You’d think most of the people I encounter show up blindsided by a serious personal or professional crisis — a divorce, death or health crisis, or the loss of a job, partnership or long-term friendship.

That’s actually not the case. More likely the person simply wakes up one day and says, “I can’t do this anymore.”  

When I talk with a prospective client, I often find that person’s life is going well in many ways — They are often accomplished and successful in many areas.  But in some important area of life something isn’t working.  Here are some ways I often hear it expressed:

  • “I keep trying harder.  Why isn’t this working anymore?”
  • “I’ve tried everything I know to do.  What am I missing?”
  • “I don’t understand why this keeps happening.”
  • Am I wrong to be feeling this way?”
The same strengths that made you successful may now be holding you back...

The same strengths that made you successful may now be holding you back…

YOU’RE AT A CROSSROADS… AND YOU’VE ALREADY TAKEN THE FIRST STEP. 

What I’ve learned to recognize is that hidden in all that pain is where the hope is.  What I mean is that the person sitting in front of me has reached a crossroads– and whether they realize it or not– he or she has already taken the first, and oftentimes hardest, step.

“It’s just too painful to keep going down this same path. It’s familiar and at least I know what I’ve got, but somehow I’ve got to find another way — even though I have no idea where it will lead — because there’s gotta be something better than this.”

Their reaching out for help tells me that he or she is already moving in a new direction. I can’t do  that for them. My job is to help them keep the momentum going so they get the results they want. That’s where it gets tricky.

YES, I WANT THINGS TO CHANGE… BUT I DON’T WANT TO DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT.

Of course you don’t!  I’ve decided it’s a mistake for people in my profession to classify this reaction as client “resistance.”  Here’s why:  There are some very good reasons why you’ve done things the way you have.

There’s more to it than that, of course, but if we don’t immediately address and factor in this basic truth, I’ve found it’s very hard to get unstuck and move forward.

The goal is a breakthrough, not a breakdown.

The goal is a breakthrough, not a breakdown.

YOU DID IT BECAUSE IT WORKED. 

Whatever you worked out between your DNA and your environment, we can assume it was an intelligent and adaptive response to your life situation.  You figured out what you had to do to make yourself lovable enough (or at least acceptable enough) to those around you and keep things safe enough that you made it to adulthood.  You survived.  Maybe those same behaviors even made you thrive and become the accomplished and successful person you are today.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with those original adaptive behaviors and with who you are as a person.  The only problem facing you now is that your strengths and primary approach to life and relationships have some limitations.

BUT NOW IT’S NOT WORKING…

It can be distressing to realize that the very characteristics, traits and attributes that got you where you are in life and to the degree of success that you’ve  experienced– – in other words, your strengths – – can also be holding you back.

When we overuse and overdevelop certain parts of our personality, we can find ourselves stuck or sidetracked in our relationships or life.  Think of your primary self and approach to life is a highly effective software program.  For example, QuickBooks is a great software system for accounting, but if you want to write a novel or a love letter or a eulogy, you’re going to have to install some additional software.

It seems that the things that aren’t working in our lives are reality’s way of letting us know that it’s time to “up your game.”

Life and relationships are complex and challenging and if we’re going to be successful at them, we need the ability to reassess, adapt and grow in order to stay relevant, vibrant, and keep our edge.

Life and relationships are complex and challenging. To succeed at them, we need the ability to reassess, adapt and keep developing ourselves.

Life and relationships are complex and challenging. We need the ability to reassess, adapt and keep developing ourselves.

HOW TO GET IT WORKING AGAIN. 

The trick is working with underdeveloped parts of our personality in a way that doesn’t feel fake, weird, wrong, unsafe or unwise.  Here are three essential components to the process:

  1. Don’t Judge.  I find it important to remind my client that we’re not trying to get rid of, fix or change his or her primary self system and its strengths. This isn’t a personality transplant.  You just want the freedom, choice and balance to draw on other additional capabilities when you need them or want them. You still get to be you.
  2. Make it Powerful. I like to create a felt-sense experience that resonates for clients so they can see or feel a shift in their thinking, feeling or behaving.  The experience needs to resonate enough on a sensory level (not just an intellectual level) that it’s powerful, compelling and empowering.
  3. Keep It Safe.  The goal is a breakthrough, not a breakdown.  Although treading into unfamiliar territory is challenging, it needs to not be so unfamiliar or uncomfortable that it feels too vulnerable, fake or violates your personal code of conduct.  We’re not trying to turn you into someone that your friends, family or coworkers won’t recognize or someone that you won’t like or respect.

That’s why we call it personal growth and professional development. It’s about how you hold on to who you are and become more of what you now want or need in your life.