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What if the so-called "issues" we struggle with are really just our starting points?

Message 19, January, 2021

Dear Guest,

“Hey, everybody has their issues.” That’s something we hear a lot, isn’t it? It’s true and it’s OK because we are all human. Humans have issues. It just comes with the packaging.

But what if we could learn to look at our issues not as problems exactly, but as potential starting points? Whatever you think of as your issues and the things that you believe make your situation hard - as a parent, spouse, partner, colleague, caregiver or all of the above - those could be your starting points.

Starting points leading to what, though? Well, whatever change you want to see in your life.

Maybe you’ve got a list of the things that make your situation lonely, exhausting, unjust or unfair. Maybe you don't have effective boundaries. Perhaps your environment is dripping with guilt, shame and blame - or maybe those things are coming from inside of you (and if this is you, I’m right there with you, I’m definitely my own worst enemy when it comes to this). Maybe somebody has told you over and over that you can't do something or you aren’t good enough to try a thing or you don't deserve something.

You know what? It's all OK, because any of these could be your individual starting point.

I won’t tell you these things are easy to feel or shouldn’t be a problem for you any more. I’ll never tell you it’s all in your head and you just need to get yourself a new mindset. You won’t hear me say you could magically fix everything if only you could think positive thoughts and start a gratitude list.

Whatever your starting point is now, it has real power over you. Denying or minimizing that isn’t going to make it go away. But learning to think of your issues as potential starting points will begin to neutralize them a little. And then they will lose some of their power over you.

It's a progression that goes from noticing it, to processing it, to creating something you really do want.

This first part, the noticing, looks something like this: “Oh, OK, this [insert thought or belief or feeling here] is what I believe now. Isn’t that interesting. Could that be a starting point for me? I wonder what could be possible for me if I didn’t believe that was a problem for me any more?”

And that’s where you begin. Letting yourself notice and admit what you’re really thinking and feeling is where all of the possibilities begin. Because when you deny the validity of your thoughts and beliefs and feelings, you create a bottleneck in yourself. Nothing can get past that pain and denial.

The processing and creating something else you want instead has to come after the noticing, because it has to come after you start to see your issues as neutral starting points.

Do you see the glimmer of hope here? You don’t have to tackle everything all at once to begin to see that a more fulfilling life is possible for you. It all begins with identifying one or two issues that could be starting points for you. 

Can you imagine seeing your issues without judging yourself? Believe me when I say it’s amazing. And you can do it. I know that because I learned to do it. And if I can do it, anybody can.

You don’t have to be trapped by what other people think about you any more. You don’t have to buy into society’s harsh definition of what it means to be a “good” caregiver, a definition that says you should be invisible and put your needs last but you should take all the blame when anything goes wrong.

You matter. Your dreams matter.

And if you're saying to yourself right now, "This seems hard. It will be hard, won't it?" I hear you and I think there are a couple of answers you might not expect to hear, but I say these all the time. One: OK yes, it might be hard and there's no point in trying to hide that from you; the last thing you need is lies and false hope. And two: isn't your situation already hard the way you're doing it right now? If it's going to be hard anyway, wouldn't you rather have it be hard AND, when you put your head on your pillow at night, to feel more fulfilled and more like who you really want to be?

And that’s why starting points matter. Because until you can see your starting points - the thoughts that have power over you now - you won’t be able to create anything different. Your "hard" will keep being hard for reasons that drag you down instead of lifting you up.

In the next message, I’m going to give you a list of things you can say any time you need to encourage yourself.

Please let me know if you can relate to this, or if you have any thoughts or  questions, by leaving a comment here.

Kay Coughlin

*If you’re ready to take a look at what your starting points might be, take a look at my free "Thought Download Cheat Sheet" here.


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