When Nothing is Working, Give Up to Win

There aren't many things I know to be impossible tasks, but selectively healing is one of them.  It's number one of my ten philosophy tenets for a reason, because it's the single most important thing to keep in mind when working on personal change. When I say that selectively healing is impossible, I mean that you can't just pick one thing and decide that you want to positively change it without other aspects of your life positively changing as well.  There's a ripple effect.  It’s all connected.  Just like watering a flower -- you can't just selectively water the petals.  The leaves, the stem, the grass around the flower blossom, they all get watered, too.  The quench is shared, just like with healing.

Once you “water” any part of yourself or your life, other parts (ostensibly unrelated parts) naturally reap the benefit.

This truth is deeply convenient for anyone that's ready to heal or let go of something, but who doesn't know how.  That's because of the biggest secret to change that everyone who has transformed their life already knows so, so well:

You don't have to know how.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re someone who doesn’t know how to change, or whether you’re someone who knows exactly what they need to do to change but for whatever reason, you can’t find the energy to consistently work towards your goal.  No matter who you are or how big your problems are, you can change.  Don’t know how to heal the “big stuff?”  Then don’t.  Just heal what you can.  Change can and does happen when you just heal what you can.

For example, lets say you've been struggling with obesity your whole life.  You've tried every diet, every approach, every pill and smoothie and bar and weight loss app.  You know more about nutrition than licensed dietitians, yet you remain stuck in a cycle.   What do you do?  Stop doing what you can't and do what you can.

It's not healthy to keep pushing yourself when you're not ready -- that approach only sets you up for failure and a defeatist (false) attitude about the control you have over your life.  

Put aside whatever you think is the main issue for a moment and focus on addressing other aspects of your life (creatively, socially, spiritually, financially, etc.).  Do you love getting people together?  Plan a dinner with friends, and eat whatever you want -- you're not focusing on the main issue right now, you're attending to your social wellness.  Do you like organizing or decluttering?  Clean and sort spots in your home that need some attention.  When was the last time you felt creatively engaged?  Paint, write, dance, sing, whatever, just address the fact that you've been neglecting your creative needs.

Most people don't do the stuff they know how to do because they deem those parts of their life "not as important" as their main issue. But keeping your life at bay until you 'fix' your main issue ('After I fit into a size 8 I'll take that trip to Italy') is not only a punishment you're imposing upon yourself, it's a strategy that A) hasn't worked for you and B) is keeping you stuck.

It may seem counter intuitive, but attending to the aspects of your life that aren't quite as important to you, those things you would get to if you fixed your main issue, attending to those helps you to begin to feel just a little bit more like yourself and creates personal confidence in your ability to make changes.  You need that kind of confidence to successfully tackle the big stuff, and when you're ready to, you will.

Continue to address these ostensibly peripheral issues of your life and watch what happens.  

Heal something, the tiniest something, heal anything and the ripple effect begins.  You set into motion the strength you need to create sustainable personal changes.  Stop trying to change the big stuff for now, it’s not working.  Time to take the pressure off.  Just “water” what you can—it doesn't matter if it’s totally unrelated to whatever your goal is, in fact, the less related, the better.

Remember, it’s all connected.  Just heal something.  When you heal enough ‘somethings,’ an imperceptible shift takes place which indelibly changes you.  You won’t know exactly when it happened, but you’ll know that it has.  You’ll hit a gorgeous point of no return, and after passing this point, what used to be a source of hurt will have transmuted into a source of power.  You finally discover the confidence you've been needing to change the main issue, and you find it in the unlikeliest of places.  Something quietly shifted, you’re different now, you changed, it's 'for real' this time, and you know it.

Throughout the process, keep in mind that the extra support of friends and family is always great to equip yourself with.  That said, if what you're trying to heal from has been a lifelong issue or involves abuse of any kind (including substance abuse), bumping up that level of support to professional support might make a world of difference for you.  If you need help finding support, connect to my resources page, use this therapist locator to find support near you, or email me directly.  Whatever you do, just do something.