The Blog


This is a guest blog written by Liz Tilley.

Sometimes, the more you think about an issue the more you feel like you sink deeper into the mud? Does this sound familiar? It can be exhausting. These questions might be the lifeline you need to help pull you out and hose you down:

What are the facts?

We can get so tied up in our emotions that we lose sight of the facts. Try writing down the facts around the issue; not assumptions or assertions, not “I think” or “I feel”; just the facts as you know them. The funny thing is that when you do this you can realise you don’t actually have all the facts. There may be data you’re missing or more perspectives you need to gather so you have more information. Looking at the facts can also bring an “aha” moment when you realise your options are pretty clear.

How can I disrupt the pattern I’m stuck in? 

If you’ve been waltzing about the issue maybe it’s time to try a little hip-hop? If you’ve been thinking and pondering and debating then try changing this pattern to something left of centre. That may be something physical like going to a golf range and imagining each golf ball is a different option and seeing which one you swing at with the most energy…and thinking about why that might be?

It may be something like throwing paint on a canvas, or borrowing the kids crayons and drawing pictures for how each option makes you feel. Anything to give your subconscious the space to explore the issue in a playful and creative way.

Or it could be taking the time to think about the options you’re most fearful of, and exploring the ‘worst case scenario’ so that fear is not blocking your thinking. We can then engage the pre-frontal cortex, the problem solving part of our brain, and ask “How likely is it that the worst case scenario will happen?”, “How would I manage it if it does?” “Who could help me ?”.

Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?

This question is from Debbie Ford’s book “The Right Questions”. I love it because it’s a question that makes us consider what we want an inspiring future to look like. It makes us stop and think about what our values are and what’s important to us. It brings an understanding that every decision, no matter how small, can move us forward or keep us stuck. A challenging question like this calls on us to dig a little deeper. Sometimes we dig so deep we tunnel out. A courageous question like this can also be like the shovel we need to get us out of the mud.

What’s great about the mud?

Sometimes we say we want something, and yet what we say and do takes us further away from what we want, not closer to it. In their book “Immunity to Change”, Kegan and Lahey explore the neuroscience of hidden commitments and how they prevent us from making change. We might say we want to go overseas next year but keep spending money on expensive dinners out. Our commitment to quality time with our partner and good food is competing with our commitment to save for a trip. So, while we might say we want to get out of the mud of indecision, we might also be committed to fun and freedom from responsibility. We might love the carefree squishy fun of playing in the mud of indecision so much it is competing with our desire to make a decision. Taking time to recognise and acknowledge what’s great about the mud can be a gateway to understanding what we need to address an unmet need and move forward.

Do I need some professional help with this?

If your car has broken down and you’re stuck, you call on someone with the right gear and skills to help you out. If you apply the same thinking to your professional life who could you call on?

If you feel stuck in your job but don’t think you can afford to take a lower paying one that you’d enjoy more, then maybe you need to see a financial advisor and determine what options you have. If you find situations at work extremely stressful because they remind you of something in your past that was painful or traumatic then maybe seeing a psychologist or counsellor might be a sensible move.

Seeking the advice of a professional coach is a wonderful way to get ‘unstuck’. Working with a coach is a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires you to maximise your personal and professional potential.

As a coach I see the power of the process all the time and it’s reflected in client feedback after the very first coaching session such as, “I’m seeing things differently now” or “I’ve got new insights I didn’t have before”.

According to research, ‘insights are heavy hitters for lasting learning. Insight-based motivation is ‘intrinsic motivation’ – the gold standard of motivation (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002) as insights are self-generated’ (Why Insight Matters: how and why the ‘aha’! moment is central for leading behaviour change” Josh David, Christine Chesebrough, David Rock and Christine Cox; NeuroLeadership Journal, Volume 6, 2015).

As a coach I’m not shovelling clients out of the mud…I’m empowering them to find their own way out. I might share some skills or strategies along the way for them to consider, but they get themselves out.

Along the way they learn more about themselves and develop greater awareness and techniques to see the next mud pit and figure out how to go around it, or through it, or perhaps they grow new capabilities that give them wings to fly right over it. 

I’m constantly in awe of the creative and innovative ways in which clients find their own unique ways to move forward.

Liz Tilley is an executive coach, conflict management coach, retreat facilitator and speaker based in Canberra, Australia. She has a background of over 25 years in communications in the not-for-profit, corporate and government sectors.

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