By Published On: 10-Feb-20203.5 min read
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How well thought-through is our dissatisfaction, if we can’t name the ‘instead’, wonders Leadership & Performance Coach, Davina Greene.

“Instead” is a wonderful word – open, helpful, empowering, and most importantly directional. In the world of coaching, we talk a lot about the concept of knowing not only what you’re running from, but also what you’re running to. That is, if you’re saying you don’t want X, then what exactly is Y?

In conversations I encounter people confused by the “Have-It-All Heroes” and the seemingly skill-free millionaires pushed forth by modern media, and consequently watch expectations spiraling out of control. Where “instead” is a great word, “want” and “entitled” can be painful, irrational, even dangerous if out of line with what’s realistic in your chosen environment (after all, that’s what the R stands for in SMART goals…).

The ‘Instead’ Gap

I don’t like my job. I don’t like my manager. I don’t like my colleagues. I don’t like this company I’m working for. That’s all very well, but what do you want instead? If your thinking is “I want it all” or “Everything is annoying”, it makes it very difficult to help people to help you. It is vitally important, for everyone’s sake, that you attempt to define your intended end-position by stopping any black-and-white rants and choosing your favorite grey spot in-between.

Will an identical job at a different company solve it? Will a ‘better’ boss solve it, and what does ‘better’ mean? The senior position you crave, do you really want the late-night calls that come with it? Do you really want to lead, or is it just a nice word? Do you really want to work for a start-up, or will you miss the flash building and free meals at that tech firm?

Do you need to quit the job or do you need to talk to your manager about the ineffectiveness of your relationship? Do you need to “quit work”, or do you just need a bit of a break from someone there? If, once and for all, you were to stop trying to avoid the necessary ‘difficult conversation’ with your colleague/ boss/self, could that one well-planned conversation make all the problems go away? (But, hell, we’ll do anything to avoid a difficult conversation, right?)

Maybe you just enjoy a really good moan, and that’s the way you’re going to be wherever you land. Hey, we all enjoy wallowing from time to time – I get it. But you don’t want that to become your reputation, so remain in control of your own ‘PR’.

Not everyone knows what they actually want – it’s a good start to simply admit that. Don’t get me wrong, admitting to yourself that you have no clue what you want is a tough thing to do; however, rest assured you’re in the majority. Most of us think in giant, unwieldy blobs of stress-inducing torment until someone snaps us out of it.

Define Your ‘Instead’

How to make progress? Think rationally about Must-Haves versus Nice-To-Haves. Is the thing that allegedly needs replacing external (task/activity/person) or internal (feeling/behavior)? Break it down, view it from different angles. Also, think about what makes you comfortable and content right now – by changing the thing you’re obsessed with changing, are you risking that too?

 If you knew how much time managers and HR people spend saying “I’d like to help her out of this rut, but I’ve no idea what she really wants – and I don’t think she does, either”, you’d probably be amazed. It’s very worthwhile to find the right thoughts, and then the right words. Even “I don’t know what I want” is kinder to everyone (including you) than endless complaint. Friends, colleagues, and family – or a coach – can then begin to help you find a solution.

Don’t assume the grass is greener everywhere else – sit, think, picture living the ‘instead’. Then make the right adjustments.


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About the Author

Davina Greene, leadership and performance coach

Davina Greene has a Masters in business from Dublin City University, is a Leadership & Performance Coach, and a corporate Head of Leadership Coaching, providing in-person and digital solutions for individuals and organisations.

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