September 7, 2011

Payoffs & Costs

Recently I wrote about the many false beliefs that we have and how these shape our expectations which then set us out to prove particular things about ourselves, others, relationships, the world. I want to now take a look at how we are showing up in the world as a result.

We’re going to call these our “ways of being.” These are ways of being, because they are not just about feelings, but become a way of engaging, showing up, behaving in the world and relationships. In a variety of situations, we may show up as insecure, worthless, incapable, ashamed, or constantly guilty. We may also show up as the perfectionist, the reliable one, the problem-solver. The list goes on and on…

In addition to ways of being, we also adopt certain attitudes or behaviors that impact the way we show up in the world or the types of experiences we have. For example, you might have the attitude that, “All relationships fail.” This will impact how you see yourself, potential partners, and intimate relationships. Additionally, it may be related to your way of being – the loner – and also show up as particular behavior (e.g. you never attend social events where you might meet someone). It’s all one big circular loop. One you’re likely hoping to break out of! But how?

By first recognizing that anything we do, we do because we perceive there is some payoff. Furthermore, we don’t discontinue any behavior until the costs outweigh the payoffs. In the example above, the payoffs might be that you don’t have to risk being vulnerable or getting hurt. The costs, however, are that you never get to experience connection and intimacy with another person.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a section on Taoism in Religions of Man (emphasis mine):

“With Confucius every effort was turned to building up a complete pattern of ideal responses which might thereafter be consciously imitated. Taoism's approach is the opposite—to get the foundations of the self in tune with Tao and let behavior flow spontaneously. Action follows being; new action, wiser action, stronger action will follow new being, wiser being, stronger being. The Tao Te Ching puts this point without wasting a single word. ‘The way to do,’ it says simply, ‘is to be.’”

Our efforts here to tune in to who we are being isn’t some idle practice. If we want to transform our experience, bring life into our relationships, lose weight, communicate powerfully, give up an addiction, etc. we must start with our being. The greatest source of and influence on our being is our mind out of which flows our words. Whenever we want to transform a way of being, attitude, or behavior, we must first understand the payoffs & costs and then begin the work of transforming our thoughts and words out of which will flow “new action” and experiences.

As with false beliefs, we will find the evidence to support our way of being. We will adopt the attitude that we are worthless and, no surprise, we will interpret situations or, worse, find abusive people to help reinforce this attitude.

As I mentioned before, we don’t change any behavior until the costs outweigh the payoffs. So, the critical question is: which holds the most weight for you – the payoffs or the costs?


What are your ways of being? How are you showing up in the world?
Example: I’m damaged, I am undeserving, I am the reliable one

If you'd like to learn more about how coaching can help you identify and break free of your ways of being, schedule a FREE 30 minute Discovery Session.

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