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Getting to the Finish Line on What Matters Most to You

Road sign that says "what gives your life meaning?"
What Gives Your Life Meaning? road sign

You’re Probably Tired of Stalling Out

Getting to the finish line on what matters most to you is more complicated than you think. Working harder at what you’re already doing will definitely keep you busy. It’s also likely to wear you down. Down to where your ability to pause and reflect on your end-in-mind goals seems next to impossible. Although you know your own goals and priorities and projects are important, you just can’t free yourself up to get to them. You’ve got a to-do list, you’ve got people asking you to deliver on work that’s important to them, and that’s what you end up focusing on. As a result, day after day, you defer working on your own goals and priorities. Go ahead. Tell me where I’m wrong.

Here’s What I Know

Part of why getting to the finish line is hard is because it’s easy to get caught up in the “undertow” of life. Full disclosure here — this happens to me as well. As a small business owner I am my own “boss”. As a coach, trainer and facilitator my focus is almost always on delivering on commitments to my clients. Add in that my life is delightfully full of people, dogs, cats and what it takes to be “present” in the lives of all of them. I don’t have a housekeeper, a gardener, a lawn maintenance service or an executive assistant. Like you, perhaps, I wear many hats and life is busy. Truthfully, I like it this way. However, it is also true that I have some important life goals and dreams that I’m not getting to the finish line on. I am a “work in progress” on this issue.

Patterns of Behavior

This problem does not spring from being “lazy”. It’s more complex than that. Do I sometimes have a really unproductive day? Yes, and, it’s rare. When I have a low-energy day it often follows an extended time of over-doing on work for others. This then leads to under-doing of alone time, creative work, self-care and anything else that makes me happy. We help ourselves avoid stalling out when we develop awareness of behavior patterns that do not serve us well.

Noticing our patterns is not the same as labeling and judging them. Judging myself and being self-critical does not motivate me. I doubt that it motivates you. As Brene Brown wrote. . . “you cannot shame or belittle anyone into changing.” Even us. Patterns in behavior exist in our lives because at one time they served us well. When we notice our patterns, it frees us up to think deeper about whether we have outgrown them. When we know more, we can do more. Understanding what makes us do what we do is complex and inward-facing work.

What Helps Me the Most

The most helpful tool I have in my toolbox around getting to the finish line on what matters most to me is a concept called Immunity to Change (ITC). The ITC model and an extensive body of work which supports it were developed by Harvard professors Dr. Lisa Lahey and Dr. Robert Kegan. Working with the ITC concepts and process have done more for me on this issue than years of therapy. No kidding. Years ago I was trained in using ITC to help others sort out how they (like me) were getting in their own way.

ITC work helps us uncover what Lisa and Bob call our “competing commitments”. Let me clarify that phrase. Not as in — I’m having trouble juggling my schedule between competing commitments of meeting a deadline vs picking my child up from school on time. Not that those two things are unimportant commitments. . . Rather, competing commitments like these two which are mine. I am committed to writing and publishing my work AND also committed to keeping myself safe from the possibility of rejection. I mean. . . what if I poured my heart and soul into my writing and nobody thought it was any good? You see the dilemma, right?

Lisa and Bob say that our Immunity to Change is like having one foot on the gas and our other foot on the brake simultaneously. Because of our competing commitments, although we have great intentions, we stall out and keep ourselves stuck. It’s hard to get to the finish line on what matters most to you if you don’t work on straightening out your competing commitments. Pause right now and think about all of the New Year’s resolutions you’ve made and not kept. Immunity to Change is likely in play there.

Work on Competing Commitments is Ongoing

Text stating "A year from now, you will wish you had started today"
Motivational quote “A year from now you will wish you had started today” appearing behind torn blue paper.

In the spirit of being honest and transparent, I acknowledge that making progress with my competing commitments is ongoing work. As I wrote previously, making changes in yourself or your life is not a journey with only forward steps being taken.  There’s a lot of two steps forward, one step back action that ends up happening with personal change. I suggest being brave and getting started. I promise you. When you make sense of your competing commitments, planning for ALL the things that matter most to you will be easier.

Additional ITC Information

For a real-life example of the power of using the ITC model to work on competing commitments, listen to the two-part podcast featuring Dr. Lisa Lahey working with Brene Brown . I also recommend reading these two books written by Dr. Lahey and Dr. Kegan. . .  Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, and How The Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work.

Finally, if you decide that working with the ITC concepts might help you get to the finish line on what matters most to you, I strongly encourage you to work with someone who’s been trained to do it. Even though I AM trained and have used ITC to help many coaching clients over the years, I cannot see all of my own “stuff”. I need help from another experienced ITC practitioner to help me make sense of it all.

If you’d like to work on your ITC with me, let’s talk.

Ginger Ward-Green

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