I’ve seen it time and again: someone hitting his head against the wall in frustration.
He feels financially stuck, stifled in his romantic relationship, living with crappy roommates who don’t clean the kitchen and let laundry pile up, causing odors that are musty and uninviting.
He can’t get ahead of his never ending car problems (the car is his main source of income), he needs that big break rather than the string of bad days that seem to occur daily. Is it his attitude? Are these real problems or made up because he’s being a baby? If he approached these problems differently, would things change? If he had more money, would things be easier then? He grieves for a childhood that ended a lifetime ago and has been “adulting” ever since his parents became estranged from each other and divorced when he was in high school.
Half of his local friends are married and have kids, so he never sees them. The rest of his friends live far away and he visits with them when he goes home for holiday breaks a few times a year. In other words, he’s lonely. He’s really stuck.
It feels like everything is stacking up against him, with the root of his problems financial.
His girlfriend wants them to do more together, but he begs her off because he’s struggling right now. He doesn’t want to appear poor, but he feels poor. He counts every dollar and laments each expenditure. Over the holidays, he’s grumpy because he feels alone, visiting parents in different homes an hour apart. When he’s back, he’s stressed because he didn’t get a “real” vacation and hasn’t had alone time in a while. His friends invite him to party, but he’s so tired of this lifestyle. It’s gotten boring. He’s been drinking and smoking for well over fifteen years, and there’s only so many joints he can pass around the corduroy couch with the same stoners day after day.
He’s tired of sitting. He drives a lot for work, and has snippet conversations with interesting people. He just wants to connect, feel heard, feel seen by his girlfriend, the woman he had a crush on. Now that he knows her, he realizes she’s still unique, but she’s like all other women: wanting something he can’t provide. He’s closed off and despite her warmth and encouragement to talk and open up, he can’t, won’t. He shuts down and says she never talks to him. He knows when he’s doing this. He feels badly every single time he utters the words to her, turns it around, but doesn’t stop himself, as it’s ingrained in their pattern.
In other words, he’s doing the best he can right now.
He comes to see me.
He tells me everything in his life feels like it’s at 70% right now.
Life is dull, he’s bored and tired of himself.
What do I do? I’m his Life Coach and I need/want to give some good advice and listen attentively.
I have lots of ideas for how to improve his relationship, for hustling more for work, for finding a new place to live… but that’s secondary. I see in his face that he feels dejected and alone. I ask how he’s doing now that he’s told me everything. He replies that he feels a little relieved, that it’s good to vent and share these ugly, negative feelings.
In the meantime, I notice his posture change. His torso lifts slightly and he makes eye contact with me. I see this as an ounce of hope.
I remind him that he’s doing the absolute best he can. He nods slowly. He’s had periods in his life that have been harder and times it’s been easier and more fulfilling. He is a great person, overall, but his despondence makes him forget this about himself. When he’s down, he’s mired in self-doubt. He becomes stagnant. But, overall, his character is loyal and concerned for people. He’s quick-thinking and has a funny sense of humor. When he’s in this agitated state, his temper flares and he draws inward, grunting instead of talking. In times like this, it’s hard for him to connect with friends, his girlfriend, or me. But right now, he’s opening up, and I have an in.
So, again, I remind him that I’m here. I want to help. He perks up. Our session changes tone. He becomes more willing.
This type of thing happens a lot in my Life Coaching practice. It’s common for clients to come in at wit’s end, super stressed and down. They usually leave session a bit more hopeful. They leave with an action plan filled with immediate steps.
I’m reminded that my clients are doing their very best at a given time. In fact, we’re all doing our best. You know the saying, “hurt people hurt people?”
Well, it’s true.
I encourage my clients to do their absolute bests, to walk away from situations that are not serving them. I want my clients to leave it all on the floor, so they feel like their efforts have not been for naught.
Despite what I encourage, sometimes someone’s very best might look like the bare minimum. Sometimes the best sucks and just barely passes muster. The “best” is relative to all the other factors in life. It’s amazing when everything flows and fits perfectly like the last puzzle piece.
I can relate to clients who feel like they’re running in circles, trying to get ahead but defeated at every corner. I’ve had strong, direct conversations with clients to stop defending people who mistreat them. Watching someone get shit on repeatedly is painful, and when I care about his/her well-being, it’s hard to stay silent. As a coach, I remind my clients they are doing their best, despite the best seeming unreachable. When we look at the big picture and then the smaller steps to take, the momentum and growth is exponential.
The guy described above—we can all identify with him. He might even hold traits you wish to change about yourself. Feeling broke, feeling broken, feeling tired and fatigued. His “best” might seem sub par. He seems a mess, someone who is full of doubt and lacks confidence. Lots of the time, he’s not making decisions or communicating effectively. He gets in lazy modes. He avoids confrontation and rarely commits to plans. He gets high regularly and zones out. He drinks to be outgoing and fun, but really comes across as needy. He and his girlfriend have a strained sex life, with different libidos.
He’s also extremely loyal to his friends, is excellent with kids, and has lots of knowledge about current events. He’s persistent at work and will likely get a promotion in six months, especially with the amount of effort he puts in now. In other words, he’s very likable, and if you knew him the way I know him, is a joy to be around. I wish he were doing better so others would see his greatness. In fact, I wish he were doing better so he could see his own gifts and talents.
But right now, he’s doing his best.
And it’s all he can do.
So what do we do in session? We cover all the topics, all the areas that need improvement, and create an action plan. Step by step, over the course of a few months, things begin to open up, starting with his financial situation. For him, once his income grows, he feels more comfortable and masculine in his relationship. He and his girlfriend have a renewed connection. Everything begins to improve. His mood lifts.
And that’s when he knows he’s really doing his best.
Read Nina Rubin every week here on The Good Men Project!
Nina Rubin is a Life Coach and can be reached through email. Please contact her for accountability and coaching programs. She will be offering her accountability program, The Purpose Passion Project, in 2017.
This essay originally appeared in two parts on Nina’s blog, afterdefeat.
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