Bar Bulletin

July, 2004

LAWYER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
(410) 685-3993 | (410) 685-7878 | (800) 492-1964

Richard Vincent
Director, ext 3040
Carol P. Waldhauser
Assistant Director, ext 3041

THE LAP ZONE:
"Getting Unstuck"
By Patricia A. Mysa

When people get stuck in their lives or their work, it usually means that some type of change needs to take place. They might know something is wrong, but they aren’t fully aware that a change is needed. Others may know that something needs to change, but they aren’t clear on what or how to change.

Remember the old joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Just one, but it takes a long time, it costs a lot, it’s painful, and the light bulb really has to want to change. The only part of that joke that is absolutely true is that you really have to want to change. The fact is that change, no matter how good the potential outcome will be, is always a scary proposition. There is comfort in remaining in our own little cell. It feels safe.

Ever wonder why horses won’t leave a burning barn? Their 12’x12’ stall has become a home for them, a place where they get food and with walls to protect them from predators. There is a familiar routine to their lives: At the same time each day, they are fed, turned out to pasture and later returned to their stalls to be fed again and bedded down for the night. There is safety in knowing what comes next.

One night there is a fire. Suddenly people are running around shouting. Flames are shooting up here and there, crackling, making the barn look different. What will happen next? Someone rushes into the stall and tries to lead the horse out into the confusion and strangeness of it all. The horse will not leave the place he has come to associate with safety, comfort and predictability.

Most horses will die in the burning building rather than risk leaving the illusion of safety. Sometimes if they are blindfolded they are forced to trust their handler enough to take that first step into the unknown, to walk through the danger and step out into freedom and true safety from the fire.

So what is your gut reaction to change? Take a moment to jot down the words, thoughts or feelings that come to you when you think of change. Now look at how many of those words are positive and how many are negative. If you are like most people, the negative ones outweigh the positive ones. As the light bulb joke says, most people believe change will take a long time, cost them a lot and be painful.

Change does not take a long time. Change occurs in the split-second in which a decision to take action is made. What may take longer is the battle with your inner demons that insist on protecting you from all the negatives that you just wrote down. Your inner gremlins shout that you will only be safe if you stay in your stall, even though the barn is burning down around you.

The essence of change is the attitude shift you make when you stop thinking “I can’t” and start believing “I can.” The most powerful moment in my life was when, at a workshop, I suddenly decided to make a commitment to myself that I was only going to do the work I loved and that I would find a way to make that work provide me a living.

It changed my life. Doors opened and opportunities presented themselves to me. I believe those doorways and opportunities were there all the time, but I had to change my attitudes and beliefs so that I could see them. As Thoreau said, “Things do not change; we change.”

What if you know a change needs to happen and you have made the decision to take action but you are still stuck? First, there is a natural resistance to change that protects us from whimsical changes of mind or direction that might take the form of procrastination.

Procrastination is not all bad. It could be a sign that you haven’t done your homework to prepare for this change or that this isn’t the right move for you. Maybe you really don’t want to go in this direction, but someone is “shouldering” you into this change.

If you are hesitating because you believe change will cost you a lot, consider instead how much it will cost you not to change in terms of your health and happiness, if not your bank account. If you are reluctant to move forward because you fear the discomfort of changing things, ask yourself how much pain you are in now with the way things are.

If you would like to learn more about how to get unstuck, contact Carol Waldhauser, Assistant Director of the MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program, at (800) 492-1964 or (410) 685-7878, ext. 3041, for details about a free tele-class.

Also, plan to attend the MSBA’S Lawyer Assistance Program’s upcoming monthly fall mini-seminars on the theme of change.

Patricia A. Mysak is a Tao LifeCoach who helps people nationwide get “up and running again on the road of life.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: July, 2004

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