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The Reality Check

Whether people come to therapy or come for personal life coaching, they usually feel stuck. They desperately want to change something, but they report they don’t know how to make their lives different. As they discuss the scenario, I typically note a common denominator that keeps them stuck in their unpleasant situation.

Most people who want to change are caught up in a state of “denial”. As you read this, you might be saying to yourself that you don’t fall into that state because you clearly know what is wrong in your life and what you want to change. I assure you, denial is almost always part of the problem.

The classic example of denial is the client who lives with an alcoholic and does not see the behavior as being as serious as it is. She might say, “He wasn’t as drunk as last weekend” or “Well, at least he didn’t drive” or “He couldn’t have been that intoxicated because he was able to go to work”.

When a client comes in and wants to start a new business they typically have not researched the amount of hours they will need to devote to changing their life so dramatically. They have not created the financial support to sustain them during this transition. They are in denial about the realities of this change. They want the outcome, but they haven’t created the infrastructure to support the change.

My work with clients who are stuck usually involves moving them out of the state of denial by doing what I call a “reality check”. This is done in two steps. The first step is after the client makes a statement, I hit them with a dose of reality.

CLIENT: I want to lose ten pounds.
ME: What have you done to support the change?
CLIENT: I am doing a lot of thinking about it.
ME: (reality check) I haven’t heard you talk about the behaviors that support the change.

The client is well-meaning, but they continue to avoid looking at the real picture. They stay in that state of denial, pretending they know what they need to do to improve their lives, when in essence their situation continues to have major problems because they don’t have a specific action plan that they are implementing or because they aren’t seeing the situation for what it is.

I believe you will get healthier faster if you move out of the state of denial and see the total picture. When a client says to me, “I have been working on my spending” I do a reality check… “How much less are you spending?” They typically answer, “Well, I don’t know the exact numbers.” By not knowing the exact numbers they don’t have to change their behavior drastically.

It’s a very scary thing to alter your life to support the goals you really want. It takes a lot of courage and self-determination to stop enabling others or yourself. It almost always means that you will have to let go of some familiar behavior that has not been working for you. If you want to save money, you can’t buy that new dress or that new technological toy. If you want to lose weight, you won’t be able to have that second helping. If you want to be less affected by your spouse, you will need to walk away from them temporarily and create your own life.

Are you in denial about something important? To live the life you were meant to live, you must give 100% to it.

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