On a recent coaching call, my client John expressed frustration at falling into “same old same old” behaviours. He had set some action steps on our call the previous week and had failed to follow through on them. When I asked him what happened he said, “I just don’t feel motivated around this.” (Motivated, shmotivated)
We talked a bit more about feelings, and how they can’t always be trusted. If we waited to “feel like” doing most things, we wouldn’t get very much done at all. (But we would get lots of sleep, get caught up on a bunch of Netflix series, and eat a lot of junk food!)
I remembered some Powerpoint slide pictures I had used in some workshops a few years back.
“John, since I can’t show you the pictures right now, I’m going to do my best to explain them to you. Picture a well traveled walking trail in the woods – the dirt and brush patted down from hundreds or thousands of foot steps. It’s super easy to walk along because it’s flat and wide.
Now picture trying to walk off the trail and through the woods – stepping over branches, hacking away at small trees and brush trying to forge a way through.
The first path is kinda what your brain looks like when you follow a habit. Your brain makes shortcuts when you repeat a thought or behaviour. But when you try to change it, it’s like forging your way through the bush. So it makes sense that we fall into old habits. It’s so much easier and more inviting to walk the easy path.
BUT, if you continue walking on the new path even though it’s more challenging…it will eventually become patted down and easy to travel. And the old trail will become overgrown.”
John really liked the analogy so at the end of the call, as part of his homework for the week, I told him to find a picture that represents each of the paths so he would have a visual reminder. A few days later I received this picture in an email. (Yes, he had it printed and framed!)
If coaching homework were graded, I would give him an A+ 🙂