14 Moves to Get You Out Of Your Way

Sometimes it’s circumstance that sticks to our potential like molasses, weighing it down and making it hard to move forward. More often though, the biggest obstacle in our way is ourselves.

It’s not necessary to make grand, sweeping changes to make a difference. When one thing changes, other things have to change to reset the equilibrium. It’s human nature to always seek balance and ironically, the best way to find balance can be to unsettle things for a little while and force the change.

Here are some places to start. Try experimenting with one or a bunch of them.

  1. Find your boundaries. Now sharpen them.

    Imagine a bold heavy underline at the point where you end and the rest of the world begins. Be clear about who you want in and who you want out. You can’t always choose the people around you, but you can choose how much of their ‘stuff’ crosses into your zone. If there’s any chance of it draining you, ruining you or shrinking you – it’s out. And perhaps they are too.

  2. Trust your own judgement.

    No two people live from the same script so difference and disagreement is inevitable. Nobody knows what’s best for you, better than you. Listen to the wisdom and advice of others but when all is said and done, there’s something in you that already knows the answer. 

  3. Love hard. It’s a superpower.

    Be emotionally generous to those who deserve you. Don’t stay with people who drain or damage and when someone is worthy of your love, respect and admiration, give it freely and abundantly. Appreciate them. Acknowledge them. Adore them. Few things will make a bigger difference.

  4. Don’t take anything personally. (Because seriously – what if none of it’s about you.)

    People will react the way they do for so many reasons and often none of them will have anything to do with you. There will always be people who judge, criticise and condemn – because of who they are, not because of who you are. We’ve all made stupid decisions before but we all have a right to be wrong sometimes. Look at situations, people and reactions objectively, rather than taking them personally. 

  5. Let mistakes be opportunities – not a shame incubator.

    There are plenty of ways to learn. Mistakes are one of them. Approach failures and mistakes as an opportunity to to learn. Look for the lesson, learn it and move on. Mistakes are a fertile training ground to give you the resources, wisdom and experience to get you to where you’re going. 

  6. Get to know who you are (when the world isn’t telling you who to be).

    We wear so many hats – mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend, colleague. Take time on your own, away from the noise, to stay in touch with who you are when you aren’t somebody’s someone. Of course who you are in relation to other people is important but being connected to yourself gives way to understanding what you want and who you are when you don’t have to be anything – or anyone – to anybody. 

  7. Problem? Nah. It’s a challenge and it has its own reward. You’ve got this.

    What if you knew without a doubt  that at the end of every problem you would be wiser, more capable, more resilient, bigger and bolder than the person you are now. Problems can be opportunities or the fuel for complaints, whining and excuses. They can expand you at the edges or keep you stuck as a victim of circumstance. Ultimately it’s up to you.

  8. Accept others as they are. Or walk away.

    Everyone has a story to tell and when you understand enough of a person’s story, that life starts to make sense. Don’t judge someone else because their chapters are different to yours. That said, not being judgemental doesn’t mean accepting everyone into your fold. Not everyone will be good for you. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good people – though sometimes they aren’t – but sometimes people don’t mix. If you can’t accept someone for who they are, or if who they are feels bad for you, walk away.

  9. Try something that scares you (in a bold, ‘I can do this’, exciting kind of way).

    Growth involves finding our edges and pushing a little further beyond to see what’s there. It’s the lifeblood of creativity, adventure and the sometimes breathtaking off-spin of courage. Staying too long in your comfort zone has the potential to entrench you in a rut. Likewise with your relationships. Don’t try things only to succeed. Try things to learn, discover and unfold – regardless of ‘success’. 

  10. Be deliberate about who you keep around.

    Choose the right people to be around. It’s been said that we are an average of the five people we spend the most time with. People have the power to reduce or expand our flight, depending on who they are, and how much we’re prepared to compromise. Some compromise is important. Too much is crippling. Choose wisely. You deserve people who think you’re wonderful.

  11. Just decide.

    When there’s a hard decision to make, it’s easy to avoid making any decision at all for fear of getting it wrong. Remember though, making no decision is still making a decision but you’re not fully in control of the wheel. Have faith that any decision you make is made with as much vision as you had available to you. Just decide and have faith in your capacity to cope with whatever happens next. Only then can you start moving forward. 

  12. Let go of the need to be right.

    There’s grace, strength and an abundance of wisdom in owning your mistakes. Be ready to admit when you’re wrong – with strength, not with defensiveness. Mistakes are how you learn but you won’t learn anything if you’re whipping yourself on the back for not knowing better. 

  13. Be patient.

    Good things take time. Impatience often leads to giving up before the time has come. Know that you have what it takes to succeed, and that the path might be unpredictable. It might be longer, windier and with more dips than expected but that doesn’t change where it’s headed. Know the end goal is still there, however long it takes to reach it.

  14. Make sure you’re understood. Then be comfortable with disagreement.

    Do whatever is necessary to be understood. Messages don’t always land as they are intended. Make sure you’re able to tell the difference between a misunderstanding and a disagreement. If it’s a disagreement, don’t it personally. If it’s a misunderstanding, clear it up. 

And above all else, be brave.

2 Comments

pam

Hi karen, Yup, it’s me again. First let me say I didn’t mean to write such a long letter on that reply to you, but I guess it was time to start letting some of this out of me. I usually go back and edit what I write, but I knew if I did that, I may not have hit the send button.

Many things you said above have hit home with me and again, I want to thank you and ask you how you got so wise? You know your stuff kid, you really are genuine and good for you!
You are going to be helping a lot of people with your wisdom, have no doubt.
Number ten kinda hit me between the eyes and actually I believe that was happening with me and it’s not that I intentionally ran off the people in my life, but I started seeing things that I didn’t like and not accepting stuff that I normally used to do. I think also when i started to wake up and realize that I was actually allowing people to use me and that it was not them, but me who had to do something about it, that might be when my husband realized that I was changing as well. Because shortly after that realization, he started getting very mean, and was pushing himself in my face and he would rant forever on how lousy a person I was and it started happening more regular and more intensely, until I talk him he needed to sit down, he was scaring me, pounding on the table and right in my face and I realized it was probably going to be my face if I didn’t nip all this in the bud right now. So, he left for a job out of state and when he was done with the week or so silent treatment, I told him not to come home, not until he was coming to get his stuff because if I saw him coming up the road I would call the police. And to make a long story shorter, he got very contrite and convinced me once again he loved me and was going to try to change. And I let him come home and we were good for close to a year. I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall and it didn’t and I started to feel like maybe it was safe and of course I let my guard down. I was so happy and thought finally, we may make it after all. But then it all went to hell, he had to keep me off balance, and I think you probably know how it came down, I had to make a stand and he realized he wasn’t going any further with me so he told me he never loved me and all that crap and here we are now about two month later. I”m in the house, he lives in the shop, and he thought this would work but it’s not working for me because I can’t get on with my life and I know we can’t work anything out now, and just the last few days I frankly do not want to try anymore. SO, whew, I did it again and sorry but it seems like it is just pouring out of me now. I want to live again, I want to be happy and I’m getting very close to being ready to start a new phase of this battle, scared as I am, I’m not backing up anymore, it’s my time and I deserve some happiness by gosh.

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Turenne

I love this article about how to get out of our way!
I say Right On to all 14 moves and need to quote this:

“It’s not necessary to make grand, sweeping changes to make a difference. When one thing changes, other things have to change to reset the equilibrium.”

So true!

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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