So you’ve been committed to making a positive life change. You’ve read some inspiring books, journal regularly, and have attended a couple of self-development workshops. But the positive shifts in how you feel never seem to stick around. You end up feeling stuck again, and still don’t know how to get out of it.
Why do so many personal development approaches, which have a great track record and many devout followers, still fail for people most of the time?
We can all think of someone whose life turned around after discovering tai chi or nutrition, but we can think of many more (often including ourselves!) who gave it a shot but never felt the same earth-shattering revelations.
The reason is that we never made it across the Dip.
Before showing you the Dip, let’s take a look at how we tend to expect getting unstuck will go:
And this is how it actually happens. This is the Dip:
The Dip is a model created by Seth Godin, an author and entrepreneur. He used it to explain when a business should quit, or stick it out. The same model happens to work very well when it comes to getting unstuck.
The process of getting unstuck takes the same path as described by that line up there. Most people stay stuck because they don’t feel prepared or able to ride that line down to the bottom of “the Dip.” They stay back at the beginning, repeating the same patterns over and over.
I’m going to talk about what’s at the bottom of the Dip and how to make it to the other side.
How It Starts
Let’s imagine that the Dip is a line that represents the positive results from our self-development efforts. The higher the line goes, the better we feel. We can also see that things get harder before they get better. But they do get much better.
The start of the line is the point in time when we decide to make a positive life change. Maybe we commit to going to yoga 3 times per week, or we decide to start seeing a counsellor. You can imagine that life isn’t all great at this point – things have gotten bad enough that we’ve decided we need to take action.
When we begin making the new change (going to yoga or seeing a counsellor), we start to see some improvement in our quality of life almost right away. We climb to the top of the first hump along the line, where the second star is (see below). At this point, we’re feeling pretty optimistic – maybe our stress level has decreased significantly or we’re really enjoying the new change.
But then, after a few weeks or months usually, we start to slide down the line. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in a similar spot, happiness-wise, to where we started. We’re no longer feeling better; we’re actually feeling like the same old stuff we were trying to fix has come back. Things stopped improving, and it’s no longer clear what will work.
Only this time, we’re dolling out all this extra money and effort, so it can feel like a big waste of time. This is where most of us will say, “this isn’t working!” and quit. We return to our regular habits. This is why we don’t get unstuck.
Should we have kept on with yoga or counselling? Not necessarily – as I’ll explain.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
When we started making those changes to our life, we were doing the things we already knew how to do.
Yoga or counselling might have been the obvious choice when asking ourselves, “what would make me feel better right now?” We weren’t stepping far out of our comfort zone. These first changes were low-hanging fruit. Neither involved significantly changing our baseline patterns.
Importantly, we didn’t have to give up believing anything that we’ve been believing all along.
What making those changes did do, however, was to create just enough friction between our old ways of being and the new patterns that life became harder.
For example, spending additional time away from home to go to a class might cause friction with family. Or coming back home from a counselling session with new ideas about the relationship might be threatening to your partner. Regular life, and the people in it, start to push back.
The changes that are beginning inside of us can also cause us to feel disconnected from the people we know and love as our worldview evolves. The changes we’re making are also threatening a foundation we’ve worked hard to build for ourselves. Things stop feeling good at this point.
In fact, life often feels chaotic, stressful, or dangerous at this point on the curve. We begin to experience confusion, overwhelm and anxiety.
We’re losing connection with our support network and belief system, but we’ve neither mastered the new skills we’re trying to learn nor found a new support network or paradigm. This is why we quit.
Going back to the start line, imperfect as it may be, seems like a better deal than this.
So we quit. We go right back to the start of the line, stop doing yoga, stop seeing a counsellor. And for a while, we try making due with what we’ve got and what we learned from the experience.
What’s At the Bottom of the Dip
It’s not that yoga or counselling are good or bad. It’s highly individual of course, whether a particular healing modality clicks with you. But each is a potential door to feeling better if we pay close attention to what comes up at that point where things start to slide downhill toward the bottom of the Dip.
These are the clues as to what’s really at the root of our stuckness. You want the big sign that’s going to tell you how to get out of this? I’m about to give it to you, so lean in! Here it is:
Every time you rise up out of your funk, challenging yourself to greater things, your limiting beliefs will spring up and try to take you out. Every. Single. Time.
I can’t do this.
There’s probably no one better out there for me.
I’m not allowed to ask for what I need.
Think back to the times you’ve tried to get unstuck. What arose that took you out? What was the reason you felt you couldn’t go further?
How often does this reason come up in your life?
This reason is what’s keeping you stuck. Going through the Dip is going to cost you this reason; think of it like this: it’s going to cost you everything you know in order to learn something new.
These beliefs are usually invisible to us. It’s easy to see when others are holding themselves back, but when we do it, it feels like we’re making the best choice available. Being able to identify these beliefs and challenge them takes lots of kindness toward ourselves, and usually some support through the process by an outside person.
In order to make it across the Dip, we have to be prepared to question the way we understand our world by confronting our limiting beliefs. It comes with the territory to also mend the hurt and fear these beliefs were protecting us from. This is the process of transformation.
The Support Line
There’s a second line on this model that needs to be added. This is the Support Line, an alternate route that you can travel to get to the other side of the Dip.
The Support Line is exactly what it sounds like – the path you take when you’re being supported from the outside by friends, guides, coaches, family or community. As you can see, it’s a lot easier to do it this way. It’s also much faster. Things will still get harder before they get better, but you don’t risk spending so much time slogging through the jungle of your thoughts, trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. Go for the Support Line.
Seeing and Acting on New Possibilities Brings Big Changes
Once a limiting belief has been disproven, the whole world opens up. We realize that our old view of the world or ourselves was in some way untrue. Often a plan of action to get unstuck spontaneously emerges, and the energy to execute it finally arrives. This is because we’re able to take advantage of opportunities and support that were previously invisible or forbidden due to our limiting beliefs.
That’s when we begin the rapid climb back up the curve, out of the Dip, and leave behind our old ways of being.
The curve coming out of the Dip is steep, showing that you experience rapid, positive change. Serendipitous things keep happening that make the changes possible, because you are now open to them. New people and connections arrive quickly. The feeling is of freedom and excitement.
During this time, you may take a big leap, like quit your job, sell your home, or move to a new city. You may also change your look, your primary relationship (or how you behave in it), make a new friend group, or start a new hobby. Your outward appearance and lifestyle change to reflect the inner transformations that have taken place.
From here, you’re also able to look back and clearly see why you were so stuck. You understand why your old life and ways of thinking weren’t working for you. These are lessons that you keep. They become foundational in your understanding of yourself. Once you cross the Dip, you don’t go back.
You can see that at the end of the curve, you’re much better off in terms of quality of life than you were at the start. The curve by no means ends here. Life is a learning journey after all! But as it goes on, you continue to improve your life by improving your ability to see without filters (limiting beliefs) skewing the picture. You understand more and more what brings purpose and meaning to you, that is, what’s in alignment with your soul-nature. This is the art of transformation.
Putting it Into Practice
“If you want to confront a problem, you have to go looking for it — and cannot avert your eyes when you find it.” -Frank Sesno
Get out your journal. Really, don’t just read this, go get it! Writing down these answers will be the difference between getting yourself further along your path, or just having a nice new concept to chew on for a day that has zero impact on your life.
What comes up consistently whenever you reach for change?
Here are some categories to organize your thoughts.
Specific fears I have about change:
External obstacles (these could be money, family members, responsibilities, the way people treat you, etc.):
Internal obstacles (such as lack of motivation, self-sabotage, procrastination, distraction, etc.):
Your best leverage point is to tackle these issues, as directly as possible. A coach, counsellor, or mentor can help support you in creating a mindset free of limiting beliefs, or building new relationship skills that allow you to change the dynamics in your relationships.
I promise you can do it. And you have more freedom, joy and possibility than ever to look forward to! 🙂