The Power of Dissatisfaction

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Journeys are not easy.  Key words and mantras can keep us moving forward when self-doubt, pride, fear, lack of motivation, and other internal challenges threaten to get in the way.  In this Wednesday blog series, I share the words and phrases that helped me build mental strength when my weight-loss / fitness journey felt daunting, and lessons I learned from twenty years of teaching community leadership teams how to lead vision-based and data-driven change initiatives resulting in cultural shifts.  

The Change Formula

(D x V x K) x B > R

Change begins when you have a Dissatisfaction with the status quo, a Vision of how you would like life to be, Knowledge of the first few steps, Belief in your ability to bring about change, and the ability to lessen Resistance.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on one of those key foundations for successful change.


Change always begins with dissatisfaction with the status quo.  What makes YOU so dissatisfied that you want to begin a change journey?  

The key word in that question is YOU.  Many people begin change journeys because they are trying to please other people.  That’s what I did in the beginning with my weight-loss journey.  As a child, I tried be thin because my mother told me that was how I was supposed to look.  As a teenager, I wanted to be thin to be like the models I saw on TV.    Later, I tried to be thin because my husband and sons were concerned about my health.  Changing to meet other’s expectations didn’t work for me.  It was enough motivation to start a diet, but not enough to keep me on track when I was tired and facing a dozen chocolate chip cookies.  The dissatisfaction has to come from within – and not to please others.

As a school counselor, I talked with my students about their grades.  Often, I faced bright students who earned D’s on their report cards.  Perhaps surprisingly, many of them were not unhappy with their grades.  In their mind, they had passed the class.  They were happy.  But once they realized that those D’s were closing doors to them (to college, to the skills they needed for a job), their personal dissatisfaction with D’s caused them to engage in their learning and their grades took an upswing.  With that knowledge, they had a personal reason for wanting to get better grades.

People often ask me how they can motivate their mother, husband, aunt, friend to lose weight.  Sadly, I tell them that in my opinion, they can’t.  That motivation comes from a personal dissatisfaction that has to come from within the person themselves.  We can’t transfer our dissatisfaction to them.  At the same time, we can share information with those we love who we feel need to make a change, and we can let them know that we are there to help, but the personal dissatisfaction that drives change must come from within.

For me, the thing that finally made the difference was that I got so tired of not being able to do the things I wanted to do – fit in a restaurant booth, stand and talk at the same time, put on my own shoes.  At that point, and not until that point in spite of all the encouragement from my family, I was ready to lose weight.  At that point, I had the internal dissatisfaction I needed to make different choices and stick with them over time.

It’s important to have a clear picture of whatever it is that makes you feel dissatisfied.  For me, the picture that pushed me forward was an image of my shoes.  Every time it became difficult to move forward, I pictured the shoes I wanted to be able to put on my own feet.  That kept me going.  In the beginning, when people asked me what motivated me to lose so much weight, I’d always respond, “I wanted to be able to put on my shoes.”

What is the one thing that you’d like to change?  What makes YOU so dissatisfied that you have no choice but to change that situation?

Next Wednesday’s Word:  VISION

Road to Worlds 2021 . . .

Yesterday was the three-month point following the release of The Athlete Inside.  I’m so pleased that the book has a five-star rating on Amazon with 70 reviewers.  On my social media, I shared some of the stories that people have told me about how the book has helped them.  Joy!

Yesterday, I asked my coach what I should call this phase of training.  Normally during this time of year, we’d be in our final build for Nationals, and then after a short rest, build again for Worlds.  My coach named this unique phase the Preparation Phase.  I like that.  In my preparation phase, I’m getting ready for the Base Phase that will begin late next fall where we’ll rebuild my fitness so I can train hard next spring.  During this Preparation Phase, we’ll get my shoulder healthy and work on my strength.  I’m still doing run, bike, and swim workouts every day, but the main focus of training now getting healthy and building my strength.   

I’m also focusing on mental strength.  Staying focuses on training when important races are cancelled one after another is challenging for almost all athletes.  Staying focused after deciding not to race in 2020 is especially challenging.  This week, I’m focusing on three attributes I want to possess:  1) coachable, 2) mentally strong, and 3) patient.  I’ll blog about these words in future posts!


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