When is the best time to plan your way out?

I was speaking to a lady the other day who told me that she always felt like a failure, this perception of herself was based ons several experiences in her life where she had tried to create change but hadn’t been successful at it. While most of us can be hard on ourselves sometimes (often unrealistically and unfairly) this woman had proof that she was a failure, every time she had set a plan to create change she hadn’t followed through. History reinforced that she would be stuck in this place forever.

Obviously this is a challenging place to live in all the time, I asked her what she went through when she knew she had failed, what went through her head, how did she feel? She was very honest and told me how she was extremely hard on herself and went to a very negative place. I asked how long she would stay in this negative place for - she replied that it could last a while.  

I was curious to find out if she knew how to get out of her rut so I asked if she was actually able to shift from this place and if so, how? I found her answer very interesting, she told me that she would finally get to a point where she was sick of feeling that way which triggered her to actively do something that would make her feel better about herself. It was at this time, when she was in the most negative place at the very bottom - that is when she tried to plan the change that she needed. 

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt when trying to help people create change is that many of us are terrible at the planning stages of creating change. We create plans that are well ahead of our current ability which leads to us failing and through experience I’ve learnt that when we are in a bad place, this feeling of failure is multiplied tenfold and the fallout is magnified. Why is this the case?

I believe that when the stakes are so high we want change so badly and the outcome we want is so important we throw all our energy and resource into making it happen. When we are in this place we create a totally unrealistic plan, which, if we were in a more rational place we would have a clearer view on what was a bit more realistic.  

It appeared that this was the problem the lady I was talking to was going through. She would fail at something, feel terrible about herself and when she was in this place she would create a new plan to get out of it but because she was desperate she would create a plan which she never had a chance in succeeding in. Hence she continually experienced failure and was now self identifying with it all the time. 

This is a difficult situation because what this lady is seeking would improve her life so she has the right motivation, so what would be a better way to break this cycle and become better at planning and succeeding? A good starting point is contemplating when is the best time for her to do her planning. If she is in a negative emotional space it may be helpful to remind herself that being in that headspace isn’t the best time, she may be better to spend time finding healthy ways to deal with those negative emotions first.  She may discover that talking to a few supportive friends, doing some writing or going for a walk puts her in a better headspace.  Once she is in a more rational and positive place she can sit down a create a realistic plan for change that she knows is achievable.  

When life gets on top of us and we become overwhelmed we can become desperate to find a way out. Creating a plan for change seems an obvious way forward but sometimes it might be better to allow time to deal with the emotional place first. Through healthy outlets we can work our way through the negative and then we can sit down and plan our change with a more rational and balanced head on our shoulders - this will give us a higher chance of being successful in creating the change we seek. 

This piece orginally appeared in The Press


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Bevan Eyles