The Mystery of Readiness

February 1, 2011

Nothing ever happens until people are good and ready. Name a thing that people want to do, think they should do, are pressured to do, but they are just not ready to do it. They won’t do it. No matter how much pressure is applied.

Why is that? It is the mystery of readiness.

For all of our advances in understanding human psychology, our experience as therapists, our theories of motivation, in spite of all of these, in the end we are still left with a Mystery.

Let’s take an example: The overage frat boy in his late 30s, still drinking beer, chasing girls, charming, fun-loving, never getting serious, never prepared to settle down. He has a decent job, and he keeps up with his college buddies. But many of them are already married, have started their families, and despair of their friend ever settling down and getting married too. The buddies still like him, and put up with his shenanigans. Time and again, they are introduced to the latest girlfriend and they try to be nice about it. Some of these women are successful and beautiful knockouts. Surely, this latest one will be The One? But no, she gets dumped too. Then months later, he shows up with a new girl, and he announces they are engaged! She’s not bad at all, just not quite as exceptional as the last one. Why didn’t he go for her? How to explain that? He wasn’t ready. What made for his seemingly sudden leap into the next stage of life, deciding to get engaged to be married? Now, he was Ready. When the music stopped in this game of musical chairs, the good enough woman who just then happened to cross his path became: The One.

This Readiness phenomenon is true not just for individuals. It also applies to companies, nations, even in the physical world. Why does an earthquake happen just now, not before or after? When the earth is good and Ready. The moment of readiness can be studied endlessly, but predicting the exact moment of tipping over into the next state remains—a Mystery.

Of course, this idea of readiness has application within the arena of starting therapy for psychological difficulties. That’s why I’m writing about it.  When it’s abundantly clear to any observer that a person’s life is getting seriously damaged by not addressing a particular psychological problem, why doesn’t that person see the obvious and do something about it? A Mystery. How bad does it have to get? Some times, pretty bad. You, as an outside observer, may think: “I wouldn’t wait a moment longer to get help if it were me.” But you’re not the one making the decision.

Forces that work against taking action can be: Pride, ego, denial, procrastination, a long list. In your mind, the equation may tip very much in the direction of taking action—but it’s not your decision. And yet sometimes people who have delayed, denied and stonewalled for surprisingly long times, suddenly shift and make the hard decision when you least expect it. The timing, again, is a Mystery.

I conceived of a tool to envision how this process may work, calling it the Readiness Quotient. It’s a number say from 1 to 100. It goes up and it goes down, perhaps invisibly to the observer. There are forces that move it, raising and lowering it. When the RQ reaches 100, suddenly the dramatic shift to Readiness occurs.

Can you estimate your RQ for a particular big change in your life that needs to happen? Is it now at 68? Is it at 79? Can you feel it moving up and down? Can you identify the factors that raise or lower your RQ? All this figures into Readiness for any of our therapies. When a person finally does get Ready, get out of their way, they are moving forward at Warp Speed!