Hidden Payoffs and New Stories
Earlier this week I was late enough for lunch with dad that I didn’t dare check the time as I walked into the restaurant where he patiently waited. (Easy to do since I don’t wear a watch.)
On the way in I coached myself not to go into a lengthy explanation about how I had so much to do, so little time to myself, because I was so busy, yada yada yada. Because I know we live into the stories we tell, and “busyness” is not the story I want to live.
And yet, fifteen minutes into our lunch conversation there I was talking about how busy I was. Woe is me, “I’m so busy.” It was ridiculous.
What amazed me was how committed I obviously was to my “I’m so busy” story even though I had purposely coached myself to stay out of it.
(Perhaps I’m resisting busy, huh? Hmm .. that resistance thing again!)
As I wondered why I repeated this pattern of talking about what I don’t want which I knew wasn’t serving me, I realized it was serving me. That’s the only reason we do anything – we expect (subconsciously or consciously) some sort of benefit.
Some how, some way, I got a payoff from my “I’m so busy” story.
I’ve noticed this habit with lots of folks, and actually get paid to spot it in clients.
When we continue doing something we say we want to stop or change, it’s often because there’s a hidden benefit in engaging the old habit. Recognizing that payoff can help us break free from the behavior we don’t want.
So how do you identify the payoff?
Just looking for it will likely reveal it. Ask yourself, “What am I getting out of this?” “How is this serving me?”
Or the question dad learned from P’taah: “What does this behavior/situation allow me to continue doing or keep me from having to do?”
For example, a friend kept complaining there were no work opportunities in her city. Despite my pointing out to her that “it is as we speak,” she continued complaining. I suspect her hidden payoff was that as long as she could blame the lack of opportunity on the area, she couldn’t be faulted for not being successful in her career. She’s fault free; it’s her stupid town to blame for her unemployment.
My payoff with my I’m so busy story? Maybe there’s an adrenal fix happening. Or perhaps it’s the belief that being busy staves off failure. As if busyness and success are linked up in my mind. Or maybe my ego just really likes being able to say “I’m so busy, because I’m so important, I’m in such high demand,” etc.
A gut check tells me it’s likely a combo of those factors.
But with this post I’ve outed myself, so it’s no longer a hidden payoff. And because I’m so good at practicing what I preach (that’s a story I’m living into nicely!) I will practice my NEW story more than I tell this old one.
Before you pull the rug out from under yourself, it helps to set yourself up for getting the payoff in a healthier, more aligned way.
So, if my payoff was that it feeds my ego, I can either find a different way to feel even better. If it’s adrenal-related, I can find a better way to work with my body. If it’s that I have a deep seated belief that success means busy, I can create a new belief. I know how to do that.
But for me, the awareness alone feels like it’s helping me disengage from the old habit.
So now for the new story. Gotta find the one that “clicks,” as Florence says.
The mantra “relax and enjoy” feels good, so I’ll work that into story format: “I know how to relax.” I’ll go with that for one for a while, and when it feels right I’ll work up to “I’m really good at relaxing.”
In fact, I can already see the writing on the bathroom wall: “For a relaxing time, call Jeannette.” Or my boyfriend shaking his head at me as I take yet another afternoon off to leisurely look for four leaf clovers in the lawn. (A favorite pastime as a child at my grandparents’ cabin.)
Just typing those words and holding those pictures gives me a new vibe.
Anyone else got a new story you want to tell? Or a hidden payoff you’re willing to see? Would love to hear from you, as always!