After my client learned that he was given a one-year suspension from the University that he has attended for the past 2 years for academic underperformance, he felt an overwhelming rush of fear, sadness, and regret.
He said that it felt like a huge loss on so many levels. He felt like a failure. He wanted a second chance.
Even though he knew that the dismissal was warranted and would only be for a year or less, all he could think about was everything he would be missing. Everything he lost. And everything he could have done to shift his trajectory and choose healthier and better behaviors and outcomes.
When he first learned the news, he couldn’t think. He couldn’t process. He couldn’t be at peace. He felt ashamed and trapped, misunderstood and adamant.
One day, shortly after he received the news of his suspension, he and his Mom called me.
He told me his story and shared every reason why he wanted to go back. He vacillated between crying, apologizing, justifying, and speaking on his behalf.
Reaching out to me — a representation of hope, an acknowledgment that he needed help, and the recognition and willingness to do the hard work ahead — reminded him of what was possible. Instead of wallowing in his present circumstances, he chose to dig in, motivate and commit to righting the ship.
“You know,” I said, “if you are telling me today that you are committing to this process and doing whatever work is necessary to build the necessary self-awareness and life skill set to live a healthier, more conscious and happier existence, we can hit the ground running with the coaching relationship. I have a lot of experience coaching lost, confused, and wounded people. We can figure out some small daily steps that you can do starting in this moment that will shift your trajectory and get you back on track.”
“I am ready.” He said.
“All right.” I said. “As we have discussed, it requires complete commitment. No half-assing it. It is going to be hard at times. You are going to feel uncomfortable and want to quit. It’s a process. You will gain momentum and confidence as you go.”
Our weekly 1:1 FaceTime calls began. Daily texts followed. Mindset shifts began to unfold.
He had had a series of big losses in his life, including the deaths of some very cherished loved ones, and these losses carried with them heavy grief. As he learned, grief work was no small undertaking. Our immediate work was drawing out his story, getting a handle on his thoughts and belief systems on which he was subsisting, and bringing to light areas of growth. Reworking his story from a place of strength and not victimhood was key. He actively shed some of his old and self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors and cultivated a few new thoughts and actions that were nourishing, and most importantly, useful and helpful.
Because his feelings and behaviors are changing with his shifting beliefs, thoughts, and story, he is acting and engaging with his world from a more curious and empowered place.
He no longer lets his brain go unmanaged and run the show. He is committed to a daily practice of curating healthy, motivating, and uplifting thoughts and pruning out the old, unhelpful, and negative ones. When he cleans up his thoughts, he feels better which generates healthier behaviors and results. Every time.
He recognizes now that he can be in relationship with others and not expect that they need to make him feel a certain way or be in a certain way for him to feel good — he can do that for himself, regardless of what they do or say. He can let others be who they are with no agenda. He can wake up in the morning and feel his anxiety and know that it is his companion for the day, not his foe. He can be free to feel however he chooses based on his thoughts. He can feel anything and survive. He is no longer a slave to his emotions as much as the manager and regulator of them.
Gradually, with each passing day, his thought loop is shifting from “I am not enough” and “I need certain external circumstances to change in order to feel better” to “I am in control of how I feel and how I show up in this world, regardless of what the outside world is doing. I am human and I am doing the best I can with what I have where I am.”
No time to reflect because you are too busy with school and the to-do’s that come with it? Write 3 things for which you are grateful. Every day.
No idea how to love yourself right now? Take a walk. Do an online yoga class. Meditate. For 10 minutes or 50 minutes. Movement, mindfulness, and embodiment are wonderful integrators of body, mind, and spirit. Soak in the outside, breathe deeply, root yourself into the ground, and notice the energy moving through your body as you move.
No interest in journaling? Do a 10 minute thought download each day, emptying your brain and your many thoughts onto paper. A literal stream of consciousness. No rules. No grammar or sentence structure needed. Seeing your thoughts versus just thinking them creates a very different awareness.
You are capable of more than you give yourself credit. Do something. Create a life philosophy that is based in a growth mindset, a willingness to be uncomfortable, a curiosity. You can live each day with the knowing that life is hard and sweet. You get to choose if you are going to live on the periphery and experience the hard, or lace up and go into the ring. It’s all a choice.
Take one daily step — one awkward, wobbly, significant step — to move one step closer to becoming the person that you want to be. Create a routine that feeds you, lifts you, and keeps you engaged.
What’s your ONE small thing for today?
Commit to doing it.
I’ll be here cheering you on! You can do this!
#makethefirststep #tellmemore #youcandothis #shineon #itsallgood xoxoxo