What got you here keeps you here

What got you here won’t get you there.

Marshall Goldsmith

What got you here got you here. It worked to get you here.

If you want to go somewhere different, you have to do something different.

What got you here won’t get you anywhere else but here, or some other version of here. Essentially the same place. A slightly different slice of the same pie.

So if you have a crappy job, or relationship, you have to change what you’ve been doing in your job or relationship. Or you will end up with another crappy job or relationship.

What got you in this pile of crap will land you in another one.

Start where you are and start doing something different, and you’ll end up somewhere different.

But if you start where you are and keep doing the same thing, you’ll end up in the same place. You’ll make a big circle–lots of motion, no real action–and end up back in a slightly different version of the very same story.

This is how most people live their lives. They live in cycles. They repeat patterns. They go in circles. They live the same stories over and over and over and over and over and over.

If I look at my troubles long enough, I begin to see patterns.

And if I look at the patterns long enough, I begin to see the commonality. 👋 It’s me!

What keeps us in these cycles?

We want to feel safe, and what is normal is what feels safest. Familiarity may, indeed, breed contempt but it also breeds a passive acceptance, a lethargy.

We accept what is familiar not because it is good, but because it is familiar. For most of us, the pain of the known is far more acceptable than the terror of the unknown.

So we stay put.

We find ways to cope with the pain we live in. We drink, we tune out, we go numb, we medicate and distract ourselves.

Change scares us. Moving into unknown territory scares us. We are afraid of pain, and we will almost always choose the pain we can predict over the pain we cannot predict. We don’t want to risk it.

What if it’s worse? Much worse? What if it’s terrible? What if it never ends? What if it kills us?

We don’t even know what we’re afraid of but we are afraid, and that fear keeps us pretending to be stuck.

“Progress requires unlearning.”

James Clear

Progress requires change. Progress is change. Progress is progression: going from the place you are to a new place, to a place you haven’t been.

You don’t make progress by going in circles.

My therapist reminds me that what helped me survive and even thrive worked for me, in the past. The coping mechanisms allowed me to cope. The survival strategies helped me survive. The ways that I interacted, covered, behaved, the attitudes I adopted, the habits I acquired: they worked and kept me alive, kept me moving, helped me, in some degree, to succeed.

But what helped me in the past will not help me in the future unless my goal is to keep repeating the past.

It isn’t.

In order to make progress–to move out of the stories I’ve been living, and into a new story–I have to unlearn the things that kept me safe and alive in the old stories. I have to unlearn those habits, let go of those beliefs, release those behaviors and learn new ways of thinking, doing, and being.

That is scary shit. It is tough to let go of what has kept you alive and functioning in the world. It is tough to identify the behaviors and beliefs. It can be so tough to see the patterns when we’re in them.

But we can do it. It starts simple. It has to.

We start by desiring something better, something more.

We start by letting the dissatisfaction well up in us.

We have to start there: with desire, which means not being content with the way things are right now. Desire is the longing for change, for something different. It is risky to feel desire, to let yourself feel it, because it is an acknowledgement of your dissatisfaction, your lack of fulfillment. It is an absence of happiness.

But that isn’t a bad thing. Being unhappy isn’t a bad thing.

Desire–fueled by dissatisfaction or pain–is what drives us to new and better ways of being, what carries us out of the familiar ruts and onto new roads.

Desire motivates us to change. Desire gives us enough hope to risk the change.

Desire moves us emotionally, so we grow brave enough to change, to unlearn, to let go of the familiar. Desire leads us to the point of enormous opportunity.

When we step out of an old story, we stand on the brink of a new world every time. It’s a blank page. The less writing we transfer from the old story to the new one, the more opportunity there is for wonderful new things to happen.