“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” ~ Ronald Reagan
The Way Things Were
Do you know where the term “status quo” comes from? It’s from the Latin phrase, “status quo ante bellum”, or “the state before the war”. This refers to the borders, property boundaries, and other evidence of ownership used to reinstate land when a nation was defeated in war. At times, we can feel defeated, overwhelmed by too much to do or entrenched in negative habits and thought patterns, beaten down by indecision or faced with changes that we feel have been thrust on us.
We cling to the status quo: “Don’t rock the boat.” “We’ve always done it this way.” “I’d like to _______ <fill in the blank>, but . . .” “I can’t . . .” We fear and distrust changes, because we feel we’ve lost control. But guess what? You can control your thoughts. That’s really the only “control” you have . . . and it’s enough. Enough to help you break free of the status quo.
Stuck in the mud!
When I was about 6 or 7, I got a new pair of cowboy boots. Boy, was I proud of those boots! I put them on and went out exploring. As it happened, it had rained hard the day before, and the first thing I saw was a puddle of mud. Here was an adventure! I could walk through this mud because I had on cowboy boots. Gingerly I took a step and the mud oozed up to cover the soles of my boots. I took a bolder step. The mud came up to cover the toes of my boots. Inspired, I took several more steps, moving toward the middle of the puddle and getting deeper and deeper in the mud.
Suddenly, I tried to take a step and couldn’t. The mud was almost to the top of my boots . . . and I was stuck! I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go backwards. I was stuck in place. As I tried to unstick myself, I lost my balance and fell — SPLAT! — into the mud!
Stuck in the Status Quo
This is like the status quo. At its worse, you become deadend even to the fact that you are stuck. You go through the motions of living, but you are making no progress. One of the most harmful effects of the status quo is that it kills your momentum. And it is that very knowledge that can help you begin to move forward once again.
The status quo keeps you where you are. If you are fed up with being overwhelmed by the clutter in your calendar, your home, or your brain, if you are tired of being tired, if you know there’s something better but aren’t sure what it is or how to get there, then you must be willing, if not to embrace change, at least to pat it on the head.
Find Your Pockets Of Excellence
As Darren Hardy says in his book, The Compound Effect, making any change is slow at first. But when you take the first small step, one action at a time, you begin the forward motion. [Hardy] As momentum builds, the forward motion gets easier, until you are moving once again toward your goals and out of the status quo, with less and less effort required.
Step back and examine all the facets of your life. Where are the pockets of excellence? Where are you doing OK? Even thriving? Maybe you find yourself counting your blessings from time to time and feeling grateful. Or you cook a meal for a shut in or someone who is unable to cook for themselves. Maybe you do small kindnesses for people who may never even realize it was you. Perhaps you keep your desk immaculate, even though the rest of the house is a wreck. Maybe you returned your library books on time. Now, how can you expand on these “pockets of excellence” and turn them to areas of excellence?
Work from your Strengths
Ben Franklin said there are two ways to improve your finances. You can either earn more or spend less. But the quickest way is to do both at the same time. Let’s look at what that might mean in terms of improving other areas of your life.
One way is by focusing on your strengths, the first of Franklin’s two-pronged approach. If you haven’t done so already, go to the VIA Institute of Character at www.viacharacter.org and take the survey of character strengths. This survey identifies your top 5 or 6 Signature strengths. These are the strengths of character that you possess and are already using. See if you can find additional ways to incorporate these strengths into your daily life, at work and at home.
The other way to break free of the status quo, the 2nd prong in Ben Franklin’s approach, is to shore up any areas where you are not as strong. Certainly it is usually more productive to concentrate on what is right and to build upon that, but it can also be helpful to work on one of your lesser strengths. Choose one of the strengths that you didn’t score so high on and look for ways you can build up that strength, again by doing more to incorporate it daily into your work and home life.
1. Examine your signature strengths. (Don’t know what they are? Find out here: http://www.viacharacter.org/www/) Select one and think of 3 ways you could put it to use to move you toward your BIG goal or your major definite aim.
2. Identify some of your “pockets of excellence”. How could you expand these pockets to make them areas of excellence?
3. Tap into the power of consistency. What is one tiny step that you can begin taking, day after day, that will move you out of the status quo? Make it small enough that you will easily do it consistently, then take that step every day.
Get off your “buts”
It can be extremely difficult to break free of the inertia of the status quo. The trick is to get the movement started and then to keep the momentum going. Build up your strengths and strengthen those areas where you are not so strong. Get off your “buts”, rock the boat, and say Good-by to the status quo and Hello to your life. Get unstuck! That is embracing the Excelerated Life!
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Discovering and using your Signature Strengths is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Hardy, Darren. The Compound Effect. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2010