Crazy people do things for no reason.

For the rest of us, there is always a reason for whatever we do.  You might not like it, but it’s true.

We prefer to imagine that “something just came over me” when I chewed out the State Trooper while pulled over for speeding.  Or, we claim innocence when we’re caught doing something impulsive and out of character: “I have no idea” where that came from!”

Here’s the thing, since you’re not nuts, you actually had a reason for doing what you did.  True, you’re likely unaware of your motivations.  I’m inviting you to consider that, if you’ll look honestly, you’ll be able to uncover why you behaved as you did.

When coaching a client who’s in some kind of trouble, one helpful practice is to examine the prices (costs) and payoffs (benefits) of the choices that contributed to the mess. It sounds something like this:

What prices are you paying, because of the choice you made?

What prices are being paid by the people on the other side of this difficulty?

What payoffs, or benefits, do you receive by making this decision?

It’s this third question that stumps most folks.  The assumptive answer is “nothing”.  So, I remind my client that they’re not certifiable, and to dig deeper. You see, no matter how incomprehensible your choices now seem to be, they made sense to you at the time.  Inevitably, the client will discover that there was rationality behind the action. 

Over the years I’ve learned that at some level, every decision made sense at the time to the person who made it.  How it made sense is worth investigating.

Even more helpful is what comes next.

We collaborate to identify the beliefs that lay beneath that logic.  For example, a pastor I’m coaching might realize that she distrusts an elder, and afraid of being manipulated like in her last pastorate, she’s unwittingly locked in a conflict she didn’t know was there.

Such a belief can be articulated this way: this [situation, person, experience] reminds me of that [something troubling from the past], so, I reacted as if I was in the same situation. 

Problem is, this isn’t that and when I’m living in the present as if it’s essentially what happened before, I behave in ways that undermine my effectiveness now.  What might surprise you is that this recurring drama plays itself out all the time.

You do it, too.

It’s also common to be unaware that you’re motivated by of these four powerful desires:

  • To look good
  • To feel good
  • To be right
  • To be in control

More on this next time.