Devil You Know

People come to see a life coach because they want life to be different in some way. Usually in a lot of ways. They want to feel happier, calmer, more connected, engaged, passionate. They want an improved career situation, relationship situation, health situation or how they feel about themselves situation. As human beings, we are naturally programmed to seek out opportunities for growth and expansion. We are never “done”. When we get the improved career/relationship/health/sense of self, we will not be done with our process of wanting. That very achievement will lead to us wanting something more. And on it goes. It’s one of the wonderful parts of being human, that that process of seeking and extension never runs out.

The first step, of course, is identifying what we want to change and improve.

Get clear on not what you don’t want, but what you do.

This sounds so obvious it’s not worth stating, but let me tell you from observing hundreds of coaching clients just how much the human condition keeps us focused on what we don’t want! Endlessly justifying our need for something more by describing yet another way we have been let down, or slighted or undermined in some way. I see this especially in the area of career. Dragging focus away from the negatives being battled daily into what might suit us better can be a mental wrestling match, but it’s worth doing. At the end of the day, how many more reasons do you need that this isn’t an environment that you enjoy, or lets you give of your best?

How much more evidence do you need that something else somewhere else would benefit you and the world more? Another dozen examples of being treated with disrespect and an atmosphere of infighting? And then another dozen after that? At some point, it comes the time to stop gathering data to support your validity in being miserable in your situation and focus your energy on moving towards something that will suit you better. If you have tried and tried to change the situation, to no avail, then there comes a time when continuing to justify your unhappiness just becomes a choice to continue to be unhappy. It’s either time to change yourself or remove yourself from that situation because eventually, we reach a point of being complicit in our unhappiness with the status quo.

Knowing that you have it in you (and you do!) to make change is the next step. When people get almost institutionalised to a particular organisation, I can see them become virtually paralysed with fear about leaving.

“But what if I go somewhere else, and it’s worse, Louise?” They whisper. “Maybe it’s better the Devil I know?”

Well, that’s one way to look at it for sure. There is much to be said for comfort and familiarity, but the point is, if it’s the devil then whether it’s a familiar one or a brand new one, surely that’s a dance you don’t want to be having regardless? It’s still the damn Devil! At some point, there comes a time where we have to believe in and back our levels of capability and discernment that we can move to a new situation and make a calm, mature, evaluation about its merits and make a pragmatic choice in favour of more of what we want in our lives.

And is that bit a bit scary? Often, yes. Some of the people who I have seen the most scared of leaving their jobs have kept themselves trapped by clinging with false comfort to the “Devil they know”. They are also the ones with the most to gain from having to courage to believe that they deserve more and that there is a more helpful way for them to spend 40 or 50 hours of their precious time each week. If you have reached the end of the line with a particular Devil You Know, be brave. Stop the endless search for data and justification and start to move and focus on what you do want instead. When you release your grip on the Devil You Know, you will open yourself up to finding the angel you might quite like or come to know and love instead. You have to release one to allow space for the other, and that’s something only you can do.