A powerful combo to get unstuck: slack + support

Andrea Howe
Category : Weekly-ish tips April 5, 2021

This post is part of our Weekly-ish Tips series.

This is my second tip in as many weeks, following a choppy cadence for a year, and I am 10 times more confident than I have been in months that a more consistent future lies ahead. Reflecting on what’s different, I’ve uncovered a combination of enablers that are worth sharing for anyone aiming to create any kind of personal change—including the kind of change required to walk the talk of trusted advisorship.

In January I started feeling renewed energy for regular writing but by early March, it still wasn’t happening. A month later, I think I’m onto something. The two critical elements that have officially helped me over the hump are a powerful combo: slack plus support.

  1. Slack. As in, cut yourself some of it. Otherwise known as self-compassion or self-love. (If you just rolled your eyes because things got a little too woo-woo, humor me and read one more sentence before you bail.)

Consider the wise words from self-proclaimed woo-woo avoider Dan Harris on his Ten Percent Happier website, regarding a special podcast series dedicated to examining most fraught-filled personal change for us all, otherwise known as New Year’s resolutions: “That’s right, we’re going all-in on self-love … but I want to be clear: this is not sap for the sake of sap—this is sap for the sake of science, and sanity.”

Dan continues, “As tens of millions of us go about the annual, humiliating ritual of making and then abandoning New Year’s resolutions, there is ample evidence that you are more likely to achieve your long-term goals if you pursue those goals not out of self-loathing or shame (which is the not-so-subtle subtext of the whole ‘New Year, New You’ slogan) but instead with self-love—or self-compassion.” Since Dan’s subsequent podcast interview with Dr. Laurie Santos, tenured psychology professor at Yale (“You’re Doing Resolutions Wrong. Here’s How to Fix It.”), he’s been referring to self-compassion as a kind of uber-habit, out of which all other habits can flow.

Related to my writing, I started to practice cutting myself some slack by trading unkind self-talk for acknowledgment. This last year has been … unusual. Challenging. Uncertain. Tiring. Still I shared 29 tips, including a short series in support of my commitment to racial justice, on top of the 270 already in the hopper before the you-know-what hit the fan. (For those doing the math, that means this one is #300. Three hundred. Woohoo!) Enter my new name for the series—Weekly-ish Tips—which aims to create a little ongoing slack, and to remind me that the only thing I should be taking seriously about all of this is the habit of self-compassion.

Related to new trust-building habits, consider a similar approach based on the recognition that it’s possible to be earnest and nice to yourself at the same time. Are you aiming to be a better listener? To be more courageous and candid? To establish new and better habits for being in touch with clients? Treat yourself with kindness in the process and you might be surprised at the progress you make.

  1. Support. As in, set up situations such that you’re more likely to succeed. For me, that means don’t go it alone.*

Every time I’ve succeeded at making a significant and important change in my life, meaning I’ve actually followed through on a commitment to do more of what really matters to me, I’ve done it with someone’s help. I’ve had writing partners, business development partners, workout partners, art partners, and recently just plain get sh** done partners. We usually set aside time to work on our to do lists in parallel.

I’m a serial monogamist on the writing front, but COVID interrupted me and my latest and longest “steady” for myriad reasons, including stay-at-home orders (we live close by and it always gave us a boost to meet in person) and later, just plain fatigue. A few weeks ago, I realized they were the missing link in my tip reboot, and they graciously agreed to get regular time back on our calendars. This very tip got finished because of our most recent Zoom collaboration. (Thank you, MN.)

When it comes to your own relationship-building endeavors, consider establishing a buddy with whom you can share your specific goals and progress, or with whom you might set aside specific time actually making progress separately but together. If you’re like I am, you’ll be far less likely to cancel on them than to cancel on yourself.

*Author Gretchen Rubin would say this kind of accountability helps me in particular because I am an Obliger. Support might therefore look differently for you, as a loyal Weekly Tip reader once reminded me.

Like so much of what it takes to build exceptional levels of trust, there’s very little rocket science in my “slack + support” formula for getting unstuck. But it’s also similarly true that what’s simple isn’t always easy, and we all need a little help along the way.

Make It Real

This week, try out the combo of slack + support in an area of life where you no longer want to be stuck. What do you learn?

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Andrea Howe

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).

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