Asalaamu ‘alaikum sisters; I hope that this year has got off to a wonderful start for you. For some, this year has only brought more of the same. Do you know of anyone who is stuck in a rut? Take sister Sophie*, for example. She has been thinking about her health and work goals for months, but has found herself unable to take any action. She says that she has tried, but something keeps getting in the way. She says she can’t make the time, or other people need her, or sometimes it’s not the right time. The reason changes regularly, but something keeps stopping her from doing what she promised herself that she would do. Essentially, Sophie has been stuck in a rut, and she has lots of reasons and justifications for not having broken through it yet. She hasn’t taken any action, but she isn’t happy with this scenario at all. She keeps saying that she is unfulfilled with various aspects of her life.
Supporting someone who is stuck can be quite frustrating. Did you try to shake them out of it? Perhaps you’ve tried speaking to them over and over, but all your wisdom falls on deaf ears. Motivating someone is often a thankless and frustrating job, especially if it is someone you are close to. You may find yourself feeling helpless and frustrated, unable to do anything to help. This dynamic may also impact your relationship in the long run. So, if you find yourself in such a situation, don’t despair. I would suggest you give the following tips a go, and notice what changes take place.
Tip 1: Do not preach
Do you just want to shake this person? Do you want them to see what they are doing to themselves? Being on the outside of a situation gives you a different vantage point. You can see the person’s behaviour, and you can also see things that they could be doing differently. You may have lots of ideas for new behaviours that would really benefit them. It is tempting to guide them, to tell them what to do, but do not do it! Offering someone a pre-made solution can backfire. First of all, it is your solution and not something that they would do. It will seem perfectly logical for you, but it may not fit within their mental picture of their own life. Second, the person will feel spoken down to, or misunderstood. If you really wish to motivate this person, then avoid telling them what to do. Instead, create the intention that you will help them figure out what they would like to do. This is when you intend to be a catalyst and a support, not Ms. Fix-It. You will have to curb your enthusiasm, but your loved one will thank you for it in the long run.
Tip 2: Teach compassion
Think of the last time you did something because you felt you had to. Did it feel good? Did you want to do it again? Someone who is stuck in a rut will often tell themselves that they really “should” or “must” be doing something, and they will be feeling awful because they know that they are not doing it. This is one way that people try to force themselves to change. The interesting thing is, that the more they tell themselves that they have to or should do something, the more they tend to resist it. It may get some result on a temporary basis, but for one to get out of a rut, the desire has to last for more than a few hours or a day. So how do you work around it? If you want to help them to get unstuck, then teach him or her to be compassionate with themselves. You do this by being compassionate with them. Notice that they are struggling, and there is an internal struggle that you may not be aware of. Encourage the person to take things one day at a time. Remind them that the past is gone, the future is open, and all we really have is the present moment. Invite them to focus on the now and do something different, however small. Encourage them to take action on only one thing at a time. They may resist that idea and say that they need to do several things, but this is where you need to be strong and compassionate on their behalf. Guide them to focus on only one thing for the time being. Gradually, they will begin to see results emerging from that one step, and that will encourage them to take on more insha Allah. Remind them that small steps can lead to big changes!
Tip 3: Encourage them to explore
Have you wondered why this person hasn’t been able to take the actions they say they want to take? People don’t act on their commitments when they aren’t really invested in the result. For example, being fit may sound like a good idea, but they will do nothing to get there if they don’t experience the value that being fit will bring into their life. Lasting change is impossible without that deep incentive to create it. So how do you inspire someone to make that change? Help them to figure out whether the change is something they truly want in the first place. Sit down with this person and ask them about their goal. Ask them the following questions:
-What do you really, really want for your life right now?
-Why do you want this?
-How will having this result change your life?
-Is this change worth having?
Imagine that it is now 5 years into the future (name the year). You are now noticing that your life is exactly the same as it was 5 years ago. What is this like for you? How would you like your life to truly be?
Once they have answered these questions, then say:
“Allow your mind to leave this image where it needs to be, and come back to the present moment.”
Just ask them about what they learned from that exercise. Remember to keep a gentle and curious tone. Your role is to help this person figure out if they really want this change. This may be the ideal opportunity to adjust their outcome and go for what they truly want. Once they begin to experience the value in what they are aiming for, they will want to take actions themselves insha Allah. All you need to do is to support them along on their journey and open their mind to exploration.
Tip 4: Take things one day at a time
Imagine that you had to climb Mount Everest in one day. The feeling of panic and being overwhelmed that you may experience is very possibly the same feeling your loved one is experiencing. We can feel stuck when the change we want to make seems like it is an insurmountable task. They may also doubt their ability to get the job done. This is the time to remind them that they are capable of doing what they set their minds to, and that change takes time. Tell them that their rut didn’t develop overnight, and it may well take time to make the change. Invite them to take things slowly and to focus on one day at a time. If you can make the time, then encourage them to set daily tasks and to check in with you each day on what they will do that day and to let you know when they have done it. This need not be a very time consuming or emotional task for you. It is about supporting the person, and having someone to be accountable to can really help to get the ball rolling. In time, their confidence will grow when they notice that they did the things they promised themselves they would do. Making that initial promise to someone else can provide the reason to get it done. In time, their promise to themselves will be inspiration enough.
Helping someone to succeed is very rewarding. Remember that it is their journey, so you need to be supportive, but remain detached about the outcome. Insha Allah, this person will find their inspiration and be on their way to greater fulfilment, and you will have supported them to get there!
Sayeda Habib is a highly qualified professional coach. She coaches Muslim women to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She coaches clients one to one and also runs group workshops. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential issued by the International Coach Federation. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims.” She also contributes to various online and print publications. She has been featured in the media in various countries including Pakistan, the UAE and the United Kingdom. To find out more, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com