Dr Ruth Briant-Jones
Suspending Disbelief: How to Achieve Your Full Potential
Have you ever looked back on the way you've behaved in certain situations, or with certain people, and regretted the way you were? Wondered where that behaviour came from? Or have you noticed a pattern in the way you behave that makes you uncomfortable? If so, you're not alone. It's a really common issue, this disconnect between how you want to be, and how you have behaved or are continuing to behave. You might feel frustrated with yourself, annoyed that you're not being all you should be, or not behaving in a way that meets your standards - in fact, your inner critic probably has a field day with it, on a regular basis. Beyond criticising yourself for it though, have you ever wondered why this disconnect exists?
Sometimes, it can be really obvious. Your immediate needs may not be being meet - you're hungry, stressed, sleep-deprived, etc. In these circumstances, once you've addressed this need, your behaviour is likely to change, and quickly. Building in self-care in small ways to your day can de-fuse these situations that crop up (drink more water, eat more regularly, go to bed an hour earlier, meditate, etc). Sometimes though, the disconnect between your values and your behaviour can be more insidious, and produce more drastic and damaging changes in the way you interact with the world. And although this disconnect is big, it really can be insidious.
I remember having the concept of values and behaviour explained to me once, in a way that really made sense, and it was this: your values are your anchor. These don't move, whatever is going on above them. Your behaviour is the buoy attached to the anchor. In calm seas, and when there's nothing snagging the line between your anchor and your buoy, your buoy sits directly above your anchor; your behaviour matches your values. Ideal. When things get tough, or when your basic needs are not met, or when something's not aligned under the surface the buoy moves, translating to behaviour that is potentially removed from your values. Your beliefs are the sum of your experiences and your conditioning - they are the lens through which you, and uniquely you, see the world. If something taught you, way back when, that you were not good enough (for example), this belief can affect every interaction you have beyond the learning of it. It's a limiting belief, one that stands in the way of you fulfilling your potential. And when I say 'potential', I don't just mean how successful you are at work. I mean the potential for you to be happy, and to build successful, meaningful connections. These limiting beliefs change our behaviour; they bring us out of alignment with our values and our potential. The golden nugget here is that when we work to align the pathways between our values and our behaviour, we can find happiness - and we can change these beliefs that stand in our way.
I worked with a coaching client recently who explained to me that he was unhappy about the fact that he couldn't maintain friendships. He had no issue with making them - in fact, he'd forge great relationships - but once he'd moved on to a new job or a new location, or to a new hobby, he'd drop these friendships, like hot potatoes, to the extent of ignoring messages or making feeble excuses to avoid meeting up again. My client liked these people - he valued them and loved their company, but this pattern of behaviour had become so routine, he'd slightly resigned himself to the idea that he was a bad person who didn't care about other people - that he had something wrong with him that made him that way. His issue was not with him though, it was with a belief he'd formed about himself. After a lot of soul-searching, we realised that underneath it all, was fear. He was scared of meeting people again. He was scared they wouldn't like him any more, and he thought he didn't deserve their friendship, and that it had been only circumstance that had created that friendship in the first place. At the heart of it all was his belief that he wasn't good enough. To avoid the rejection he anticipated from these friends, he would distance himself from those relationships. How that reflected in his behaviour was incredibly damaging - both for him in terms of all of these lost connections, and also in the way that his behaviour may have been perceived by these lost friends, who could have assumed that he didn't care about them. In fact, the reverse was true: he didn't care about himself - he didn't believe he was worthy of the friendships that he had built. Discovering that limiting belief was like switching on a lightbulb. Once we'd figured it out, working to change it became central to our sessions - and change it he did. And, hey presto, his relationships started to change.
What this shows is that what is on the surface is not always a reflection of who we are, where we are, or who we want to be. To align ourselves with our true potential, we need to go deep - to see what's really going on, to see what's driving our behaviour. If that behaviour doesn't serve us or align with our values, understanding that drive is the key to changing it. Ultimately, you're in charge of fulfilling your potential. If you're feeling frustrated that you're not meeting that potential, or you're behaving in a way that doesn't make sense to your values, then stop. Question it. Figure out the 'whys'. Some answers might be painful, but finding them is your key to growth. Suspend your disbelief - in fact, eradicate it - and the world will be yours for the taking.
Do you feel that you're not reaching your potential? Is there something getting in the way? Let's explore. Book your free coaching call online today.