Sarah is a hoarder now. I discovered this when I went to spend the weekend at her house, recently. Sarah has been a lifelong friend of mine, since fifth grade. My visit showed me not only the deteriorating conditions she is living in, but how much we’ve grown apart. Her unwillingness to be open and honest with herself and others, including me, has caused her to avoid seeing her circumstances –physical, emotional, financial – objectively. She has, in effect, kicked the can down the road. Now, her situation is bordering on crisis.
She hadn’t always been a pack rat. In fact as recently as four years ago I’d been to her house and it looked fairly neat and orderly. But when I was given the privilege of sleeping in her bedroom, because her guest room was overrun with stuff, I saw and felt the depth of her problem firsthand. As I lay in her bed, the towers of shoe boxes that occupied every corner, casted eerie shadows. The walls closed in on me. I felt confined, claustrophobic, and deeply saddened. How must she feel living there every day? The fog of her unconsciousness now ruling her life.
The thing is, we all have something we aren’t facing and that can cause unconsciousness. But what we are blind to doesn’t usually erupt into conditions as extreme as this example overnight. It happens gradually. We ignore a warning sign or avoid our feelings. If we continue to ignore and avoid, our situations get worse.
I’m witnessing unconsciousness in others fairly regularly. In fact, I’m sometimes caught up in it. Just last month a peer promised to give me a recommendation by the end of the week. Two weeks later, I politely asked him, in an email, if he’d had a chance to write it. He did not respond, not to apologize, not to provide a reason for the delay, and not to say he would no longer be able to write it. Almost a month has past now, and still no recommendation.
To some people this might not seem like a major infraction. And if it only happens once, perhaps it’s not. Perhaps it’s simply an oversight. But if he conducts himself this way over and over again, committing to complete a task and then not following through and ignoring to recognize his failure, a bigger problem will surface. In this case, each time he chooses to commit, fail to deliver, and avoid acknowledging it, his unconscious behavior strengthens and soon becomes a habit which can lead to more substantial negative consequences. His habit, which initially only seemed to impact other people, now begins to have repercussions that he can feel. His boss might see his inconsistencies and decide not to give him a better opportunity. His girlfriend might get tired of being “lied to” and decide to walk. And on and on. Internally, he might begin to feel guilt, low self-esteem, and unhappiness with himself. These emotions, if left undealt with, can spiral downward leading him into the depths of desperation.
The power of unconsciousness is broken once we become aware. Once we realize that our behavior and bad habits are not in our best interest, we can take steps to change them. We can face ourselves and our bad behavior, shine a light on it, and move through and past it. Doing so, however, takes a strong desire to change, the ability to see alternate solutions, and self-confidence.
Having goals, that we truly want to reach, gives us reasons to make changes in our lives. The ability to see situations, other people, and ourselves in a different light is the next thing required to affect change. New viewpoints help us to see options where before we saw none. We see an alternate path previously overgrown with the weeds of our mind. Having a new viewpoint energizes us and creates the excitement of new possibilities. The third thing needed to change our behavior is to have a belief in ourselves that we can accomplish what we set out to. We can cultivate this self-belief by reliving past successes we’ve had. We can take these lessons and apply them to our new goals for change.
These three things, setting meaningful goals that spark a strong desire, shifting your perspectives, and building self-confidence are the three catalysts I detail in my book, Growing Bold. Each catalyst works together with the others to catapult you into action. When you use the three catalysts, you begin to take steps based on your desires and the multitude of options available to you. You begin to experience successes along the way that bolster your confidence and you start realizing goals you never thought possible.