For years, I chased the big insights.  I think many of us do.  Particularly if we fall into the category of someone who is super interested in personal development and mistakenly intent on “fixing” ourselves (I stubbornly argue there is nothing in you that ever needs to be fixed) the insights are like gold and can often feel addicting at times.  Perhaps we feel lighter for a while, our perspective has changed.  We can feel our growth.  We might start to recognize that we’re showing up differently as opposed to embracing that old bad habit.  And then we have a day where we are faced with all the old problems, and we fall into the trap yet again.  And we may start to wonder, how did I end up here?  Didn’t I already learn this lesson?  I thought I had figured this out, why am I back in the same place?

Development can and will be messy

This is why I often tell folks when they contact me for a consult that development is a messy business.  Some days it can feel like you’ve taken one step forward and then two steps back.  I use the word “feel” for a reason because in my experience the trajectory is typically up, even though it’s never a straight line.

I say this because I’ve noticed a trend in myself and human beings in general, who can make great strides through new insight and shifting patterns of awareness, but often lack taking action that will help to reinforce that new insight.

Here’s an example to illustrate what I mean.  I start to recognize how important it is to be grounded in my body daily.  I recognize the power of yoga in my life.  And then I get busy, and for a few weeks I fool myself into thinking it’s not as necessary as I thought, and I stop doing it.  And then I wonder why I’m feeling so restless all the time.  Why I’m feeling disconnected from my purpose as a coach and trainer, and everything starts to feel more like a daily grind.  I wonder why I’m snappier at people.  Why I’m confused about the things that really matter in life.

Or perhaps I recognize that part of the “problem” with myself is the lack of compassion I have for myself.  Because of this I can’t hold appropriate boundaries with friends or family members, as I’m always needing and chasing for their approval.  Or I dimmish my accomplishments thinking they’re not good enough, which ultimately steals my joy or keeps me from trying something new.  I get the whopping insight, perhaps even heal some old childhood wounds with the help of coaching or therapy that caused the deficit in the first place.  And then a few months later, wham, bam, I find myself in the soup again.  The insight has flickered out because I’ve forgotten to make it a practice.  I mistakenly assumed that was just “fixed” now. 

Don’t forget to act

We have a model for adult learning in the learning and development world.  It consists of a few different parts. 

  • Awareness – I start to build an understanding of what might need to change in me.  Perhaps my old ways of coping and behaving are not working so well in my new environment.  Perhaps happy hour is no longer the thrill it used to be and does little to take away the anxiety I’m experiencing anymore.
  • Insight – I not only recognize what needs to change but also comprehend why change is so important to my emotional, physical, mental and even spiritual well-being.  The recognition of why is key as it helps to build motivation to learn something new.  This could sound something like, “The more compassion I feel for myself, the less anxiety I’ll experience, and that will improve the quality of my life.”
  • Skills – Now I need to develop some skills or behaviors to model a new way of being, a new way of showing up in the world.  This could be learning strategies for showing myself compassion when I am having a hard day.  Making myself a nice up of tea and putting my hands on my heart to soothe myself could be one option.
  • Apply – This is where the wheels typically fall off the bus, so to speak.  We might have all the awareness and insight in the world.  We may even have some skills or knowledge of what to do.  But if we don’t consciously choose to apply these skills, we never get the full benefit of the learning, and so it’s another trip back to the proverbial soup bowl.

Coaching questions for thought

  • Where are you not taking action on the things that will set you up for success? 
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Shelley Pernot is a leadership and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and find a career that utilizes them.  Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!

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  1. Ian Hallett November 11, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    Having one of those “how did I end up here again?” days…. thank you so much for this insight!