Addition not Subtraction: Give Yourself Options for Making Change
The common lament I hear from my coaching clients is that they want to “stop xyz’ing” at work. From feelings to actions, people are very clear on what they don’t want in their lives. But stopping yourself from doing something familiar is actually very hard to do.
Many of our actions are actually habits. Habits are a series of triggers and responses that are built up over many years with varying results. Stopping a habit is not easy. It took you months to build up your repertoire of actions and reactions so flipping the switch overnight on years of experience is simply not possible. What I advise is that people add new actions rather than attempt to subtract old, ingrained habits.
For instance, if a manager says they don’t want to get upset by their boss, instead of focusing on not getting upset, I ask him or her to find something else to focus on instead. What is an option you can add so you can feel more empowered when you’re with your boss? Depending on the person, there are a number of actions that one can add to their professional repertoire. Some options for making change include:
Get Grounded. Preparing before any triggering interaction is incredibly important as it allows you to become as comfortable and confident in yourself as possible. Ground yourself by doing some deep breathing, arriving early to get yourself settled in, and preparing notes for yourself to stay present with your goals during your action.
Visualize. Visualization is a powerful tool that has been proven to help people achieve their goals and make change. It works by allowing you to visually experience a new outcome rather than limiting you to a tried and true habit. Picture yourself feeling calm and capable and enjoying your time with whomever has triggered you in the past. Picture leaving a future situation on a high note and feel that uplifted and powerful feeling of accomplishment.
Remember: you are already thinking about the outcome with your boss or colleague. If you picture that it goes well, it will go well, and if you picture that it is a train wreck then, you guessed it, a train wreck is assured!
Choose Something Else. When we anticipate a certain feeling or reaction then we are setting ourselves up for the same outcome. Instead of looking for the usual triggers look for new ones. What if you seek another trigger, one that makes you smile or one that makes you more curious? Try and connect to different emotions and actions from the person you are engaging with. Whenever you think “I’m going to get upset when so and so tells me to do something” decide instead: “I’m going to smile if she looks at me” Or “I’m going to ask a question when she tells me to do something.” Giving yourself a game plan and options ahead of time is a helpful strategy for having an improved outcome.
In all of these situations nothing was removed, nothing was subtracted from the equation. We only added options and options are your friend.
Options offer you various ways or methods to approach a tried and true situation and give you the opportunity to change. When you give yourself options, you’re in the driver’s seat and not subject to the emotional states of yesterday. When you give yourself options you empower yourself to evolve your thinking. Change is really hard without options, so use addition to help you create new habits and change what no longer works for you.