“Between the stimulus and the response there is a space, and in this space lies our power and our freedom.”
We have so many goals and desires. We want to engage in purposeful, fulfilling work. We want to have enriching relationships. We want to be healthy, financially secure and loved. We want a lot out of life, but we don’t always allow ourselves to achieve it. Frequently, I talk about why we might block ourselves from accomplishing our goals, and today I’m going to talk about how we block ourselves.
And no one wants to hear about the ways in which we get in our own ways or things we do and think to sabotage ourselves. Most people don’t like to think about our part in unpleasant experiences. We like to blame it on other people, things, past experiences. Most of us find personal accountability pretty challenging.
Speaking for myself, I can say confidently that two things are true about myself: 1) I’ve set goals and 2) I have worked really hard to resist making space for myself to achieve those goals. Most of us do it with something. It’s not conscious. We think we’re fighting our hardest and fiercest to get what we want. And we are fighting, vigorously and ferociously. We just aren’t always fighting for ourselves; we are fighting ourselves, everything we don’t want (and sometimes, everything we do want). We get too handsy with the goal don’t allow for what we want to be a part of our narratives. We want to reach our goals, but we fight them.
I’ve heard stories like this from clients and friends for many years. We want something; we go after it, but somehow we end up creating an even bigger challenge. We get frustrated. Sometimes we give up and walk away. And resistance can be so sneaky. It can totally appear to us that we are taking steps toward our goals. But, then why do we feel further away from accomplishing them than when we started?
Take this common problem: “We’re not getting along.” Ok, I get it. We’ve all been there. We’re figuring out an issue with a partner, trying to see eye-to-eye on something, effect some compromise, maybe but it just… isn’t happening. We start talking about it, disagree, fight, and someone either blows up or walks way. (Sometimes both, am I right?) And we think, “But I’m trying to talk about it. I’m trying to help us reach an understanding. Why isn’t it working?” Sometimes it’s not working because we’re not allowing for the change. We’re not making room in our relationship or our communication style to allow anything different to happen. Instead, we are suffocating the possibility for change with a closed mind and heart, forceful confrontation, and poor emotion management. This approach resists the very change we want to see.
When I first started my private practice, I knew that I needed an office to see clients, but I didn’t have any clients, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay my office rent. But if I never got an office, how could I see people? And I would just go around and around like that, sometimes for days at a time. Intellectually, I knew it would work out, but my fear wasn’t so sure about it. Eventually, I took the plunge and experienced the change I wanted to see. If I had never made space for this change, I probably would have given up a long time ago. Sure, there were obvious actionable steps I had to take in getting there, but first I had to allow for this thing I wanted by making space for it.
We have to make space to allow for the changes we want to take place. It’s true for any of these pretty common concerns:
“They don’t appreciate me.”
“I can’t lose weight.”
“I’ll never save enough money.”
“How long will it take until I feel better?”
“My life is one big clusterfuck.”
“I’m always so stressed out.”
If you’re finding that you feel you’ve been fighting for what you want and seeing low to no results, try this:
Step 0: Look into starting a mindfulness practice (get acquainted with how space feels)
Step 1: Step back from the situation (make space for yourself)
Step 2: Look at your situation (make space for possibility)
Step 3: Ask yourself if you’re forcing an outcome (more space)
Step 4: Extend compassion for how hard it is not to force an outcome (compassionate space)
Step 5: Be interested in other possible responses to your frustration and feelings (constructive space)
Step 6: Try some of them (adventurous space!)
Step 7: See what happens (curious space)
Sometimes we have to have a knock-down-drag-out fight for what we want. Sometimes we just have to allow space for it to be.
Love and Be Loved,