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Back Up to Move Forward

When you’re feeling stuck and want to move forward, sometimes you need to go backwards first.

Let’s say you have a habit, a pattern that isn’t working for you. Maybe it’s frustrating, or starts a torrent of mean chatter in your head, or you just don’t plain enjoy it.

Maybe your habit is starting out your morning by getting online right away. You start by checking email then moving on to Facebook, or Twitter, or just clicking around looking at blogs or news articles, or what-have-you. Next thing you know a certain amount of time has past. More than you realized.

Not so horrible in and of itself. But if it leaves you feeling like you’ve been wasting time, or are still needing something, or just aren’t getting done the things you want to do, then it starts to feel like a problem.

The noticing–that’s the important part.

If you don’t even realize you’re doing it, you can’t make any changes. But once you have awareness about it you can do something about it. Although it’s possible it can get even more annoying first.

Here’s why.

If you’re anything like my clients, or me, you might try some systems things first. Something like setting a timer, or giving yourself a reward for not doing it (or doing what you want to be doing), or otherwise trying to set it up so you don’t do it anymore. This can be enough to keep your attention where you want it to be.

On the other hand, it can make things feel worse. If those systems you set up to keep you on the straight and narrow don’t work, self-recrimination can kick in. That’s when the “I should have more willpower!” self talks begin. Also, not very helpful.

On the other hand, it can make things feel worse. If those systems you set up to keep you on the straight and narrow don’t work, self-recrimination can kick in. That’s when the “I should have more willpower!” self talks begin. Also, not very helpful.

It isn’t always about your childhood.

Certainly, you can delve into the behaviour, understand what you’re seeking from it, and find other ways to meet those needs. This is great. And also sometimes more time and effort than you want to put into it.

So, you can start by backing up. Look at the steps you take to do the thing you don’t want to be doing. Get all curious researcher on yourself and take some notes.

And then back up some more.

Back all the way up to the point where you have free choice. (Because let me tell you, if you’re already clicking around the internet or standing in front of the open refrigerator or sleeping in instead of working out) you have already fallen down the hole. There’s so much momentum at this point, it’s a gazillion times harder to stop.

So back up.

For the wasting the morning clicking around the internet example, retrace the steps. Really notice the details.

For the wasting the morning clicking around the internet example, retrace the steps. Really notice the details.How do you do it?
“I sit down at my desk in the morning. I notice the things I was working on yesterday, my to-do list, a pile of mail. I start to feel overwhelmed and I decide to just quickly check my email.”

Oops, there’s the hole, and person with good intentions falling into it!

So, back up before then. What are you doing?

“Eating breakfast, showering, getting dressed.”

Before that?

“Waking up. Sleeping. Going to bed. Reading. Relaxing. Eating dinner.”

Before that?

“Finishing up work.”

Interesting. How do you finish up work?

“At some point I just get up from my desk and don’t come back to it.”

What would it be like if you purposefully ended your day?

“Hmmm, that would be interesting. If I purposefully ended it, I would neaten up my desk. Leave the thing I want to work on first thing, right in front of me.”

What would your morning be like if you started with a desk like that?

“Oh, so nice. I would know exactly what to do, what was most important for me to start with. I could also turn off my computer. Then when I sit down at my desk, I can start by turning on my computer, which will get me some time to plan my day, even beyond what I left for myself the night before.”

So it turns out, that turning off your computer the night before helps you stay focused and spend your time where you want to, rather than getting lost in email, and falling down the hole.

Back all the way up to the point where you have free choice. (Because let me tell you, if you’re already clicking around the internet or standing in front of the open refrigerator or sleeping in instead of working out) you have already fallen down the hole. There’s so much momentum at this point, it’s a gazillion times harder to stop.

So back up.

Imagine doing this for something else.

Perhaps you find yourself not exercising as much as you’d like. Back up the routine, until you find the spot where you can make a change before falling down the rabbit hole of not doing it. Again.

Start with when you want to exercise. Let’s say you want to do it in the morning. Start there, then beginning backing up.

Think about a morning when you could have exercised, but didn’t. Trace back through your steps. Starting with what you did instead:

  • Instead of getting up and exercising, I clicked around online for awhile.
  • Instead of getting up and exercising, I spent some time on my phone, then got up.
  • Before that I checked the weather on my phone, because I didn’t know what the weather was like and what I’d need to wear to go for a run.
  • Before that I was thinking about what I should wear, and where my running clothes might be.
  • Before that I was thinking about what I’d need to do to actually get up and go for a run.
  • I woke up and thought, I should really go for a run this morning.

Right there is a point where you have free choice, and you’re pointed in the direction you know you want to go. But, it quickly blossoms into a bunch of decisions that quickly feel insurmountable. While you can be immediately successful looking at stuff on the internet. 

Set yourself up for success

Great mornings start the night before. So make the decision then, so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. Make it ridiculously easy for your morning self. 

  • Check the morning weather the night before.
  • Lay out the appropriate exercise clothes next to your bed, so you can put them on straightaway.
  • If you want to go to the gym, have your gym bag packed and by the door.
  • If you want to do a yoga video, queue it up the night before and roll out your mat where you’re going to practice.

Get the idea? Start with where you want to end up, and back up step-by-step to find a point of choice. Then explore how you to set yourself up for success.

How many other ways can you make one small tweak that will help you do what you really want to be doing?

Remember, the trick is to keep going backwards until you’re at a place where you are unattached and have free choice.

 

Still feeling stuck?

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Shannon Wilkinson

Shannon Wilkinson

Life Coach for Social Entrepreneurs

I’m a life coach, teacher, writer + summit seeker based in Portland. As a coach, I use mind-bending tools like Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Hypnosis to help you change your mind, change your behaviors, and ultimately, change the world. My personal credo? Less angst. More action. Less crisis. More change.

2 Comments

  1. Cranky Fibro Girl

    Thank you! This process feels so light and gentle, and is a nice reminder that I can make changes without beating myself with a shovel.

    Reply
  2. Marcie Lovett

    “The noticing, that’s the first important part.”

    If you are blind to your challenges, you will never be able to make a change. All it takes to start out is a subtle shift. Excellent advice, Shannon!

    Reply

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