In every situation there are two choices – to accept or to change. And change takes action.
Getting yourself into action is also known as self-activation, and it can be the hardest thing in the world. After all, with all of the outside advice and resources you may get, it is still YOU who has to put it into place and make it happen.
So what happens when we try to self-activate? First, we may feel so uncomfortable or afraid about doing something new that we may revert right back to our old behavior, no matter how ineffective or self-destructive it was. The old behavior becomes a coping mechanism we revert to by default.
Second, we may start to feel hopeless, sad or even depressed. We wonder why we can’t “just do it.”
As uncomfortable as these responses are, they’re normal and actually a positive sign that you are moving towards growth and change. If you can stay with the process (and get some help), you can work through it until you are consistently taking the action that you set out to take.
Consider this example: It’s January and you’ve pledged to reduce your stress – maybe you made a New Year’s resolution. So you decide you’re going to stop working late and get to bed earlier every night. Ok – decision made.
Now, that simple decision can actually trigger all sorts of feelings. Maybe you’re afraid you won’t be able to do it, maybe you’re angry that you weren’t able to do it the last time you tried or maybe you’re legitimately grieving for the evening activities that you enjoy, like late-night television or time out with friends.
Such strong feelings can be hard to deal with. So what can you do to cope? Revert back to your old behaviors for comfort and to distract yourself from the feelings. Then, in turn, you’ll likely experience some strong feelings about THAT.
It’s a vicious cycle and it’s why so many people just stay where they are and accept a life they’re really not enjoying.
Here’s another example from my own life. I made a decision to do more yoga, and I was getting into action with my new routines. Then, one of my own coping mechanisms came up – and that’s putting other people’s needs before my own. My son was in town and there was a conflict between taking him and a friend skydiving (of all things!) and keeping my yoga schedule.
If I had reverted back to my old behavior and automatically shelved the date with myself and my own health, I know that I would have probably felt guilty, resentful and unhappy. And who would want to be with someone who was feeling that way?
Instead, I kept the date with myself and made an alternate date with my son. And I was a GREAT Mom that day, because I felt great about myself (also peaceful!).
The bottom line is that until we’re ready to give up our coping mechanisms and work through our strong feelings, the cycle will continue and we won’t get better.
You can start the self-activation process anytime you like – you just need to make a decision. Then, get into action and get some support to walk through the cycle of actions, feelings and coping mechanisms. It’s not always going to be fun and it’s not always going to be easy. But in the end, you will get better and you will have a changed life.