This time of year is all about knowing what we want for ourselves. We rightfully accept the window for change and wonder what kind of transformation we’re ready for—what measures we’re willing to commit to, what possibilities exist if we’re willing to go down that road. And so we daydream. We imagine what it would be like to feel better/fitter/healthier than we do right now. We think about how life would be different. We start to mentally put the pieces in place—how we’d go about this endeavor. How bold are we willing to be? Where will the energy, support, ideas and resources to fuel this venture come from? Maybe it’s at this stage or maybe even after we get started, but all too often some other element eventually weaves its way into the picture. Self-doubt, pessimism, compromise, sabotage begins trickling into our process. Our hidden, well-worn obstacles start popping up.
It seems like a universal dictum. When you start to make positive change, you’re going to get pushback. It’s not a magical force thing. The fact is, you’re rocking the boat. Your attempt to change, no matter how small, is throwing off the dysfunctional equilibrium you’ve been living with. Somewhere along the line you got used to how you live and how you feel. Inertia is as much a psychological as a physical phenomenon.
Change your ways, and it’s as if all the mental bogeys and old patterns wiggle their way to the forefront to register their agitation. Maybe even the basic, external logistics of change become a knotted mess temporarily. It can feel like the universe is on a targeted mission to crush your good intentions.
Personally, I don’t think the universe has it out for you, but I’d make this suggestion. Expect pushback and learn to roll with it.
Behavior change is genuine transition. Let’s name it as such, shall we? Transition always involves some degree of destabilization. When facing instability, your best bet is to give up the need to fix the situation (or wallow in your own irritation) and simply get comfortable with it.
Welcome instability and all it brings up. Invite it in and let it sleep on your couch for a few weeks if need be. While it’s crashing at your place, get to know it. Listen instead of slinging yourself around in the dark. You never know what it will teach you about yourself….
Because the ultimate force at work here is you. Pushback is inevitable. Instability is expected. What’s optional is frustration.
We tend to take a “fight this,” “fend off that” mentality to mental or even logistical resistance. War metaphors for personal change—hmm. Whom exactly are you fighting? Doing battle with one’s self in my experience generally does nothing but expend a lot of needed energy.
Now, let’s dig in a little more for how to uncover those hidden bogeys.
We’ve covered the first order of business. Expect them.
We’ve hit the second to-do. Become willing to let your guard down and learn from them.
Now three… Listen for their voices.
Because sometimes hidden isn’t what we think it is. It’s obscured in some way but perhaps disguised as “fixed” reality, dressed up as safe, “rational” choice, even cloaked in self-selected “conscious” preference.
Think for a minute if any of these have at one time belonged to your thinking….
- I can be happy with just…
- I’m not really a X, Y, Z kind of person.
- It’s probably too late to imagine that for myself.
- The weight loss thing just never seems to work for me.
- Whenever I start to get in somewhat good shape, something always happens to derail my progress.
(This is only a small subsection of what could probably be a book-length list….)
In other words, a hidden obstacle isn’t something like a low number in your budget that you can commit to your health. That’s a parameter, which might reframe but doesn’t in any regard need to derail your pursuit.
And nor is it a medical condition (whether it be morbid obesity, chronic fatigue, a heart condition or whatever). These impose restrictions or suggest a varying, flexible trajectory, but in every case progress of some kind (and often grand, life-changing kinds) is possible. (Please work with a trusted physician who can outline any restrictions and actively monitor your health as you progress.)
Maybe some circumstances don’t allow us to have total freedom in our personal schedules or budgets. Maybe we work with physical restriction, but all this suggests to me is a reframing of process—not a lack of possibility.
In short, hidden obstacles are the excuses, justifications and other imposed self-limitations we put between us and our visions.
In these situations, I have a friend who always suggests people ask what investment they have in staying the way they are. In other words, what do you gain by staying put as-is—in circumstances you say you don’t want to be in?
The question might seem off-putting. Our feathers get ruffled when someone suggests we have a stake in our own unhappiness. Except people I know who have achieved great things—as well as other people who aren’t famous but live extraordinarily content, satisfying lives all claim responsibility for their own happiness and success.
I’ve discussed some of these common roadblocks in the past….
Hidden Obstacle: Comparison
The “thief of joy” as Theodore Roosevelt called it… Major killjoy, rain on my motivational parade, recipe for never-measuring-up.
Maybe you grew up under a shadow of comparison. A past pattern doesn’t have to be a present choice. Don whatever metaphorical blinders you need to get going in your own process. If that means exercising in quiet neighborhoods or parks (during winter it’s easy to find these) rather than a gym, so be it. How about your basement? Eat alone or with the few/one supportive person you can identify at your workplace. Not forever…just for now—or as long as you need it.
Journal. Photo-journal. Get a trainer who will teach you to be your own competition. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing to get healthy. Do what you will do and enjoy.
In other words, immerse yourself in your own process. Be self-absorbed. Truly. Comparison in my clients suggests an emptiness of self-attention and self-appreciation. Learn to get your head in your own experience.
Hidden Obstacle: Fear of Success
Sure, we say we want success. We want the ultra fit body or the ideal life balance or great health. Yet somehow we’re more comfortable letting a little bit of shame or sloth hang around.
The sabotage is half- or even sub-conscious because underneath we’re just a little afraid. That idea of success puts us on the hook in ways that intimate us. What will be expected of us as a result? How will life change in ways we don’t necessarily want to sign on for?
It’s time to have more faith in ourselves—in our ability to navigate our own lives through our own best interests—hooks and others’ expectations be damned. The most important gains we’ll make by getting healthy aren’t the outer changes but the inner fortitude we’ll cultivate and walk with from here on out.
Hidden Obstacle: The Victim/Fatalistic Mindset
Maybe past attempts have been many and unsuccessful. Perhaps some random hits of bad luck or bad timing or whatever we want to call it have dotted your history with health/weight loss/fitness/self-improvement/etc. The only one applying the past to the present right now is you.
Time doesn’t care. The universe isn’t paying attention. Anyone who keeps stirring up past pain is truly optional in your life if you’re ready to be honest about it.
It’s time to reclaim choice. You can have a new beginning anytime you desire one. What you drag along with you, however, is your responsibility. Sooner or later we all learn to answer for it.
Hidden Obstacle: The Captive Character
The reels of old scenes, the loops of self-talk…Too many of us are captive characters in the stories we tell ourselves (and those we’ve been told about ourselves in the past).
We make a move toward some positive goal, and almost invariably the chatter begins about how worthy we are, how we’re not the athlete type, how we’ll never be able to have healthy relationship with food, how we’re not cut out for the happiness and well-being others seem to be able to claim for themselves.
While this might be one of the trickier obstacles to face, I suggest as I did earlier in the post to not fight these messages, which only throws your energy down a useless pit.
The key is let them be without identifying with them. To use the couch surfing metaphor again, when we make the distinction that they’re annoying, lazy houseguests rather than head of the household, we stop giving these voices authority they aren’t due.
Rather than silencing the messages, practice creating mental distance from them when they come up—and then get busy writing a new story you will want to identify with. Don’t worry about affirming you are this or that kind of person. Just make a self-investing, healthy choice in the moment. The string of these will become a new narrative—and the interlinking chain toward your success.
Thanks for reading today, everyone. Which of these obstacles (or others) have you encountered? What helps you get over the hump? I hope you’ll share your thoughts and advice in the comment board. Have a great end to the week.
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