Is it possible to let go of a belief you have held for 30 years?
That’s what happened this week when I met with a vivacious client named Lisa.
Life's Burdens Take Priority
When I walked into her gorgeous, light-filled home, she had a hard time pulling herself away from the computer. She quickly confessed that her To-Do list was like a train bearing down on her, with no end in sight. Lisa was on a treadmill of endless obligations. Self-employed in a field that she is passionate about, it was surprising that Lisa wasn’t enjoying life. She told me, “I desperately need a new perspective. When do I get to just sit, relax and do what I want to do?”
Her vision for this carefree life was to wake up, savor her coffee in the sunshine, read a little, take a scenic walk wearing colorful exercise clothes, and then decide what to work on each day. Her daily routine, however, went more like this: wake up, clean the house, head straight for the computer, meet with clients and then collapse. She rarely read or exercised.
Her actions were dictated by her limiting belief of 30 years:
“The slate is never clean, so I never deserve to have fun, peace or quiet.”
Lisa’s belief was that before she could enjoy life she first needed to clear the slate and be caught up with everything. She predicted that this might not happen before she died of old age, as all lives require bill paying, errands, and grinding obligations. With death as the only solution to getting caught up, no wonder she was feeling hopeless. What’s the point of life if you are a hamster in a running wheel?
Small Steps Help Invigorate
Coaching is a way to build a bridge between what you are currently experiencing and your vision of what you want. As we talked, the word “invigorate” resonated with Lisa as the feeling she was striving for. She wanted to invigorate her life.
When asked what small step she could take in this direction, her first response was to purge her wardrobe of clothes that “de-invigorated” her. Because fashion is vital in her line of work and she is passionate about clothes, this seemed like a place where she could make immediate progress towards becoming invigorated.
We swiftly went through two closets and three drawers, asking the Marie-Kondo-esque question of each item, “Do you invigorate me?” One hour later we had a bag full of “not-invigorating-at-all” clothes. Her frame of mind had lifted and she was energized. Having beautiful exercise clothes was part of her vision, so we put together some outfits. We identified a few workout tops for her to purchase and she declared that some new tennis shoes would inspire her to walk.
We delved into her 30-year old habit of approaching her days, brainstorming ways to re-invigorate her schedule. She hit upon the idea of calling her To-Do list “maintenance,” which seemed less oppressive. Another idea was to use different colored pens for her calendar, blue for maintenance and pink for fun stuff. The colors would visually reflect her work/life balance, and her goal would be to add more pink to her datebook.
Despite her uplifted mood, Lisa was still perplexed as to how to feel good about her maintenance list. Her initial plan was that she would simply declare onerous tasks to be enjoyable. But it was hard for her to comprehend how that would happen. Some tasks are simply annoying.
The Aha Moment!
Lisa was still stuck, but as our coaching session progressed, she realized that just that morning she had made a plan that was counter to her 30-year old habit. Faced with the odious task of visiting her lawyer, she had decided to first walk at her favorite park, then treat herself to lunch at her favorite café. Afterwards, she would head to her attorney’s office, which she was no longer dreading as much. The self-care adventure beforehand actually had her looking forward to this day. I could see her face light up as she grasped the significance of this “aha” moment: By invigorating herself first, she had the stamina to do unpleasant tasks.
This was a turning point in the coaching session. Her mood, which had slowly become more optimistic, now soared. She had hit upon the solution: Abandon her belief and begin her day with fun, peace and quiet!
As we sat there in her living room, relief came over her. She had another insight as she gazed out the window and exclaimed that the view was filled with gorgeous trees. She specifically chose a home surrounded by woods, but until this moment, had never actually taken the time to sit down and appreciate the canopy of mature trees. The peace and beauty she sought was right there for her, all she had to do was slow down and look up.
We shifted into a discussion of how her new, invigorating days would look. She would wake up, savor her coffee in a different chair every morning, and rejoice having two hours with no plans. She could exercise, hang out, read, and use this time for renewal before attacking her day. This arrangement was in-line with her redesigned belief:
“Invigorate first with self-care, then attack the slate!”
We tweaked her daily schedule a little more. She would clean up at night, instead of in the morning. Waking up to a clean house meant she wouldn’t spend her morning picking up. Beautiful exercise clothes, laid out the night before, would greet her in the morning, ready for her to jump into and go walking. When cleaning, driving, or doing tedious projects, she would listen to podcasts and a language tape to make these tasks more palatable.
In two hours we shifted Lisa from a place of being stuck, hopeless and overwhelmed, to feeling energized, optimistic and in control.
Do you have any limiting beliefs that are dictating your choices and holding you back from fully enjoying life? I'm here to guide you in challenging those beliefs, to help you let go of negative, dictatorial edicts and replace them with positive, helpful messages. Are you tired of the same script running through your head and ready to wake up with a fresh belief?