Emotions & Resilience

No Reason: The Problem With Asking ‘Why?’

I was browsing some social media groups for business owners this week, when I saw a comment asking how people find their own sense of power when they’re struggling. This is something I feel I can offer support with, so I clicked the comments, and saw two responses essentially stating: “Ask yourself why. Get the root of the problem to solve it.”

The Core Reason

Now, if you know what has triggered, brought up or caused a particular obstacle of difficulty, that can be hugely useful. I would never say that seeking that possible trigger or core reason is unhelpful in the first instance.

However, the human existence isn’t quite that simple, and sometimes, asking ourselves ‘why’ can dig us deeper into the hole of frustration, low mood or stress. In short, sometimes there isn’t a definable reason.

The Effects of Questioning

When we question, or even make a judgement on how we’re thinking, feeling or behaving, we sometimes end up dropping further into that spiral which has a hold on us.

Partly, we feel there should be a reason. Which makes not knowing it very distressing or frustrating. Equally, when we can’t find it, we feel useless or defeated, we feel victimised and perhaps even out of control.

When there is a reason, its good to reflect, to recognise it. However, this reliance on believing there must be a reason can also be unhelpful.

The Alternative Path

We deep thinkers are often caught up in the shoulds, and it’s definitely a hard habit to break. But it can be done. When I’m focused on an emotional state, I complete three steps.

  1. Check you’re not in horrific danger.

This is a grand move for those of us who are prone to pockets of anxiety. I ask myself three questions, to check I’m okay:

  • Am I physically injured? Essentially, do my five senses still work, and am I in pain?
  • Am I breathing? Can I still breathe?
  • Is the earth still under my feet?

If the answers are all yes, then I know I have time to deal with whatever’s going on. If not, I assess the most important next step. But in that case, ignore this advice because it doesn’t apply, and panic away!

  1. Reflect on whether there is a known or recognisable reason for how you’re feeling.

As I said, it doesn’t hurt to ask this question once: sometimes knowing why you feel as you do can take all the pressure to “not feel this way” and can stop us from searching for “a reason.”

  1. Finally, DISTRACT. Seriously. 

If there ISN’T a ‘core reason why’, accepting it and not giving it any more of your precious energy and attention is key.

Distractions may include:

  • dance to happy music
  • do 10 press ups
  • play with a pet
  • draw a silly stick-figure doodle
  • count backwards
  • name five things which are green in your environment

If you don’t have a clear reason, then you won’t gain anything else in continuing to focus on the unhelpful feeling.

~

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Pressure to Improve

Dealing with “New Year” Criticisms

I used to make New Year’s Resolutions. Then I used to spend December reflecting and consolidating the year gone, ready to plan “thorough goals” for the new year. Then I stepped back, and chose a “Word for the Year” instead. Finally, I used a guiding word to ‘theme’ my goals for the year, broken into sections.

But equally, I see all this “Forget the new year, it’s meaningless.”

So I’m beginning this post with a disclaimer (and a free worksheet at the bottom to help you find out which method works for you).

You do not need to wait for New Year’s Day to have a fresh start.
If you find the buzz and shared support of the community starting all together helpful, Go For It.

There is no “right way” or “wrong way” to make change.
And telling other people what will or won’t work for them doesn’t benefit anyone.

Right. Now we’re clear on that.

~

That was kind of the point of this post, but it’ a tad short. So here’s a little reflection on what works for me. Maybe it’ll be useful to some of you.

The Revelation

In 2011, I chose the word “Strength” to guide my year. By February, I had split this into 3 categories: Sprint/Mind, Energy/Diet and Exercise/Physical. But what made this year the most powerful for me in terms of the results, wasn’t in what I achieved. It was about the motivation to carry the word with me throughout the year.

So many statistics talk about how many people give up on resolutions by the end of January. But I reviewed Strength every single month, and somehow, managed to do *something* for each category each month.

How To Stay Motivated

This is not a new concept, but until I’d seen it work in my life, I didn’t really take the idea on board. It’s somethign that threads all the way through Danielle LaPorte‘s Firestarter Sessions and Desire Map [Affiliated], it’s an underlying theme of creating a vision board, or using the law of attraction and visualisation.

For many of us, motivation is not driven by an end goal of accomplishment, but rather a sense of being: an experience of feeling.

At the beginning of 2011, I wrote out a little paragraph about why I’d chosen Strength as my word.

Inspiration Leads to Desire

Without bringing the tone of this post down, I grew up in an environment which primed me to fear being weak.

So in a way, this had a deep underlying factor. I wanted to be a “skilled, strong woman. To have the knowledge and ability to heal, teach and advise. I want to train my mind-body connection.” 

Even reading that back, I get slight chills.

I thought back to the heroes of my childhood: Piper Halliwell, Xena the Warrior Princess, the Amazon Myrina from Theresa Tomlinson’s series. I am called toward my ‘personal quest’ of being the advisor; the medicine woman; the teacher and guide.

I’ve talked before about building a strong motivation for change, and this is where I really learned that lesson first-hand.

If aiming for a set accomplishment or goal doesn’t work for you, or if you don’t KNOW where you want to b at the of end of 2018, this might be something to try:

Find the core desired feeling or value you want to have.

One of my clients spoke about wanting to map her potential, but not knowing which direction was right, and not knowing how the destination might look. So we spent a session focused on the values that had guided her to now, and how she wanted to feel in the coming months.

When I look at 2018, I’m focused on the ‘attributes’ I admire. On the values I really… well, value. I focus on how I want to feel.

For now, I’m just reflecting on this year, reminding myself of these motivations, and giving myself space to wonder where 2018 could lead. Focused on the possibilities of how I could experience it.

~

Pressure to Improve, Reflection & Patterns

Which Self-Development Practice Is Right For You?

When it comes to self-development advice, we’re bombarded. Even I have a bundle of worksheets to help people find the tools which actually work for them. 

One thread comments on the importance of setting actionable goals. Another strand emphasises the role of visualisation and acting ‘as if.’ A third route professes the strength behind gratitude and just letting things naturally form in their own way: finding the opportunities and just saying Yes.

In reality, this is as useful as writing advice. The secret really is elusive amidst all the various advice and opinions:

What works is the tool or technique which ends up with you doing the thing.

Some writers need to plan ahead, to plot out the scenes and follow the map. Others find themselves inspired by hitting each crossroad and making the directional decision once they reach it. Some writers wake at 5am and do 3 solid hours of writing a day. Others stay up late, getting the words out in short, 15-minute bursts.

As for dieters, you know yourself best. I can easily stop eating chocolate by not having it in the house. I may crave it, but I’ll find honey or cocoa powder in a protein bar meets the need fine. However, if I have a 5-pack of chocolate bars in the house, I can’t just have 1 at a time. It’s not how I work.

In terms of self-development, the same rule applies.

Do What Works For You.

Now, this is mostly frustrating because at the beginning, its trial and error. And that includes that forbidden F-word: failure.

But equally, knowing which tools to try can be daunting. We’d all like to fail the fewest times possible before finding success, right?

The thing most people forget to do in this process, is Review each technique. Think back to the last goal or habit you attempted.

What ‘technique’ did you use:

  • an all-or-nothing approach
  • a well-planned strategy
  • small-but-steady steps of change
  • on-a-whim decisions
  • something else?

And did it work for you, this time?

Through reflecting on what worked for you, you’ll be able to learn which techniques are worth trying again.

Of course, we all change, and different situations may require approaches: but having an idea of what progress does or doesn’t look like for you, will speed up the process in both achieving your goals, and changing course as you notice things aren’t working.

It’s not the answer people necessarily want, but in reality, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We are all unique, and reflecting on our uniquity is the best way to discover what will lead us to the best results when it comes to self improvement.

 

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!