I am currently reviewing a friend’s new book, and I was struck by the internal resistance I experienced while doing one particular exercise. He asks the reader a number of questions to help them to create a personal vision, including the following:
- What do you want your overall lifestyle to be like in 3 – 5 years’ time?
- What do you want your work and broader life to look and feel like in 3 – 5 years’ time?
I found myself wanting to move on and ignore the questions, or simply to pay lip service to them. What was going on? Surely somebody like me who asks other people questions like these for a living should have no difficulty with them? And yet I did.
While it’s natural for us to want our lives to be different, and to feel dissatisfied with our current lot, it’s curious how uncomfortable it can be taking time to create a clear picture of a desired future. Thinking about possible reasons why I (and I assume others) experience such a strong avoidance to creating a personal ‘vision’, I came up with the following:
- If I have a ‘vision’ of the future, I’ll have to do actually start doing things differently, change my ingrained behaviours, and in truth I really don’t want to do that!
- It’s very likely that in the first instance I won’t know how to achieve my vision. I’ll feel rather confused, which is a feeling I’d much rather avoid!
- If I start to think about having a different lifestyle … and then I fail to make progress towards it …. well, it would surely have been better not to have thought about it in the first place!
So if I, or my clients, are to ever bring about change, it strikes me that an important first step is to take a few moments to acknowledge our (their) hesitation or reluctance. Our avoidance serves a purpose and should not be lightly dismissed. The chances are that if we ignore these uncomfortable emotional reactions, they will ‘go underground’ as it were and do even more to hijack our good intentions.
So at this time of New Year, I suggest we acknowledge our Old Friend, we notice how Avoidance has served its role well in protecting us from disappointment and discomfort. Let’s honour Avoidance’s role, and then thoughtfully and with great compassion for ourselves, get on with the task of developing our vision for a different future.
Happy New Year!