What have you got to lose?

A special moment in my support groups comes when a member graduates and imparts their “words of wisdom” to the rest of the group. As a facilitator it is fascinating to contrast the person speaking with the person I met when they entered the group six months prior. The contrast can be striking because most of the individuals I work with are court-ordered to attend so there can be quite a bit of resistance to participation when I first meet them. (Not a criticism of the group members-it is just human nature to resist something if you don’t have a choice in the matter.)

The other day a young man left us with a summary that I’d never quite heard expressed before in my nine years at Family Services. He said, “I didn’t want to be here and I actively fought everything the group talked about, but I think I learned something in spite of myself.” He had recently became reacquainted with some former co-workers who (knowing nothing about the support group) commented on his change in demeanor and behavior. His hassles in life hadn’t changed, but his approach to dealing with them did. Reluctant or not, he tried some different ways of thinking and doing and people noticed.

A coworker and I were moving some furniture around the office the other day. We couldn’t negotiate an odd shaped desk through a doorway. After the second or third attempt at brute force we put it down and rethought our strategy. We changed the angle we were holding the desk and changed the angle of our approach. It worked! You have probably done something similar. Yet what is obvious when it comes to moving furniture proves elusive in other areas of our lives: we trip on the same bad habits, fight about the same things over and over with our partner, and worry about things but never take decisive action Why? It’s 2014 and we live in the United States of America. We probably have more options available to “remake” ourselves than any other people in history, but the reality is that we often stay entrenched in the same self-defeating behavior even when other and better options are available.

Are you feeling unhappy because you’re stuck in some area of your life? I ask you, “What have you got to lose then by trying a different approach to the problem?” Read a book about how others have overcome in similar circumstances, join a support group, talk to a clergyperson or therapist and try a different approach even if it feels unfamiliar and awkward.. Think about it: if you’ve approached a troubling situation the same way the last ten times and it ends in disaster every time, what makes you think the 11th attempt will be any different? There is a lot of truth in the old saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” It seems to me that there is very little risk in trying a different approach. You never know, you might even learn something in spite of yourself!

Ian Eastman, M.A. promotes the wellbeing of our community at Family Services of Warren County. Warren Gives returns on May 14 and Family Services hopes you will consider making a contribution towards its charitable work.