Lessons Unlearned

This week I found myself in a familiar place.

Feeling overloaded. Because I couldn’t say no.  Because, once again, I don’t know my own limits. 

I know this space so well, I’m almost bored with having to face it again.

Falling into the same trap again...

Falling into the same trap again…

This uncomfortable companion is a lesson unlearned.

A habit not yet mastered. Or, as they say in HR speak, “a continued  area for development”.

Why do we find it so difficult to let go of certain patterns of behaviour?

Do you have a lesson which you seem to keep having to learn, over and over and over again?

How do we break the cycle?

It might be learning to know your limits… like me.

Or, it could be that ongoing crippling self-doubt which stops us taking the first step towards –

what our heart yearns to do.

Maybe it is your temper.

The reality is that most of us have a prickly part of ourselves we would prefer to bury, yet it continues to emerge time and time again.

If there is one thing I have learned in my coaching career it is that change can be hard.

And I mean, really, really hard.

So this week, I found myself face to face, and toe to toe once again with my tendency to say “yes” at all costs. Born from an insatiable need to please others – even if it means leaving me in a crumpled heap.

What helps?

Compassion.  There was a time when I would have got so angry and frustrated with myself to be in this space AGAIN.

But I am learning to speak to myself as I would a good friend.

Self-compassion is immensely powerful if you are struggling, like me, to change some part of you. To some extent, you have to make friends with it. After all, it was (at some point) created to serve you.

Recognition of the progress you have made. Even if they are tiny steps.  Even if it is simply recognising you are here once again. For me, the fact I acknowledged I was in this space much earlier than in previous years, was one thing I could be proud of.

Turn to why. Ask yourself – why is it important for me to change?  What are the consequences of me not changing?  For me. For my children.  For my clients. For my partner.  For my health. On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for me that I learn to make progress with whatever it is I want to change?

Focus your attention on the positive. Experts who study behaviour change agree that long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. So for me, its about thinking about all the benefits I’ll reap of avoiding overload.

So, when the first frustrating glimpse of my inability to know my limits surfaced this week, I greeted it with an empathetic; –

“Hello old friend. I see we still have some work to do together.”

I now know that this small act of recognition is the beginning of change…and learning my lesson.

“Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.” – (Arthur Burt)


  1. […] the lowlights? Where have you fell short of achieving what you had hoped? What are your continuing lessons to be learned? What and whom are you grateful for? What got in the way of achieving what you […]

  2. Lynne Banks on November 29, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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