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I’m terribly sorry Trixie

Trixie is my name for all things that try to keep us from from changing, growing and blossoming. And this blog is about some ideas for how we can learn to say no to Trixie. 

I’ve been through my fair share of changes lately. In fact I think I’ve been suffering change overload.

  • I’ve changed from employed to self-employed
  • I’ve changed from living in Sydney to living in Melbourne – and that has brought with it uncounted changes in the way we construct our day to day life
  • And working with my coach I’ve changed my mindset over many things, not least of which is changing my mindset about change itself.

All about change

I’ve really learned to respect change and appreciate how hard it can be. And I’ve learned, when it comes to making personal changes in particular we must learn the art of saying no.

Even good, wonderful and exciting changes can be hard. All change involves a loss and a letting go to make space for the new.

Just as getting a new sofa is exciting, saying goodbye to your old worn sofa and all the memories it holds can be tinged with sadness. Giving up smoking, chocolate or shopping is not just about gaining better health or finances – but it can be a loss of an old way living and a loss of an old way of finding comfort.

So dealing with loss is not as simple as doing a head to head comparison of the old vs new like a mathematical formula. An improved anything cannot always replace the loss of the old and familiar.

Even when the new wins hands down (I am so happy to be getting a new leather sofa after 20 years – I’ve worked so hard for this and really deserve it), there is still an emotional connection to the old (remember all the family times we’ve had on that old thing. All those afternoon naps – nothing will ever be so comfortable).

Learning to let go

Letting go is hard because it reflects some fundamental need that we have for the status quo. Even when we complain about the way things are, we like it that way too. I want to give up smoking, chocolate, shopping [fill in the blanks] but the loss of all the benefits of these things is sometimes just too great. This feeling of loss is very understandable – and we are allowed to grieve.

But unless we look at this feeling of loss head on it’s going to hold us right where we are. To grow, you have to acknowledge the loss and feel it. But then find a way to say: “No, you will not hold me back from where I need to go”. Many people may need counselling or other specialised support to manage this.

Moving to Melbourne has been one of the hardest changes and challenges I’ve had to make in my life. The first few months I really grieved for the loss of my home, my space, my history, my family, my friends, my way of living. It simply didn’t matter to me how wonderful Melbourne could be, I had a huge loss I needed to deal with. For a while I didn’t see any way out – but I didn’t want to be stuck in grief forever either.

So it became necessary to change my mindset so I could say no to the feeling of grief controlling my life. I talked a lot about strategies for managing loss and change with my coach. I couldn’t have done this in a vacuum. But what I ultimately came up with was to stop seeing Melbourne and Sydney in competition with each other but to start see them as individuals. This way Melbourne has never and will never replace Sydney, but it can be a great place all on it’s own for me to experience the next phase of my life and all its adventures.

So do I still miss Sydney? Of course. But I’ve said no to that sense of enormous loss controlling my life and stopping me from properly living here. Different people will come up with different solutions. But this mindset shift worked for me and allowed me to break out of my old status quo.

Dealing with pushback

Sometimes it’s other people, our family, friends and colleagues who act in ways to keep us the way we are and stop us from growing. Have you ever seen somebody decline a piece of cake because of a new healthy eating plan they have started, only to be pressured by their friends to take just one piece? “Go on – a little bit won’t hurt. Just once piece.”

I’ve seen this countless times, and I’ve almost certainly put pressure on someone to have a small piece of cake. A more useful reaction would be something like this: “Good for you. That is fantastic. I wish you every success. Would like some fruit or a cup of tea instead”. But we don’t say things like that because one person changing (deciding to eat more healthily) puts pressure on the system (everybody else) to change too.

And what I’ve learnt is systems (family, friendship or work dynamics) want to stay the same. Systems think things are pretty good just the way they are. Systems pushback.

I’m terribly sorry Trixie

When you start messing with a system – whether it be family, friendship or work dynamic – the system tries everything to keep you in your place. But you don’t have to listen. We all have the right to live and grow and develop in ways that fit our own values and world view.

When you expect pushback from an attempt to grow and change – it really defuses the impact. Like seeing the trick behind the illusion. Expect the pushback and you become empowered to say to no to this pressure and yes to what you really want, to your true goals for growth and change.

So next time you want start a new exercise class, eat better, learn to meditate, pray more, visit more people in hospital – or undertake any other program for your own growth and development. Listen for the pushback and don’t be afraid to say: “I’m terribly sorry Trixie, but today I’m doing things my way.”

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