Current Location: 47.5 Miles Off Course and Livid
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Those are the words of Carl Rogers, who, along with other giants of psychology like Abraham Maslow and Rollo May, founded humanistic psychology.
Rogers' observation is an important one, but it is not a paradox. It is simply reality.
Pretty bold to correct Carl Rogers, isn’t it? Let me explain.
Imagine you are halfway through a three-hour drive to visit a friend. You have traveled this route many times, no need for GPS. You are enjoying the time to yourself, binging episodes of the Smartless podcast. Your mind wanders. Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes seem like they would be fun to hang out with…
Unbeknownst to you, you miss one of those sneaky turns that’s not really a turn, the kind where the interstate just continues seamlessly into a gentle fork, but you needed to be in the lane that went straight.
Another episode wraps up, and a subconscious cue triggers some vestigial navigation center in your brain into action. Uh oh, I don’t think I’m where I’m supposed to be. You are 38 minutes times 75 miles per hour equals 47.5 miles off course.
You take the next exit and pull into a gas station to regroup. You check Google Maps to a) figure out where the heck you are, and b) hopefully find a route to your destination that does not involve unwinding your entire 47.5 mile error.
Think about how using the Google Maps app actually works: You enter your friend’s address in the “end” box. That’s where you want to be. That has not changed. Now, for the “start” box, you have a choice.
- Enter the place that you think you should have been at this point in the journey, or...
- Click the little blue “Current Location” arrow?
(This is not a trick question).
That’s right: To enter anything other than your actual, current location would be, well, crazy! You cannot start from anywhere else. To think otherwise would be a denial of physical reality. No sane person would do that.
Unfortunately, we are all a little insane.
When navigating our lives and our work, we do this all the time. Things should be otherwise. I should be otherwise.
As an example, in the DiSC® model of personality, I am a strongly inclined “C” style (for Conscientiousness). I tend to be careful and analytical. I try hard to avoid mistakes (it’s 47.5 miles off course, not 47, not 48). I am hard on myself when I make errors (like getting lost), and consequently, I am not very open to critical feedback. I am also very much an introvert.
Sometimes I can see the advantage of these traits, but more often they feel like a liability.
- I should be more outgoing.
- I should be less self-critical.
- I should be more open to feedback.
I should be all those things. There is only one problem: I’m not. That is not my Current Location. To pretend otherwise is to deny reality. I have no choice but to accept this reality.
We apply this rejection of reality to ourselves, to our work, and to others. I should be more structured. This project should be farther along. He should communicate better.
But, but, but…! If I simply accept all the things I want to change, nothing will ever improve, you might object. How can we make progress on anything if we just accept the status quo?
This is the point of confusion. Accepting yourself just as you are and your desire to learn, grow, improve, and change are two separate things. Accepting yourself just as you are simply means acknowledging the reality of your Current Location. Sitting in your car at the gas station stuck in a self-critical dialogue of “I shouldn’t be here,” is completely unhelpful in getting yourself to your desired destination.
Sure, it’s upsetting, but moving into “I shouldn’t get so upset,” is just more of the same. Being upset about being upset is even less helpful. Your Current Location is 47.5 miles off course and livid. Being elsewhere is not an option. How long you stay there is.
Begin by noticing your inner dialogue. Listen for the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.” Non-acceptance of reality almost always follows.
Realize that accepting things, including yourself, just as they are does not prevent change. It enables it, just as finding your Current Location enables you to navigate to your desired location. Locate yourself on the map, then get back on the road.
At Retexo, we work with people from their Current Location. Tools like DiSC can help you put a pin in your current position, and through workshops, coaching, and peer groups, we can help you navigate where you want to go, but we always begin exactly where you are.
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