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Flip Your Mental Script: How To Get “Unstuck”

Today’s Scene: It’s volleyball game night, and I’m already feeling out of sync in the warm up. The usual fluid movement of jumping to hit the ball felt more spazzy than graceful. I was early on my approach, then I was late, and either way I was faltering in my ability to swing at the ball effectively. I shrugged my shoulders at my setter, mouthed the words, “Sorry, buddy, it’s me, not you,” and leaned into my feelings of frustration. That voice in my head kept telling me, “Well, maybe if you just try it again, it’ll work.” My tenacious nature and perseverance usually paid dividends, but this time was different. In the moment, I felt stuck. My general tenacity and stick-to-it-iveness wasn’t paying off here, and I was frustrated that the conventional wisdom of “just stick with it” was just making me feel inept and on the verge of crazy. Alas, isn’t the definition of insanity about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

“Just try it again.” We hear that phrase all the time, and we likely tell our kids to do the same. Sometimes it is a helpful mantra, especially to build frustration tolerance, or to work on our endurance, or because trying again will help us eventually get it right, or because trying and failing is just part of the process. Other times, like my current state of volleyball, it turns into an exercise in futility. How can we tell the difference between when we should keep trying the same thing over and over again versus doing something different?

We become “stuck” when we continue playing the same script in our heads and think it’s the only solution. We do this all the time without realizing it…in our jobs, our hobbies, our relationships, our chores. As humans, we survive by learning and acquiring patterns and routines…but sometimes these conglomerations of information get us stuck.

We become “unstuck” when we allow for flexible adaptations and solutions to reach our goals. In essence, sometimes we must take contrary action, or doing the opposite of what you would usually do. “Flipping the script” means just that…doing it differently than it was prescribed, written, outlined, or “as per usual.”

Maybe the “doing it differently” means doing the action with joy instead of resentment. Maybe it means just getting a good night’s sleep so you have more patience to try 1,000 more times tomorrow. Maybe it means getting back to basics and reminding ourselves of what we can do. Maybe it means we need a bit more practice with the smaller grade skills before working on more advanced, applied ones. Maybe it means letting go of some of the control and seeing how the situation will play out without your hands in the mix. Maybe it means asking for help. Maybe it means doing the exact opposite of what you were doing. Maybe it means taking a pause and checking in to see where your head and heart are at. Maybe it’s walking away for a few minutes and coming back to the task with a fresh mind and outlook. Maybe it’s making a primal scream and acknowledging the frustration, and then getting back to work.

When someone flips the script, and does something differently in the situation, we can transform the situation. Maybe the outcome is the same. Maybe we still fail miserably. But, when we flip the script, we are giving ourselves more opportunities for success. And perhaps success is measured by just finishing the task, just enduring the heartbreak, not falling into old patterns, practicing something new, and taking a stand for yourself and what’s important to you.

In my case, it was an easy fix when I flipped the script. Instead of working harder while battling the demons in my head, I asked a teammate for feedback. She smiled and stated simply, “You’re dropping your elbow when swinging.” It was like the light bulb went on and illuminated a solution I had not considered in my one-track mind focus on my hitting approach timing. Sometimes it’s just a perspective shift to work smarter, not harder, because most of us are already doing the “working harder” part.

We are here for you to support you in working smarter toward your goals as well as navigating stressful times. Please visit our website at https://www.neurobehavioralaustin.com/, or call us at (512) 329-8222 for a consultation with one of our clinicians.