4 Ways To Change Your Life When You Feel Like You're Treading Water

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I Want Something Life Changing

How many times in our lives have we found ourselves in the deep and murky waters of life? How many times have we just paddled water, hoping that life would change?

You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there and not moving. Every minute of every day you are at a choice point.

You can choose to sit and wallow, spinning circles around our concerns, or around the drain for that matter. Or, you can make another choice — you can decide to start swimming in a direction that will take you towards what you want in your life.

Do you want to change your life? 

In my book StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue|Transform Your Life, I wrote about the differences between spinning and wallowing versus getting curious and finding new pathways through our predicaments.

Who among us has never wallowed? I know I have. Who had never spun out about an issue or situation? I know I have.

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No one is immune from the seesaw of emotional responses until you start to notice what you’re doing. You get so attached to your idea of what’s right that when you don’t win, it can be overwhelming and frustrating.

Losing a relationship, an argument, losing anything, is a plot twist in a story. Maybe you had gotten attached to a particular ending, the happily ever after in your minds.

If you don't like the twist, you may find your mind in a spin, over-analyzing, or obsessing, or whatever you wish to call it, and I ask you, "What amount of energy does this spinning cost you?" "Who does that serve?" and "What is helped by your spinning?"

Because at the end of the day, does the obsessive thinking and spinning change anything other than yourself?

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When we dig our heels in and get overly attached to our perspective, we stop listening. We shut down communication and we close down solutions. Steven Covey called it "the dialogue of the deaf" — everyone talking and no one listening.

From this stance, it's easy to become the victim of someone else's offender. If you take the role of victim in the story (you know the ones, "This isn't fair," "I'm right, you're wrong," or "I shouldn't have to change, you should change"), this is akin to just sitting in the deep water, hoping not to drown. Good luck with that.

But what if you want life-changing? 

You can navigate the plot twists and here are a few steps that can help you transform from spinning to doing something useful: develop a mindset that is open and focused on solutions (MOFS).

You can have your own opinions and they may be part of the solution. Yet, what is possible if many minds are working on a solution? We may need to juggle ideas and play with outcomes, yet there is energy in creativity.

There is brilliance in the willingness to bring your own sphere of genius and also engage with other peoples spheres of genius too.

Here are a few ideas to help get you started on your journey to change your life:

1. Let go of the idea that you are right and everyone should agree with your opinion.

I know, that's a hard one. And, our mindset is a powerful tool to encourage this idea. If I can create a little wiggle room, something that opens up the idea that there may be more than one right observation or idea, it can be liberating.

It is the story of the four blind monks standing around the elephant. One says, "It’s a tree" as he feels the elephant's leg, the next says, "It’s a hose" as he feels the elephant’s trunk. "It’s a wall," says the third monk as he places his hands upon the side of the elephant. "It’s a broom," states the fourth monk as he takes the tail into his hands. It’s all perspective and it’s still all an elephant.

If you get too attached to your own perspective it is difficult to hear another perspective, and what if you need all the other perspectives in order to figure out what you’re looking at? Plus, if you want others to listen to you, start with listening to them. We all like to be heard.

2. Get curious about the role your playing (victim or hero) and decide which role is more empowering.

I talked about this a bit above and Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle is a great guide. While there are thousands of roles you could play out in any story you find yourself, the ones that often become problematic are these three; Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.

We often fly into a situation ready set to "save" someone, only to be seen as trying to control the situation and be viewed as a Persecutor as soon as we start pushing our perspective. Then, because we don’t feel heard, we roll directly into the victim role.

I know I have played these three in many difficult conversations. We tend to have a "go to" role, think about which role you easily slide into when you’re having a challenging conversation. And if you’re really curious, ask someone who knows and loves you what role they see you taking playing more than others.

Be prepared — they may not see your actions in the same light you see them.

3. Be brave and willing to look at yourself; you are the key, and your attitude is part of the solution.

Look for actions that will help you navigate through the plot twist in your story. Each of us has the capacity to craft a story worth living. We know what our heart wants, or at the very least, we can learn what our heart needs to be fulfilled.

Often, we allow our own internal narrative to derail us. Our fear gremlins start to chatter, and we toss in the towel well before we push through our limiting thoughts. What would be possible in your life if you breathed into the fear, transformed it into excitement and pushed through to the other side?

In her book, Playing Big, Tara Mohr talks about two types of fear, I would add that there is a third fear to pay attention to.

The first type of fear is Survival Fear, this is the very real and body absorbing fear that you have when a bear is running at you, a tiger has just shown up and is licking its lips or someone just nearly sideswiped your car.

It is instinctive, and it will engage instantly when you are in danger. Yet, most of the time we aren’t in a life or death situations and still we are circling the drain feeling afraid, anxious, worried, helplessness or hopelessness.

Which brings us to the second fear. Pachad, the fear we create in our imaginations, the "what if" fears, the overreactions and irrational fears about what might happen. It’s the fear of a tiger on television. It’s the fear of sharks when you live in New Mexico. We are worried about or inventing danger out of smoke and mirrors.

The third fear is Yirah, the fear of being in the presence of the divine and also the fear we have when we are stretching out beyond our comfort zone. This may show up as our discomfort with taking up a bit more space in the world, putting ourselves "out there", or sharing what we are passionate about with others.

Yirah is the fear that you need to notice. It may feel like fear, and yet, it is an indicator of growth. It may have many of the same indicators as excitement.

4. Become determined to change your relationship to the story you are telling yourself about the situation.

Explore what the situation has to teach you. Every experience that you have, good, bad, or indifferent is an opportunity to get curious about what’s going on inside of you. The more clarity that you have about what you’re thinking, feeling, and what’s up with why you’re reacting the way that you are, the better you will know yourself.

Self-awareness is how we build self-trust. I may not know 100 percent how I will react in situation X, yet, I have a pretty good idea. And, because I have thought it through a few times, get curious about my relationship to the story I am in, the better able I am to ask for help, set boundaries, and generally let go of my attachment to a specific outcome.

It typically, makes, me a nicer person to deal with.

Life-changing takes a lifetime, so be patient and keep working on yourself. And, when you find yourself adrift in the deep waters of life, start swimming!

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Lyssa Danehy deHart, LICSW, PCC Professional Coach, and the Author of StoryJacking: Change Your Inner Dialogue, Transform Your Life) helps people challenge their limiting stories and create an authentic and empowered life. You can learn more about Lyssa or schedule your complimentary introductory session.

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