Too often people find a new job, house, friend, or spouse, only to discover that the problems of the previous one followed them. Happiness comes not by changing the scenery but more often by changing our perspective.
We don’t like pain, dark questions, and life’s tensions. But it is one of life’s great ironies that personal growth and happiness are often a result of journeying through the tough times, not avoiding them. Shortcuts and Band-Aid solutions only repackage and prolong our difficulties.
Are You Killing the Greener Grass?
Linda began our coaching by saying she wanted to leave her corporate job and wanted my help to know if a marketing position at a non-profit was right for her.
I asked why she was leaving. You could hear her frustration in her voice, “I’m just sick of all of them. That’s why I’m looking at this marketing position.” She went on to explain how the marketing position would fit her perfectly.
When I began coaching 10 years ago, I would have followed her lead to discuss the pros and cons of the new marketing job. I want her to be happy, right? I learned that personal transformation produces happiness and that comes through embracing the tensions in life, not running from them.
“I’d be happy to explore the marketing position with you,” I said. “I’m curious, however, about what you meant by ‘I’m sick of all of them’. What are you sick of?”
“Sick of the games, the politics, the favoritism,” she replied.
“You don’t believe you were treated fairly?” I asked.
“I did my best. But no one cared! They don’t know about the pressures I have at home, with the kids. They expect me to be Wonder Woman – but I’m not!” She was quite animated at this point.
“Hang onto the frustration you’re feeling for a moment.” I continued, “A new job is only part of what’s going on. What is happening in you that also needs to be resolved?”
She began to cry and shared about feelings of inadequacy and disappointment with how her life turned out. We went on to coach about her self-beliefs and expectations. She did get a new job, but the real breakthrough for her was a new mindset.
Get Happy By Embracing Tensions
When I hear people struggling, I want to help them. I want to relieve the tensions they feel. Yet, it’s the tension, the emotion, the angst that produces growth and ultimately greater happiness. Here’s how I help instead:
- Stay With Tension: Don’t reduce the tension, increase it. Rather than tempering emotions, embrace them. The tension is often an arrow pointing to part of the real solution.
- Avoid Band-Aid Solutions: Don’t jump, or allow the coachee to jump, to immediate easy-fix solutions. A change of scenery is usually not the whole answer.
- Explore Internal Change: Look for being-level solutions and game-changing ideas rather than a quick and easy answer that temporarily relieves pressures.
- Go for Both-And: Work on internal being-level changes, as well as external situational changes. It’s usually not just one or the other. Personal growth helps the current situation and any future situations.
When helping people, we need to embrace our own fear and angst. We don’t have all the answers. Tensions do not immediately dissolve after a short conversation. Just like the person we are helping, we need to examine our own internal condition.
The journey through difficulties is not easy. We need help to keep going. As we journey, the difficulties have a way of working themselves out.
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