Skill #46: Do One Thing Different

Ever feel like this?

The often cited definition of crazy is “to continue to do the same thing and expect a different outcome.

The wise folks in recovery say, “if nothing changes, nothing changes.”

In therapy circles, it is known as “Analysis Paralysis.

One of my daughters was talking to me at length once about a relationship dilemma and said, “I feel like I’m cheating.” “What do you mean honey?” “Well, I’ve got a mom who’s a therapist—don’t you think that’s kind of cheating?” I laughed.

Maybe being a therapist is cheating: I have the benefit of other people’s life lessons. I’ve always been a vicarious learner having had an older sibling who was, we’ll say, prone to making bad decisions. I guess I was trained early to watch and learn.

I have a client with whom I’ve had the privilege of working with off and on for several years. This person is kind of an ideal client—verbal, insightful, and open. (This could actually be many people I’ve known over the years.) In the course of this therapy, three profound lessons about change have emerged, in part, because this person’s major goals for change are not yet manifest .  For this person, there has no doubt been growth and clarity over the years, but the life goal this person desires remains elusive.

The first lesson regarding change is about being congruent. This has become almost a mantra for me over the years.

Someone will identify what it is they really want. When I ask them how much time, energy, or resources they put toward the goal, it is often very little. It is like a ‘values clarification’ exercise: List your priorities. Monitor your time. (REAL time spent–not that to which we aspire.) How much actual time is going toward that priority? For example, according to the latest American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor statistics, the average American spends about 20 hours/week watching TV.  However, most people do not ever put television on their list of priorities. That is roughly 30% of our free time in a week (based on 8 hours per day of work/sleep per week).


All I’m suggesting here is that if you SAY there is something different that you want in your life, are you being congruent? Are you dedicating your time, energy, and resources to it? Or, is it on your priority list in name only? Is it just your official story that you only talk about?

Are you dedicating your time, energy, and resources to what you say you want?

Here’s the thing about being a therapist—if I challenge you on something, I also challenge myself on it. I’ve had some recent situations that have knocked me backwards time and time again. A compassionate friend said, “I don’t know how you continue to persist in this.” My only answer is that it is a priority, so despite the failures, I will continue to put my efforts in—or I’ll change my plan.

The second lesson is on just talking about the change that is sought. This is the Analysis Paralysis.

megaspeakersI once had a client who was having trouble harnessing her efforts around making a change happen. It seemed that after she talked to everyone about it, she lost all energy for actually doing something different. I suggested that she not tell anyone about her intention.  It helped and she began to put a plan in action.

Harness your energy around making a change happen.

Succinctly stated by Inspirational writer, Steve Maraboli (in Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience), “Get out of your own way… stop the paralysis by analysis… decide what you want, create a simple plan, and get moving!”

The third lesson is that broad sweeping changes are rarely effective. It’s just too much to sustain all at once.

SingleLightBulbThis is what happens after the New Year and people decide to restructure their whole life. It lasts about 2 weeks. Then they start to slide. In helping folks navigate desired changes in their lives, we always start small. Author, therapist, and speaker, Bill O’Hanlon, LMFT,  wrote a delightful how-to book aptly titled, “Do One Thing Different.” The book has a simple premise: just get one small change firmly in place before moving on to the next challenge. (As I was typing, I realized that ‘change’ is embedded in the word ‘challenge’…hmmm.)

Start with one small change and get it firmly in place before making another change.

‘change’ is embedded in the word ‘challenge’ --LiM2 Click To Tweet

This spring, as new growth is the theme for the season, consider how you are approaching changes you’d like to see. Make sure what you SAY you want is worthy of your time, energy, and resources; harness your energy; and start small: do ONE thing different. See what happens next. You may be pleasantly surprised.

So cheat right along with us by following LiM2 and as you work toward growth and changes (challenges) remember to Do One Thing Different because Life is Messy and Life is Marvelous.


Hamster photo credit


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.