Reason #1 Why You're Stuck: You Didn't Plan for the Emotional Toll of Change
Updated: Jan 7
Ever found yourself logically knowing what to do, but in that moment you totally "don't feel like it"?
We like to think we are rational creatures who have emotions, in reality it's more accurate to say we are emotional creatures who happen to think.
In my experience coaching clients, the #1 thing that derails people the most...is trying to follow a plan that expects them to act logically all the time.
Guess who is emotional about the change process…all of us.
Every time something unexpectedly interrupts our well-crafted (or what we think is a well-crafted) plan, that inevitably produces an emotional response of frustration.
Side note: Ladies often get a bad wrap for “being too emotional,” but I’ve found many guys are even worse about it because our problem-solving tendencies lead us to think we’re being logical when we’re actually highly irrational…but I digress.
FOR GOOD AND BAD--EMOTIONS ARE WHAT DRIVE US
People change for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.
Those are emotions.
Emotions can get a bad wrap (sometimes deservedly so), but rather going wherever they take us, ignoring them, or suppressing them, what if you got curious about what's triggering them?
What if you paused an emotional moment and asked yourself what deeper desire feels unmet right now?
PLANS ARE CHEAP AND COMMON. EMOTIONAL MASTERY IS RARE.
When the change process bogs down, and it certainly will, we naturally prefer the path of least resistance because, in the moment, it’s less emotionally taxing.
The desire for the easier way tends to pull us in a direction we ultimately don’t want to go
Take for example some of these simple but common scenarios:
Ever felt the emotional let down of choosing water when you’re used to always having some other flavor in your drink--so you go with flavor?
Ever find yourself frustrated with the extra dishes in the sink when you start making more of your own food--so you just order take out?
Ever found exercise to be emotionally harder than choosing to watch TV--so you just tell yourself you'll workout tomorrow?
Ever found that setting a firm bedtime so you can get up early sounds like a good idea, but you want a little more downtime in the evening so you keep scrolling?
Ever found that more frequent grocery shopping (so you can eat healthfully) created a rub with what you wanted to do over the weekend, and so you skip the extra trip to the store and end up off track with your eating all week?
See...none of those are logical problems.
They're emotional ones.
OUR BIG BLIND SPOT
Reality is, the change process is so much more about the understanding and management of what drives us, than it is about the creation of a plan.
Usually we plan the logical steps we believe will move us forward, but we fail to account for the emotions those changes will bring when our schedule (and especially our go-to downtime habits) are disrupted.
We logically solve a logistical puzzle, but give little thought to the emotional one.
So what's the solution?
One key element when making your plans, is thinking ahead to when you “won’t feel like it” and making a plan to deal with emotions before they occur.
If you can foresee those moments, you can outthink them.
THREE WAYS TO OUTTHINK EMOTIONS
#1 - YOUR PAST LEAVES CLUES
What I’ve learned to do with my logical plans is to examine my history (or that of others) for times when apathy won the day.
Then I do my best to:
Develop emotional foresight to engineer situations differently to help prevent the negative emotions from occurring in the first place.
Pause moments when I "don't feel like it" and ask myself need feels most unmet at the moment.
The answer to that second question might be something like, am I bored, lonely, tired, stressed, anxious, hungry, frustrated, misunderstood, etc.?
Once identified, it's easier to course correct in the moment.
As I said earlier, not accounting for inevitable emotional friction is usually the #1 place where goal achieving breaks down.
#2 - SET YOURSELF UP TO WIN--LEVERAGE YOUR SOCIAL NATURE
One way to engineer your success is to involve other people.
Regardless of where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, we're all social creatures, and we're at our best when we know someone else cares about our actions.
My challenge to you is to find people who will help you when you’re emotional, and also when you’re emotionally removed from the behavior you’re trying to overcome.
In both instances, give those people permission to speak into your life and allow them to ask you hard questions that will help you see patterns and perspective to become a new person.
If you can't find a friend to help here, hire a coach.
Side note: I take my own medicine and hire professional coaches too. In fact, I try to never be without one.
They help me see things I'd otherwise miss.
A coach is someone who has my best interests at heart, and can show me how others navigated around the same landmines.
A coach helps you (and me) not learn everything through trial and error and empowers you to spend that time on other matters that are worthy of your time.
#3: TAKE IT LIKE A MAN...OR A WOMAN
When your sounding board asks you those tough questions, don’t get upset with him/her.
If you trust the intention behind the question, remember you asked for it.
You may not always like the perspective, and he/she may not always have the answer (or the best questions), but he or she can probably be more objective about whatever it is than you are.
Resolve to take the feedback in stride and chances are you’ll be much better for it.
Facing strong emotions isn't always easy in the moment.
So do your best to outthink strong emotions before they show up.
And don't go it alone.
That's lonely and demotivating from the get go.
If you need some help, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can do this…and I'll keep writing to support you along the way.
Here's to better emotional intelligence,
PS If you've been around the medical merry-go-round or the weight-loss rollercoaster more times than you care to admit (and especially if you know you've lacked a way to plan for your emotions), check out this presentation I recorded.
One of the big themes in that presentation above is knowing yourself better so you can interrupt bad patterns before they interrupt you.