What if it doesn’t last?

I was doing so great… what went wrong?”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever uttered those words. Thought so. I know I have!

I’ve been on yoga retreats, and coaching retreats, and even girlfriends’ weekends where I had such great clarity and a sense of ease and possibility. And then I’ve come home and that momentum seems to disappear. Something happens – like a potential client says no, or my husband or my kids do something annoying – and it has felt like I can hear the balloon that was lifting my spirits pop.

I used to take the setbacks that come after a new insight as ominous. “I knew I was crazy to think I could really do whatever I was just so convinced I could do.”

If this has happened to, or is happening to you, congratulations. You’re human. =)

As humans, we want change to be set it and forget it. We want to clear some miraculous invisible hurdle and be DONE with whatever was plaguing us. And it just doesn’t work that way.

Why? WHY???? [Imagine me shaking my fist at the sky here.]

Well, nothing stays the same. Not even the high you feel after making a change that feels like such a freaking relief. Or the blissed-out feeling you get after meditating, or running, or _____________ (insert your own sanity-boosting activity here). Something will come along to trigger you and your reaction can make you feel like you’ve reverted.

The bad news is, you will still have ups and downs. Here’s why that’s good news:

Personal growth happens during the downward trends. (Click to Tweet!)

I mean, think about it. If everything were always sunshine and roses, how would you ever learn resilience? Or surrender? Or strength? Some lessons can only come when we’re up against the ropes enough that we finally agree to crack up our armor. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Also, the lows of your downward trends tend to get a little less low, and their trajectory a little less steep.

So now that you know the downward blips are inevitable, what are you supposed to DO when they happen?

The best way I know to ensure that any recently-earned insights stick around is to put them into action. Meaning, keep doing whatever you had recently dedicated yourself to doing. When you notice your thoughts veering in to old, anger- or anxiety-producing territory, notice them and then cancel them. (I find it helpful to say, either to myself or to someone I trust ‘I cancel this thought!’) If it’s an emotion that’s got you in its grips – like sadness or anger – just notice without trying to fix. Ask it what it’s here to show you. Talk it over with someone who will just listen and say “I hear you,” and not try to fix it for you. Then do something, even one tiny thing, that you know to be helpful for promoting clarity.

Such as: Take a walk. Get outside. Cook something. Clean something. Get up and stretch. Get up and dance. Lie down on the floor and rest your shins on the coffee table. Draw. Sing. Fix a cup of tea. Go sit in the car by yourself if you have to. The point is: You have options!

Once you’re on the other side of the immediate spike in mental suckitude, get back to doing things in the manner you had recently committed to doing them.

Insight requires action, which leads to new insight. It’s a short loop, which is good, because you always know where you are and what you need to do next.

And know that if you experience a setback and don’t get back 100% to the new direction you had recently adopted, you will soon get another chance to heal whatever’s getting in your way. As Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” While that may seem daunting, it’s actually a generous move on the universe’s part. Because I can promise you this: You will feel so much better once you get to the other side. However many attempts you have to make to get there, it will be worth every ounce of effort and every setback you had to overcome. Keep going.

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