I met a young man recently that was pretty down in the dumps. He was handed a less than ideal childhood, and has faced more than his fair share of struggles. But he’s super smart, and he’s really determined to turn things around and have a good life.
The problem is, that he keeps having all these false starts. It seems that every time life starts getting on track for him, something happens, and it sets him back again to square one.
Restitution teaches us that every behaviour exists for a reason, and therefore, even ineffective behaviour is in some way working for us. It may not working totally the way we want, but in some way, it is filling a need, otherwise, we wouldn’t do it.
So I asked this man – how is it that these set-backs are working for you?
There was a bit of an “aha” moment when this man realized that he was afraid that if he was successful that people would start to expect a lot of him. As long as he keeps failing, there is no pressure. But he is pretty worried that if he actually starts meeting his goals, that he’s not going to be able to maintain them.
He doesn’t need people to tell him that his behaviour is self-destructive; it’s precisely because it’s causing failure that he’s choosing it.
So often, we try to change behaviour by telling a person how their choices are hurting them. We point out the bad part of their behaviour. But sometimes, the key to change is to do the opposite, and look at why we are holding on to the behaviours that cause us so much heartache. Only then can we confront the real obstacles that stand in our way.