When a person’s behaviors and decisions strive to ensure things stay the same, even against their best interests, it may be a cognitive distortion known as the status quo trap.
Cognitive distortions are habitual ways of thinking that a person develops over time in response to adverse events. They often are based on inaccurate and negatively biased perceptions. For example, it may be a cognitive distortion when you chronically over-generalize, jump to conclusions, or engage in all-or-nothing thinking.
The status quo trap occurs when you want, first and foremost, to minimize the risk of change. The problem is that trying to elude change can cause you to miss out on the benefits and opportunities it brings.
And today? If you are striving to maintain the status quo — 2021 is a tough place. First, what is the status quo in 2021? Is it the Groundhog’s Day existence most of us have endured this past year and are clamoring to leave behind? Or is it our day-to-day lives before the pandemic? That existence is forever altered and never to be seen again.
So, as you seek peace in the status quo, you are in a particularly challenging place. You can’t go back and you can’t stay where you are. That leaves you with only one direction – so you need tools to forge a healthy, productive path to the future.
Celebrate the Good in Your Status Quo
Yes, it feels like everything is changing, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw everything away. What do you deeply appreciate about your current situation? How will you incorporate it into your next steps? Maybe you acquired new skills or habits during the pandemic. Perhaps you love working from home and don’t want to let that go completely. Are there are aspects of your COVID-induced isolation – alone or with others – that were revelatory? Take note of what has energized and sustained you and commit to integrating these elements into your future designs.
Ditch the Negative Self Talk
Okay, 2020 was a dumpster fire and the first three months of 2021 has felt like riding a rollercoaster in the dark. I get it. It’s not been easy. But it’s counterproductive to dwell on what you don’t like about your situation or how others are behaving. Instead, assess what you do want to happen. Make a list of what you want to achieve – without considering how you will do it. In a few days, revisit the list and consider one step you can take toward achieving one of your goals.
Unite for Mutual Success
How you can join forces with others – either new acquaintances or seasoned relationships – to raise your bar? When you start losing ground or reverting to old cognitive habits, it’s invaluable to have others who will propel you toward your goals. They can be the difference between your successful future and clinging to an unhealthy or unproductive status quo. Surround yourself with people who will challenge your thinking, comfort you when change gets hard, and celebrate the wins, big and small.
As you prepare for the future that is 2021, it’s important to incorporate what you like, leave behind the bits that don’t work for you, and surround yourself with a solid network. The past is not open to change, the present is to be lived to the fullest, and you have a chance to design your future as you challenge your status quo.
Beki Fraser is a certified business and leadership coach who worked 15 years as an HR leader for a variety of companies. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.