in a large hotel. He is tasked with taking care of it in the off season. Throughout the course of the movie he continues to be more and more possessed by the evil atmosphere of the hotel. His wife suspects something is up and checks in on what Jack was doing all this time. She thought he was writing a novel but instead he typed over and over again on hundreds of pages, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. He was doing something, getting nowhere, and going mad.

So what do you do when what you’re doing isn’t doing it? It’s a tough question to answer. We tend to stay in a familiar situation (however crappy) than risk moving toward an unknown, and possibly, better reality. It’s called ‘ambiguity aversion’. It can possess you and keep you in your place. When things aren’t working out it’s easy to wallow in the swamp. It’s tougher to take a step out into the unknown and move to higher ground.

So, what do you do when what you’re doing isn’t doing it? You can start by taking the following actions.

  • Shake up your routine. There is a sign on a road in Alaska that reads, “Rough road next thirty miles, choose your rut wisely”. Shaking it up can be as simple as brushing your teeth with your left hand instead of your right or taking a different route to work. You’ll be surprised how powerful a simple change in routine can add luster to the day.
  • Leave bad habits behind. This can be extremely hard to do. Habits get deeply engrained in our psyches. There are good habits and bad habits. Determine what ones are which by monitoring how you feel when you engage in them. Bad habits don’t enrich who you are. Rather they prevent you from being what you truly can be. You feel weakened; stalled. It’s tough to go cold turkey so a steady diminishment of bad habits is the best way to. Be intentional in their erosion from your life
  • Behave differently. We act our way into a new way of being. Cognitive Behavioral therapy is a very effective. It focuses not only on relinquishing cognitive distortions, but also on behaving in effective ways. The two taken together can change a person’s outlook and way of life.
  • Relax and Risk. The two go together. Think of life as a series of trapeze swings. In order to make the jump to the next swing and the one after and the one after that is to relax your grip on the bar and then risk the jump to capture the new situation presenting itself. You’ll have a few trapeze moments in life. Take advantage of capturing each one.
  • Alter the dream. This isn’t killing the dream. It’s heart breaking to hear Fantine’s haunting expression of loss in Les Miserables when she sings in the signature song, “life has killed the dream I dreamed”. Rather, it is moving toward the dream using an alternate route. You need to be willing and able to switch directions away from dead ends. It can be tough and seem like the dream is dead. But a new direction often reignites passion.

Life is too short to be stuck for too long.

What are some other actions you could take to make what you’re doing worthwhile and on the move?

Posted in adaptation, Attitude, Behavior, Change, Cognitive distortions, courage, Future, Hope, mind set

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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