August 20, 2019

Curing the Collywobbles — Part 3: Of Course You Can’t!


“What would you do if you couldn’t fail?”

“What would you do if money were no object?”

People sometimes ask those questions to help you tap your dreams. They’re fun to think about, but rarely effective for prompting actual change. Why not? Because there’s no room in our lives for the answers. From where we sit, failure and money are always an issue. We know that, so after a few moments of imagining, we trade our answers for a quick trip back to business as usual.

Has anyone ever told you they’d like to hire a lawyer (maybe you) but probably couldn’t afford it? I’ve had that issue when I’ve hired another lawyer to represent me, or when I’ve hired a consultant or coach for website development or marketing or management help or whatever. Likewise, sometimes lawyers ask me if I do individual or law firm coaching, and before I answer, they interject “but I probably couldn’t afford it.”

What’s with that? Why the instant self-disqualification? It’s for the same reason those two questions above, asked in isolation, aren’t useful for creating sustainable change. The best answer to “I probably can’t afford it” is “Of course you can’t! Your life is organized around not buying that new car or wardrobe, or hiring that professional service, or whatever. You can’t buy it because there’s no room for it!”

In the same way, new ideas don’t fit psychically, emotionally, logistically, or otherwise in your current life. If they did, they’d already be realized in your life. As it is, the mere thought of them throws a monkey wrench into your psychic machinery.

Hence a case of the Collywobbles. Hence your hasty retreat back to life as you already know it.

We’re not talking here about buying new goods and services, and we’re especially NOT talking about the money. This dynamic happens whenever we think about bringing new things into our lives. The price tag always includes emotional, relational, and other components. The quick dismissal is for our own-protection: we know instantly and instinctively that there’s no room in us for all that newness.

If we want to make room for something new, the first place to create it is in our conscious awareness. To do that, we need to reckon with the lack of room in us and our lives for the new, otherwise we’ll say stuck at “Of course I can’t.” Either that, or we’ll push ahead anyway and end up with a case of buyer’s remorse – the product of an overwhelmed psyche. Trying to make changes that way is like trying to stuff one more passenger into an overcrowded car. It’s never convenient, there’s always a lot of groaning and complaining, and everyone’s happy when the ride is over.

Of course it’s possible we’re just hauling around too many passengers already, and somebody’s got to get out to make room for the new person.

More on that another time.

To be continued.

Kevin Rhodes is a lawyer in private practice who coaches and mentors other lawyers to love their work and their lives. He leads workshops for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section and the Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. You can email Kevin at

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