Here is a situation that every counsellor has experienced. A person may come to talk about being stuck in their life. Eventually they say in frustration, “I come here every week and nothing ever changes.” They talk and analyse and speculate and…nothing shifts. Counsellors often get together to discuss challenging cases in group supervision, to nut out the sophisticated interventions that might help a client move forward. But often nobody looks squarely at the most obvious question for this person.
What are you doing to make things happen?
Draw a horizontal line. Above the line write “thinking space.” Below the line write “doing space.”
Guess what happens above the line?
Well, of course important things do happen. Really important things can happen. But to change your day to day life, all the analysis in the world is useless unless you regularly roll up your sleeves and enter the doing space.
Some people were raised to examine their feelings but never to push themselves. They are now deficient in will-power and practical wisdom. Some were beaten down by critical or intrusive parents or by such events in life. In response, some people are tempted to criticise them, while others make excuses for them, but both are mistaken. Our focus needs to be on the future, on making things better. Explanations don't matter. Criticisms or justifications are beside the point. As an adult you have the power to find a way forward.
And the formula for making that answer work is often not especially complex. On one side of the line is thought, and on the other is action. Together they make an equation.
Yes, strive to know yourself. Take a deep look. But don’t lose yourself in analysis. Don't lose yourself in how you feel.
Rather than focus on how you currently feel, focus on how you want to feel. Consider what it requires to feel that way - what shape your life would have to take. Make a plan of life based on that, one which expresses your values and strengths, then cross the line and do the work.
And for those who don’t want to do this, for whom it all seems too hard? Nothing is ever going to change.
And for those who are willing to do the work? You have no idea how much potential lies within you. The biggest gift we can give ourselves and each other, is to find a way toward our deeper possibilities.