You know those times when you’re so set in one way of doing something that you’re almost blind to alternative ways of looking at it? And yet, the way you’re going about something just isn’t working for you?
In these cases, you’re so fixated on the way things are that it's as if you don’t have access to changing your perspective. The more you focus on the problem, the more it seems to stay and the less you're able to see alternatives. It often takes something or someone outside of yourself to access a new mindset or perspective that, when you look back at it, often seems pretty logical or even obvious. Sometimes it comes from a comment made by a friend. Sometimes it comes from reading a page in a book. Sometimes the Universe smacks you upside the head.
How did I not see it that way before?!
It's as if your world is blown open and you can't believe that you didn't see things this way previously. This can happen for both small and large problems, for major life decisions or more minor daily routines.
In the work that I do, I have the privilege of seeing my clients go through these sorts of mindset transformations. By working with me, my clients are opening themselves up to thinking about their lives in a new light. They are saying "Yes!" to getting unstuck and letting change in. During our sessions, I help them make connections and shift their mindsets in a way that they may not otherwise have done.
It’s one of my favorite parts of the job.
And yet, sometimes even the coach needs a reminder that there is another way to look at a problem than through her current mindset…
MY mindset PROBLEM
Ever since I left my corporate job a year ago, I’ve been struggling with where to put my desk in our apartment. I live in a one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, and while it’s a pretty good size, there is no designated room for my office. So for the last year, my office has been our bedroom, with a desk shoved into a window nook.
At first, this felt great. It has adequate space for my desk plus a small shelf, it gets tons of natural light, I can shut the door, etc. Except over time, it started to bother me.
I had no place to hang things like my vision board or inspiring quotes. The best I had were post-it notes on part of the window frame. It also started to make our bedroom look messy because it became an easy catch all for random clutter (which I would then move to the bed during my working hours).
It wasn’t ideal and it definitely didn’t feel like a true office.
Then, over time, I noticed it was starting to affect my sleep. Which is a big deal because a) I highly value my sleep and b) I’m normally one of those pass-out-as-my-head-hits-the-pillow type of people.
And yet, I would find myself lying there, my brain racing, thinking about the business/my To Do list/content ideas/emails I needed to remember to write. I kept getting up to write reminders to myself and then struggle to fall back asleep. My inability to fall asleep was making it extremely difficult to wake up in the morning. It became a vicious cycle.
For a while, I just blamed this inability to sleep on the stress of building a business. Not-so-secret secret: running a business is tough! As a coach, not all of my hours are spent coaching. Rather, I have to be the head of every department in my business because it’s just me, myself and I. Which means a lot of hours spent doing marketing, business development, accounting, etc. Needless to say my brain has a lot going on up there.
Yet, throughout my busy summer of travel, I noticed something about my sleep that I couldn’t ignore: the only time I was having trouble sleeping was in my own bed.
No matter where I traveled, I resorted back to my natural fast-to-sleep bedtime routine. And yet, as soon as I was back in my apartment, I couldn’t fall asleep unless I took melatonin. And even then, I frequently found myself awake until 1 or 2 in the morning.
When I realized what was going on, I knew it had to be a result of my office being in our bedroom. It was the only thing that had changed (not my amazingly comfy bed that I’ve had for years that feels like sleeping on a cloud). It’s as if my desk was holding all of my anxious energy. And then at night, all of that energy was literally one step away and followed me to bed.
Something needed to change.
But here comes the part about the fixed mindset…
I couldn’t see another option as to where to put the desk. None. There was nowhere else in my apartment that I could see it fitting.
Of course the most obvious solution that many well meaning people offered me was to go find office space. Yes, that’s definitely a solution and one that I would honestly love being the extrovert that I am. But for someone trying to run lean in her first year of business, this didn’t make financial sense given how expensive coworking spaces are in the Boston area.
So I just stayed stuck, with a desk in my bedroom that was causing me to have insomnia. Great…
the AH HA MOMENT
Things stayed this way for a few months - partially because I was traveling so much that I wasn’t home enough to invest my time in figuring out a solution. The topic would come to mind at terrible times - like when I was lying awake on our couch at 2am - and let’s just say that my 2am brain isn’t the best problem solver.
Then, while driving home from Maine a few weeks ago, I had my “ah ha” moment.
My boyfriend was asleep in the passenger seat and I was sitting silently in traffic. I’d felt kind of unsettled all weekend and was mulling my feelings over when all of a sudden a thought popped into my head:
Get rid of your dining table and chairs and move your desk into the kitchen.
I felt immediately lighter.
Why hadn’t I thought of that before?! We hardly ever use our kitchen table AND there is conveniently a nook in our kitchen where my desk can go AND I could to put a bookshelf there AND I could hang up stuff on the walls. Plus, I could then turn our bedroom window nook into a reading nook - returning the room to the relaxing oasis that it should be.
The solution seemed so obvious now. Seriously, how had it not come to me before?
I saw with this idea for a few weeks and on Friday, I officially moved my desk into our kitchen! I was on such a roll and it was such a right move that I even manifested the perfect rug for my new little space. True story.
As I moved everything around, I knew my new office nook needed a rug and so I decided to run to Homegoods in order to get this project as close to finished as possible before the weekend. Before going, I did a little visualization: I’m going to find a rug that is slightly bigger than 3x5, it will have the right shade of blue to match the legs of my desk, it will be soft on my feet and it will be less than $50. When I walked to the rug section, the perfect rug was literally lying on the floor next to the shelves of rolled up rugs. It matched all of my criteria. Plus, it was only $39.99!
Thank you, Universe, for saving me $10!
It was as if this rug was that culminating icing on the cake to show me that my office revamp was the right direction to be heading. It felt amazing!
IF SOMETHING ISN’T WORKING, OPEN UP
I spent so long letting the desk issue stress me out (literally for months) because I couldn’t see a solution. But in that car ride, something in me opened up to new possibilities.
I got to a point where I thought “Something has to change!” I didn’t know what the solution was, but what I did was signal that I was ready for one. Now that I have the solution, things are lining up. I feel calm and ripe with possibility.
This is what happens when you quiet down and open yourself up to new ways of looking at a perceived problem. Because it is possible. There is always a solution. It’s just that sometimes your current mindset or view is blocking you from seeing them.
When all you focus on is how something isn’t working for you, things just keep not working for you. As a result, it's easy to keep staying closed and stuck because that's all that's being shown to you. It becomes a cycle.
But by shifting your mindset to the possibility that there is a solution, that’s when those new solutions come.
The next time you are faced with a challenge that seems impossible to solve, stop focusing on all of the ways that aren’t working. Instead, allow yourself to be open to those “ah ha” moments, when a solution you can’t currently see presents itself to you.
To do this, sometimes it’s helpful to get quiet, close your eyes and silently (or out loud) say to yourself, “I am open to new solutions.” Or even simply say, "I am open."
You don't need to know the exact solution at this point. The trick is opening your mind up to the possibility that one exists. Yes, it takes trust, but trust is better than sticking to the "This is impossible!" mindset that isn't getting you anywhere, isn't it?
Stay open and the solutions will come.