Congratulations, you finally made it! After a seemingly endless hero’s saga, you’ve arrived here in the promised land. You might think that this wouldn’t even rate an article, since you’ve now achieved your dream and are (theoretically) living happily ever after. There are still some things to trip you up here, and some ways to extend this portion of the change cycle and make it even better. Today we’re looking at how to fully revel in the promised land.
To review from prior weeks, the pretty blue portion above is Martha Beck’s Change Cycle. (For info on the pond, read this.) Martha’s model was designed to show the process of fairly dramatic life transitions, and she includes what she calls a catalytic event between Squares Four and One. It’s incredibly useful to know it when you are facing one of these major life changes, but I find it equally as helpful for the smaller changes, and that’s what I have been focusing on for this series of articles.
Square Four – the promised land- is when your dreams have come true, and have demonstrated some staying power. For our examples from this series – the director who decided to use strengths based leadership would see the strategy working, and have it down so well that she could go on medical leave and have it in place when she returns. Our example person who formerly weighed twenty pounds more has had a consistent weight for months, without having to think too much about what to eat.
So what can go wrong in this phase of the change cycle? A few things:
- You don’t recognize the promised land and keep pushing.
- You desperately cling to this square, hoarding what you have.
- You have no experience tolerating joy.
Recognizing the Promised Land
Imagine a man steadfastly pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s a grueling task, but he has been at it so long that he’s he used it. He struggles, rests, and repeats. Sometimes he doesn’t’ even look up any more, and barely notices when the boulder is easier to push. He assumes he’s getting stronger or just more resigned.
You know how this story will end – if the man does not pay attention to the reduced resistance and never looks up, he’s going to push the boulder down the other side of the hill.
Don’t be this man! When things start to seem easier in your hero’s saga, look up. Take notice. Are you pushing too hard? Can you ease back on your effort?
Similarly, if you have been so used to struggling and making ends mean, you might not be willing to share your current abundance for fear that it will go away.
Martha has a great strategy for this – hold a giveaway. Find something that you have plenty of, and plan to give away whatever you feel comfortable giving. If you have hundreds of books and feel comfortable giving away one, that’s still great. Ideally, find a way to give this anonymously to someone who will truly benefit from it. If that feels good, maybe you try another book. Play with it!
If you ever find yourself retreating to a Stagnant Pond activity – seemingly without reason – when experiencing a particularly joyful or happy time, you may need to increase your joy tolerance. Joy often comes with arriving and living in the promised land, and sometimes we’re just not used to it. It can take some deliberate practice to expand your joy threshold.
Next time you’re feeling joyful but also feeling a compulsion to engage in a distracting behavior, pause for a minute. Check in to see how your body feels. You might be experiencing the curious sensation of joy and anxiety at the same time. Breathe deeply with it for 90 seconds. If you still want to engage in the distracting behavior afterwards, go ahead. Next time, extend the time you breathe with the feeling to two minutes. Keep adding 30 seconds every time you try this. (The goal is not to get to a specific time frame, but to build awareness of running from joy. Eventually, the avoidance behaviors should loosen their grip as you breathe deeply with the anxiety.)
You might also want to check out the idea of The Upper Limit problem, developed by Gay Hendricks. (You can check out my post on his book here.)
Now…go enjoy the fruits of your long, hard journey. Congratulations on making it to the promised land!