A friend of mine recently had the experience of getting stuck in the mud while out walking her dogs; like, really stuck in really wet mud up to her thigh. She lost a good walking shoe but managed to get herself unstuck and hobbled home (where the dogs were sitting waiting by their food dishes, wondering why dinner was a bit late). We joked about my similar experience when I lived in Italy and had gone into a neighbour’s paddock in search of horse manure. I also lost a very nice shoe that day!
So what’s this got to do with the price of new shoes?
Well, I’d been talking to a client who was metaphorically bogged down a couple of weeks ago; you know how it is when you just feel as if you’re not getting anywhere? You know where you want to go, you’re sure you’re on the right path but suddenly you’re up to your knees in a swampy bog and sinking fast.
And if help came along you’d take it, wouldn’t you?
Sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, we are kind of comfortable in the swampy stuckness. We might actually be enjoying a good wallow in it. We may ask for help but we have lots of reasons why we can’t accept the offer of assistance: “Yes, I do want a hand to get out of here but I’m worried I’ll lose my shoe”. OK, well what if I get a long stick so we can fish the shoe out once you’re clear of the mud? “Yes, but I don’t think that’ll work. There’s another problem …”. My client was doing a similar thing and offering all kinds of reasons why she couldn’t take action at the moment. She seemed to really want to move forward and extricate herself, yet here she was giving me a lot of excuses.
Why would we say no to an offer of help?
Like I said, it can be quite comfortable to be stuck. It means we don’t have to go on with our journey. We have the perfect excuse for not finishing what we started! And while we’re flailing about , looking busy, we have this nice familiar negative thinking going on about how this is what happens to us all the time, or about how this just proves what we always knew about life (I should have just stayed where I was and not bothered to take this new path, for instance). Instead of facing up to whatever fear or anxiety is keeping us stuck we pretend to ourselves (and to other people) that there are very good reasons why we’re still in the same place.
What’s the real reason?
You need to get honest with yourself about what’s stopping you. If you find yourself saying ‘Yes, but … ‘ a lot when people offer you ideas on how to overcome the problem, you are probably in just this particular swampy bog. You need to ask yourself ‘What’s the real reason?’. Of course it’s scary to put yourself out there; and if you’ve always wanted to write a book WHAT IF IT GETS REJECTED? Fears like that can stop you in your tracks, stop you ever finishing your manuscript, find you wasting a lot of time sitting in your particular mud pit.
It can be quite simple to change the thinking
So is it true that this is what always happens to you, or that this is how the world works? Think of a time when you dealt with rejection and it was OK. Think about reframing the whole thing in a different way: lots of successful writers got rejected many times before they had their best seller; or maybe that novel is actually a really brilliant short story? What does being stuck get for you? What’s the story that you’re telling yourself and the world around you about this situation?
I’m a great one for lists. I got my client to write down all the questions and doubts (the ‘yes, buts …’) that were buzzing about in her head about this particular issue – in effect to make a big list of what was stopping her. Some interesting things came up on the list but we weeded out a lot of things that came from other people and weren’t actually anything to do with her own thinking. Now she’d got a list of questions, some of which were good questions but didn’t really have anything to do with the issue at hand, and we could begin to see the wood for the trees. If you’ve ever read the (now classic) Susan Jeffers book “Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway” you may remember how well she describes the way we often weigh up what there is to lose rather than what there is to gain by making particular decisions. Turning those negative outcomes into positive choices for my client made a big difference; she could see how big the rewards could be if she got herself back on track – after that we found we’d got to the heart of her particular swampy bog and could work together on some specific things she could do to free herself.