153. How to move from ambivalent to ambitious (making change takes more than just willpower)

How do you go from sitting on the couch staring at your phone to DOING the THING you said you WANTED to be doing? I want to teach you how to spot AMBIVALENCE and how to address it, so you can go through the steps of moving from ambivalent to ambitious and feel ready and motivated to make the changes you want in your life. 


I reference the ‘last episode’ and since I recorded this episode earlier, this is the ‘last episode’ on Habit Refinement that I am referring to. 

What is ambivalence? 

Ambivalence is being of two minds, you want it and you don’t. Ambivalence distances us from making change – sometimes this distance is helpful and sometimes it just keeps us stuck 

The steps of moving from ambivalent to ambitious 

  1. Waking up to your life and becoming aware of our dissatisfaction and/or our desires. This can be a very uncomfortable stage that requires humility and bravery to address. Ambivalence shows up here with a defense for the status quo
  2. Willingness to make a change, and the most important thing required here is honesty on if you are in fact WILLING to make the change and go through the change process
  3. A sense of capability. We expect ourselves to be innately capable of making changes and overlook the fact that making change takes layers of skills we need to develop and hone. 

Change takes more than just discipline and motivation

I wanted to lay all of this foundation out because it is worth acknowledging what it actually takes to be ready to make a change. We often think we just need motivation and discipline and then change will be innate. But it takes so much more, particularly paying attention to the stories we are telling ourselves and what we really truly want and are willing to do. 


Help yourself move from ambivalent to ambitious

  1. What am I dissatisfied with here? What is my part in it? What is in MY control?
  2. What do I want, what do I desire? What doubts come up for me here?
  3. Am I willing to make this change, and go through this process?
  4. What skills do I have that will help me? What skills do I think I will need to work on developing? Am I willing to do that?


Episodes mentioned

150. A new approach to habit change: routine and habit refinement

139. Are you TOO comfortable? And what is it costing you?

140. Give your discomfort a purpose #uncomfortableonpurpose



Hey friends, it’s Shawn, your nerdy girlfriend life coach from simple on purpose.ca Welcome to the simple purpose podcast. If you are a simple on purpose podcast listener returning again, Welcome, friend. So glad that you were here coming back time and time again, I love spending this time with you. And if you’re new here, welcome around here around simple on purpose. And we’re all about finding ways to make your life more simple and more purposeful, so you can show up for the things that really matter to you.

In this new year, we’re talking about things like intentions and personal values and habits. And I want to keep building on this topic because I don’t want you to lose momentum. If you are feeling like this is on your brain making some changes looking at your habits, then I want to help keep stoking that fire so to speak. In the last episode, we talked about going through your daily habits that you already have and starting to refine them.

And that was a really powerful exercise for me, I did that as I was writing those notes for the show. And I’ve kept my notes in my notes app on my phone. And I’m going back to them. And I’m still looking at like my daily habits and how I want to be altering them a little bit. I found it really helpful. For instance, I’m already spending less time on my phone in the morning and a little bit more time with my planner, kind of figuring out what I want my life to look like instead of looking at what other people’s lives looks like. There are worksheets with that last episode. So I hope that you stop and listen to that episode and grab those worksheets.

But I want to keep this conversation going about making change. Particularly I want to talk about how we move from feeling ambivalent, kind of like whatever about change to ambitious, because we all want motivation. We all want to feel ambitious, don’t we? And ambivalence is something that we all feel about different things in our lives. Maybe we’re not even aware it’s happening, though.

But ambivalence is really perpetually sitting on the fence when it comes to making changes in our life. And have you ever heard that saying, no decision is still a decision. So over the years of coaching, I was trained in 2018, I’ve been coaching ever since. And up to now I’m currently training to become a therapist, I’ve been learning a lot about how we make changes. And there’s a lot of common changes that people come to me on common changes they want to make in their lives that a lot of us can relate to like being more patient, being kinder, eating healthier, exercising more decluttering our home, making time for hobbies and like getting back in touch with ourselves as a mum.

But what brings us to actually being ready to make change, like, what makes you reach out and contact a coach or join an accountability group or start a challenge? Like how do you go from sitting on your couch staring at your phone to doing the thing you said you want it to be doing.

And it’s ambivalence that often keeps us stuck. Where we are ambivalence as it applies to the topic of change means you really have two minds, you want it and you don’t. And a lot of the time we can use ambivalence as a way to distance ourselves from making change. And you know, sometimes it’s helpful. Sometimes we deeply don’t want that change, it doesn’t actually align with our values that change is not for us.

But other times this ambivalence, this protective mechanism from doing that painful work of change. It keeps us stuck. And ambivalence can wear a lot of different coats, it can look like resistance, defensiveness, excuses, doubts, procrastination, like a great example. Do you have a friend in your life who complains about something all the time, same topic, but whenever you offer your take on it a possible solution? They just have a lot of reasons why it won’t work. They’re simply ambivalent. They want it and they don’t.

And it’s frustrating to have those conversations. But really, this is a conversation we need to be having within ourselves in order to deal with it right. And maybe you can notice it in yourself if you pay attention to how you talk about things. So ambivalence. ambivalence, ambivalence. Wait, is it weird to say right now, it shows up all along the way through making change from before we’re even thinking about it, to putting it into action to continuing the action. So I want to go through the steps of how we decide we’re ready to make change how we’re moving from ambivalent to ambitious.

So that first step, you’ve heard me say it over and over again, it’s awareness, it’s paying attention. Maybe it feels like waking up to your life, we have to become aware. And there’s two things that we could become aware of here.

One is our dissatisfaction, or one is our desires and both of those can be really uncomfortable. And awareness of our dissatisfaction. That means being really brave and saying this isn’t what I want. This isn’t working. And it can be humbling to look at your life with some brutal honesty, because you can wouldn’t be dissatisfied with your circumstances. And it’s really humbling to ask how am I contributing to these circumstances, maybe you’re dissatisfied with your relationships. Again, it’s humbling to reflect on how you contribute to it. We also don’t want to open that can of worms, right? Like, we’ll stew and we’ll drop hints. And we’ll wrestle with our dissatisfaction in this relationship more times, than will address this conflict with love. And I’m not judging you, because conflict feels scary. In my early years of marriage, I had a side hustle of conflict avoidance, before I learned to not be so scared of it, and to actually use it for the benefit of my relationship. So that’s an awareness of your dissatisfaction.

There’s also an awareness of your desires, what you do want and that takes bravery, right to say what we do want. Because so often, what we’re doing instead is we downplay our dreams, they scare us. They feel bigger than us, which in turn makes us feel small. They make us feel vulnerable. I mean, what if people judge us What if people judge the work we’re doing the thing we’re trying to build. So you might keep your dreams a secret, afraid to say them out loud, afraid to put yourself out there. And I definitely felt like this, when I started blogging, I kept it a secret, I still find it hard to talk about what I do coaching in this podcast, without feeling like a tiny dork in two big shoes. But those desires cannot be denied what your heart is calling for. And it just keeps calling for it can’t be denied. And you don’t want to get to the point where you’re ignoring your heart for so long that it stops talking to you. So all of these things that you have inside of you these weird interest, they serve something more than your ego. And it helps me personally to remind myself of that sometimes.

So that’s the first thing awareness, a wake up from the status quo, an acknowledgment of what we want to change. And ambivalence is big here, ambivalence is like, hey, I can live here, and I’ll be fine. Because this is where we defend our case for keeping things the way they are. acknowledging what we want, is often met with a defense of the status quo to stay where you are, it’s comfortable, it’s safe, we know it’s gonna happen. It’s familiar. And you can go back and listen to those episodes on discomfort and comfort. And if your comfort is costing you something, because it really is worth asking yourself paying attention. Am I ambivalent right? Here is ambivalence coming up for me? And is it helping me? Or is it keeping me stuck? is it costing me something?

The next step that we’re going to meet on this process is feeling like we’re willing to make change. I mean, there’s a lot of changes that we want to make, we want the outcome of the change, but we don’t want to do the work of what it takes. So maybe you don’t want to change. Maybe you don’t want to do the work of changing your relationships, your schedule your habits, maybe you don’t want that discomfort, because that work is going to be uncomfortable.

And the most important thing that I want you to know right here is it’s okay. If you’re not willing, if you’re not ready to do this, it’s okay. The more honest you can be about that with yourself, the more peace you can give yourself instead of constantly in the back of your brain wrestling, what you should be doing. But acknowledging like, you know what, I actually don’t want that right now.

For years, I thought I should be getting up early and exercising. And I had three small kids. And I was fighting this ideal of I had to be that type of mom who did this thing of getting up early, an exercise. I wanted that outcome that I thought I was going to have that feeling healthy and strong. But I didn’t really want to do it that way. I wanted to sleep. My ambivalence had a lot of reasons that I shouldn’t make the change. Things like I barely slept, being up all night with the kids, why would I wake up early, like I need to sleep, or it’ll be too noisy to work out in the morning and we’ll wake everyone up, or I’ll get sweaty, and then I can’t have a shower till naptime. And I don’t want to be gross all morning. Or I don’t even know what exercise I would do. Or just I’m way too tired, right? My ambivalence had a really good case built up for me. But the reality is, I didn’t want to do all that work. I wasn’t ready for that. And that was okay. Because maybe I didn’t even want that thing in the first place. And that’s okay, too. Maybe I was buying into this cultural definition on what ideal motherhood had to look like. And once I took myself out of that race out of that running to be the mom who exercises in the morning, then I was free to be the mum, I was the mum who sleeps in a little bit in the morning and moves throughout the day.

So just get really still with yourself. This is the change you say you want. Are you willing to do that work? Sometimes the answer is yes. It’s going to be worth it. I need to do this. And sometimes the answer is not yet. And sometimes the answer is no. But let’s say we do want this change. We’re ready. We want to own it. We are willing.

The next thing that’s going to keep us moving forward, is to think of how we can make the change, we need to find some sense of capability. And I need to think of how I could possibly be capable of exercising of getting a room decluttered I’m not yelling at my kids, I need to think, what skills do I have already that are going to help me in? What ones do I need? This is where a lot of people come to coaching, like, how do I set new goals and change habits? How do I declutter my home? How do I be kinder to myself, for my kids?

And what I wish more people thought about was that doing all of these things isn’t innate, like decluttering? Do you expect yourself to just know how to declutter and find the willpower to do it and find the time to do it? We kind of expect ourselves to innately be capable, but then we’re missing the opportunities to step back and say, Okay, where am I capable? And what gaps do I have? Because this takes a range of skills, like decluttering. Okay, here’s some skills, it’s going to take skills like time management, breaking down big projects into small chunks, decision making, identifying your values, generating motivation, self discipline, and self trust. It isn’t like, oh, just go declutter this room. No, it takes layers of skills. But we need to start the work in order to know what skills we need, and give ourselves a chance to develop them.

I have this analogy a lot when I’m coaching that our kids go to school, and they’re taking step by step through math over the years to build up the skills layer upon layer. It’s not like we expect them to roll into grade 11 math and know what to do. They’ve been doing this work for 10 years, they’ve been growing it up skill by skill, year by year.

And the part here about feeling capable is not necessarily having the skills having the confidence. It’s two things. One is acknowledging the skills you do have, because you have some you do have skills. There’s things you’ve done before, that you know how to do some of these things. And then there’s the skills you want to be working on. Most importantly, it’s being willing to start developing them.

So of course, thinking about what skills we have, what skills we need, that feels uncomfortable, it feels a little bit unknown, it feels a little bit out of our direct control. So easy enough for us to move back to ambivalence here, right? Sometimes we get this far. And we still want to protect our comfort, we move back to ambivalence, it happens. So just keep paying attention to what you’re telling yourself. And ask yourself if you want to keep these stories.

It is worth acknowledging how much work it is to enter a space where you are ready to make change. Because all of this foundation needs to be laid, we need to have a desire for change, we need to acknowledge our dissatisfaction or a desire for something, we need to be willing to make it say, Yeah, I’m ready, I’m willing to do this hard work. And we need to feel like we know where to start. Like we have some capability of getting started. It isn’t as simple. Making change isn’t as simple as, Do I have enough motivation and discipline, all of these other components. They’re happening in the background of our mind, they’re dancing with ambivalence. And noticing all of this is what’s going to help us move forward into change.

So I encourage you to think about the changes you’re wanting to make this year. And help yourself move from ambivalent to ambitious. Let’s think about a change you want to make. Write that down, write down that one change. And here’s some questions you can ask yourself. What am I dissatisfied with here? What’s not working, and on your partner, friend, because change happens in the places where you have direct control. And the only place that you truly have control is yourself. I’m going to leak some episodes on that in the show notes. If you want to hear that. Ask yourself, what do I want here? What do I desire? And maybe even you can think about how it’s feeling to voice that what doubts come up here for you. Then you can ask yourself, Am I willing to make the change? Am I willing to go through the process that change is going to require? Finally, what skills do I have that will help me? What skills do I think I need to work on developing and are you willing to do that? So I’m going to follow up this episode with another one today about what to do now that you’re feeling motivated. So the motivation is present. You’re ready, you got your sneakers on know what? So going into that next episode when you’re ready


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