It’s absolutely normal to feel this way.
But it’s actually an illusion. As a life coach, every single client I worked with (yes, every single one) ran into this at some point. Sometimes a full 180 degree return. Sometimes mildly.
Sometimes they remained in that return and gave up. But those who realized/accepted they’d get through it and it was normal, went on to achieve what they wanted.
What you’re experiencing is an unconscious resistance to the changes you’re trying to make that’s becoming conscious. Meaning, you’re in awareness of the resistance we can all feel at times to the changes. (I’ve been in a slump recently myself.) this is a good thing.
Because awareness is how you can become more mindful and therefore make more mindful choices.
Choose not to look at it as “suffering” or “struggling”. When we label times like this, we start focusing on what we don’t want. And when we focus on what we don’t want, we start creating more of it. As I always pointed out to my client, your mind skips over the “not” in “I don’t want” and hears only “I do want”.
So if you say to yourself, “I don’t want to struggle. I don’t want to suffer”–what, then is your mind really hearing, if it is deaf to not?If someone also says to themselves, “I’ve never been able to do _____” and it’s a goal they want to achieve, AND they’re focused on the “struggle” and “suffering”, they wind up creating more of that as well. It’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, and it leads them to not creating that goal. Now, this isn’t mean to be discouraging. Not at all! Once you’re aware of the tricky things your unconscious mind tries to do to keep you in your old comfort zone, you can make changes.
But, to that–we also need time for integration.
It’s easy to think that if we’re not feeling consistent changes every single day, we’re slipping backwards. What’s possibly actually going on is your mind/body/spirit saying, “OK, I need to pause here and catch my breath. Really get these new skills under my belt.
An integral part of change are pauses like this. It’s also a chance to enjoy the view and see where you’ve come from. Because the other thing people have a tendency to do (and I do this, too), is compare themselves right now to where they were five minutes ago. Not last week, last month, last year. And/or they start comparing themselves to what they see others doing. Other people’s changes.
Always compare yourself to yourself, and it’s always best to put a healthy span of time between the comparisons. It’s difficult to sense change if you’re comparing yourself to where you were yesterday.
Also, just because you can’t sense the changes happening, it doesn’t mean they aren’t. Think of your journey like traveling down a river on a boat, using only the currents for momentum, but also steering yourself where you want to go.
Much of the time you can see the landscape passing and you have a sense of movement.
But, one day, you wake up and the river has widened to a point where you can’t see the land on either side. It’s cloudy above, uniformly so, making it impossible to gauge movement that way, too. The river is deep and looks still.
Have you stopped moving? What if the sky remains cloudy for days and days and the shore remains too far away for you to see it? Or do you know that the river is still carrying you?
This same phenomenon happens when we start making changes for the better.
But lulls are also times when we wake up and find ourselves moored to a dock. Maybe it’s a familiar dock to a familiar town filled with familiar habits. Except what your spirit is asking for at this time is some time to rest. That it even needs some familiarity for awhile.
The thing is, it’s not the SAME town you came from. Just very, very similar. You’re not actually back in your old ways/town because you’re now 350 miles downriver. So it’s impossible for you to have actually returned to the exact place you were. You’ve made too many changes and have traveled too far.
Another way to look at it is that change is a journey up a staircase lined with turnstiles. Some you will pass through easily. Some will be stiffer. Some will block you for a time (perhaps like where you are now), but with patience and acceptance of the pause, it will move.
The thing to keep in mind is that turnstiles, like the river, only go one direction: Forward. It’s only with enormous effort that you can go backwards.
But first, all change starts with acceptance.
We all hit these places of frustration. That we all sometimes have old habits come back, ESPECIALLY in the freshman time of making those changes. I’ve been immersed in personal growth for about 17 years and I still have periods of time when I roll back to old ways.
Acceptance also means self-acceptance. If you’re in a lull, and your overall focus is to continue the changes, if you beat yourself up over the lull, over (unconsciously) reaching for an old habit you know doesn’t serve you, then it’s like trying to beat ourselves into submission.
Acceptance also means self-compassion.
You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to screw up. Royally sometimes. That’s part of the human experience. Personal growth isn’t about becoming mistakeless or perfect. It’s about realizing your potential…and to realize you can make fewer mistakes (and far fewer royally terrible ones). I recently read a quote that went something like, “Good choices come from experience. Experience comes from making bad choices.”
One thing I encouraged my clients to do was to give themselves permission to slip up. Permission to accept the slip-ups. Permission to be in lulls. I have to remind myself to do this now and then, too.
Another thing to know is that the greater the overwhelm you’re feeling (that’s also what can make us feel like we’ve stalled or returned to old habits; overwhelm is also normal when we’re making changes. It’s spiritual/mental sore muscles), the bigger the pull of momentum you’re feeling.
Meaning, it’s like being pulled backwards in a slingshot. So the greater the overwhelm, the farther away from where you were you’ll find yourself when it dissipates. (Most of the time, it’s smaller spurts, thankfully.)
So you’re in a very normal place if this is what you feel like is happening to you.
Hold yourself in compassion, look backwards to see how far you’ve come since you’ve started, recognize you’ve been in spots like this before and you’re still moving forward. It’s just that right now, that resistance in you is trying to trick you into thinking the river has stalled, simply because you can’t see the shores.
Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum.