Often, when there’s something in our lives that isn’t working, or isn’t working as well as we like it to – including our own behaviour and patterns – we try to dig deep and look for the why. We look for what is it that has it be this way, or has me be this way?
And that can be valuable! Especially if we’ve gotten some lessons or coaching or experience into the deep workings of who we are (hint: until we’ve done this work, it’s rarely at all what we think it is). But often figuring out the what or the why doesn’t produce the results we want it to. We have an explanation, but it doesn’t help us in the moment to cease or alter it. It’s like that thing about how knowing how to lose weight and actually losing weight are two very different things.
But a more fruitful path is often to forgo the why and instead look at what is keeping it in place? What are we getting from it being this way such that we, surreptitiously, derail ourselves? What are we actually committed to, no matter what we may profess?
Put another way, what’s the payoff?
Given we keep doing what we are doing even when we say we don’t want to or don’t like the result, there’s gotta be something we’re getting out of it, something we’ve become, in a way, addicted to. Almost always there’s a lot of juice there. One of the most prime payoffs is simply that we get to be right. Oh do we ever get such a rush from being right!* And that same kind of rush follows into many other things that often are our payoffs: validating ourselves, dominating others or controlling the situation, gain some sort of position or perceived advantage, or just plain old we get to, in our minds, win.
And so even if what we are doing is unproductive in 98% of all other areas, we get stuck. Because, just like the rats who will cross electric fields and ignore food to get that pellet of cocaine, we so want that payoff.
When we get present to the payoff we get to see the groove that has been keeping us hemmed in and, even if we’ve been saying we’re trying to turn the wheel, guiding us down those unproductive paths. And now that we see it, we gain access to making a choice. For as charged as the payoff may be, it’s usually cheap, shallow, and unfulfilling, gone in a flash and leaving us with our mess.
We can give up that shoddy payoff to gain freedom, possibility, and results that our authentic self truly desires.
* Which makes sense in many ways. To our survival-based calculating self, Being right = not being eaten by a tiger. So we get a neurological reward for being right.