One Thing at a Time

  1. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it!
  2. Find Your Calling
  3. Be Where You Are
  4. Change Happens Faster if You Lie to Yourself
  5. The Finger That Points…
  6. Take no credit. Cast no blame. Seek to empower others. Enjoy life.
  7. Always Tell the Truth, as You Know It
  8. One Thing at a Time
  9. Take Nothing for Granted
  10. Wait Patiently
  11. Seek solutions, without placing blame
  12. There are no Rules

One thing at a time — be willing to fully invest your time and effort on… one thing at a time

Psst! Hey!

Want more great writing designed to help YOU to shift your behaviour? Check out Wayne’s books!

Let’s get straight to the point — hyperactivity, like inactivity, is designed for one purpose — to avoid change. In other words, getting really busy is a way to take anything seriously.

Spinning in place

While I could make this case in every area from house cleaning to rocket science, let’s use relationships issues as an example. The overactive types say, “There are so many things wrong that I don’t know where to start.”

Get it?? Can’t start, because… too busy… having too many reasons… to start

One client presented the following long list:

his wife was angry all the time

his wife “always” fought with their 21-year-old daughter

his wife “always” fought with friends and neighbours

his wife tried to control his thoughts and actions

he had serious physical complaints of the lower g/i variety

the family barely supported themselves on a disability pension

he had a rough relationship with their daughter — curfew, cleanliness, etc.

The client concluded, “See why I’m sick all the time? How can I possibly deal with all of that?”

It’s not unusual for clients to want the therapist to agree with their self-diagnosis of helplessness. Usually it’s a fleeting thing–most clients quickly “get it” that they can actually change. Occasionally, however, all the client wants is another person to add to their list. “Not only do I have all these issues, now I have to be in therapy!”

Prior to therapy, the client likely whined to friends–for years!–and probably heard endless varieties of “You poor thing! What a mess! I’ve never known anyone with problems like yours!” After a while, this “odd form of praise” isn’t enough; the client decides he or she wants to hear the same message from a professional.

I, however, was never very good at telling people they were hard-done-by. Surprised?

But back to the client with the list.

Me: (I made a Bodywork observation) “Gastrointestinal problems can be about holding on to your shit… like how you hold on to your problems, as opposed to dealing with them.”

The client looked confused. Confusion is another good tool to stay stuck.

Me: “On the surface it looks like the majority of your problems are caused by your wife, right?”

He agreed.

Me: “I’ll bet you’ve spent years trying to get her to change each and every specific behaviour you choose to upset yourself over.”

Him: “Yes! Years! And she refuses to change. Wait a minute! Behaviours I choose to upset myself over???”

Me: “Well, who did you think was upsetting you? Besides, how come you think it’s your job to sort out your wife?”

Him: “Well, someone has to do it. I mean, she yells at the neighbours and fights with our daughter!”

Me: “What does your daughter do when her mom yells?”

Him: “She laughs and walks away, or she fights back and walks away… but surely my wife must be damaging her.”

Me: “Does your daughter appear damaged? Are your neighbours damaged?”

Him: “No… they just don’t have much to do with her.”

Me: You, on the other hand, seem to be damaging yourself over all of this… and you’re doing a good job of it.”

I think you get the point.

The neat thing about this story is that my client “got it” in one session. He learned to deal with his relationships in a new way. When his wife (or daughter) got angry, he disengaged, and said, “When you calm down, if you want to talk about it, I’ll listen. I’m not doing “fixing” anymore.”

When she said, “Why did your daughter stay out all night?” he would say, “I haven’t a clue. All I could give you is my opinion. If you’re curious, go ask her.”

In short, my client realized one important thing: all he could ever be responsible for is his own behaviour. He learned to deal directly with his own emotions, while refusing to get caught in the drama of others.

As an aside, one time he walked away from a mother / daughter verbal battle. He wondered if I was off the mark in my suggestion that he walk away, as they were yelling so loudly and rudely at each other. Surely, he thought, he should have gotten into it too. But… good for him… he stuck to his guns.

45 minutes later he walked into the den. Mother and daughter were curled up on the couch together, watching TV.

Remember: One thing at a time!

Long illustration, short wrap up. Take a look at how you “complex-ify” your life. Notice how easy it is to create a long list of complaints about a situation. Notice the difference between, “My partner and I don’t seem to communicate well,” and a long list of seemingly unrelated irritants. Look to simplify your list by finding the common themes.

If there are still several things on your list, put them in order of seriousness or priority and deal with #1, and only #1. Recognize that we cannot deal with several, a few, or even two issues at the same time.

Drop your habit of fighting by dragging in “the list” of past issues. Stick to one thing, and take it to a logical stopping point before picking up the next thing.

You now know how to actually accomplish something.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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