Stop Complaining and Start Making a Plan

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Many are deeply unhappy in their lives but experience a tremendous amount of inertia. Some of that inertia is justified in that sometimes our external environments won’t support an immediate drastic change. For example, maybe you despise your job, but quitting right now without a backup plan might not be financially feasible.

The problem though is that justified short-term inertia easily turns into unjustified long-term inertia due to the false bias that an important change requires action right away. Part of this is rationalization for many of us. We might not love our current state of affairs but conditions are familiar and predictable, which keeps our anxiety at bay. So we tell ourselves that there’s nothing we can do to change our situations for the better right now and that’s that. This might be true when what we’re talking about is action right now.

But actually all meaningful change, where entrenched patterns of behavior must be altered or new patterns of behavior must be implemented, must pass through the various stages of change before reaching that end point called maintenance where new behaviors are enacted more or less effortlessly and where those behaviors and the environment exist in a stable feedback loop. 

The stages of change are: pre-contemplation, contemplation, planning, action, and maintenance

So our point here is that if you’re unhappy with one or several aspects of your life then it means you’re past pre-contemplation and into the contemplation phase. You’re not at the action phase yet, and it actually doesn’t make sense to take action right now. You’re missing a major step in between. But instead you sink into apathetic acceptance where you tell yourself since you can’t take action you can’t change your situation and therefore undesirable circumstances continue on indefinitely, causing more apathy and inertia.

You don’t need to take action and in fact shouldn’t take action right now. What you need to do instead is realize that there’s a tremendously important stage lying in between where you are, which is contemplation, and where you need to go to start seeing manifest change, which is action. You have to work through the ambivalence blocking your step from contemplation to planning.

You can start to sort out this ambivalence by asking yourself questions like:

“What’s keeping me from at least jotting down some ideas for different life routes I could take to improve my situation?”

“What’s so scary about exploring possibilities?”

“If money were no object what would I be doing differently with my life?”

“What will I lose psychologically, emotionally, behaviorally, financially etc. if I remove what I don’t like about my current situation? What will I gain?”

Our general point here is that if you authentically believe it’s impossible for you to take action to improve your situation right now that’s okay and your belief might be objective truth. But what can you do to keep yourself from being in the exact same position a year from now? The answer of course is to work through the ambivalence at the contemplation stage and then start detailing as concrete and comprehensive a plan as possible to change your life. Stop complaining and start making a plan. Your future Self will probably thank you.

Remember that contemplation, planning, and action are all integral parts of the stages of change Change is not just the action phase. Action is simply the most visible part of the process and therefore the one we all consciously place the most weight on. And you know, just because you come up with a plan doesn’t mean you have to enact it. You’ll need to work through ambivalence in the planning stage too. Maybe you’ll decide at that point that the change isn’t worth it, but you’ll be in a position with a great deal more insight and if you do stand pat at that point it will feel less like being trapped and more like a free choice. But you’ll just as likely keep the momentum going, you’ll work through your ambivalence in the planning stage and that put your detailed plan into action, and your life will start to change.