Inevitably, as the winter holidays approach, many of us will experience repeated moments of frustration while images of svelte figures, cozy relationships, fat bank accounts, or something else swirl through our heads. As another year winds down, we haven’t lost the desired weight. Our relationships still stink. Our debt has increased. We’re still in dead-end jobs. And we are frustrated…
Our problem is that the change we long for eludes our grasp once again. When this happens, we can feel stuck in discomfort like this:
Remember the classic flag pole scene from A Christmas Story? When Flick places his warm tongue on the icy flagpole, he quickly realizes he is “stuck-Stuck-STUCK!” Sadly, many of us take a bit longer to realize we are stuck in unhealthy patterns of thinking and living. Maybe it takes a while for frustration to register with our awareness…
What happens when frustration penetrates our awareness? Sometimes we get hung up asking, “Why am I this way?” or “How did I get here?” Now these are helpful questions because accurate answers may enable us to avoid trouble in the future. If the school kids in A Christmas Story pondered these questions, they might think twice about issuing and responding to a “triple-dog-dare” in the future. Yet answering these questions alone won’t unstick Flick’s tongue. And it won’t always show us the way out of our frustration…
Is there a better option to move out of frustration? Maybe. Sometimes the most helpful question to ask is, “What is keeping me this way?” Answers to this question won’t magically solve our problems. But they may illuminate possible steps towards the change we desire – steps we can take TODAY.
Here’s an example: Suzy is frustrated because she is still overweight as holiday parties approach. Asking “Why” causes her to spiral into negativity – thinking about the wasted opportunity of the past 12 months. But asking “What keeps me this way?” challenges Suzy to think about how today’s choices affect the change she desires. She realizes that she isn’t very active and her diet isn’t very healthy. So Suzy takes a walk with her dog and thinks about how good it feels to be active. She packs a healthy lunch for work and realizes that her body feels better without fast food. She won’t drop 30 pounds by the first holiday party, but Suzy may be stepping towards the change she desires.
To summarize, this Holiday Tip could help you begin to step towards the change you desire:
- When you feel frustrated, take note of your answers to “Why am I this way?” But don’t get stuck there.
- Also ask, “What is keeping me this way?” Your initial answer may jump to big things that seem impossible to change – such as your spouse or your child. But deeper reflection may reveal that you don’t need a new daughter, you just need a different parental response. And that’s something you can change in a small way today.
How might this tip point you towards the change you desire?