How many of us get in our own way when it comes to leading the best life possible? The forms of self-obstruction are many and varied: We might only be dutiful about small changes. never taking the important big steps. Or we might hem and haw, cycling back and forth between rigor and passivity. We perhaps commit to improvements in certain health dimensions but forgo effort in others. We feel good about our positive choices but back away from scrutinizing the half measures. “I’m just too busy to do more than I’m already doing.” “I’ve made it further than I ever thought I could: I’ll quite while I’m ahead.” “I’m doing better than most people I know.” “This amount of change is manageable. I don’t want to push the envelope.” We tell ourselves a million things on the precipice looking out from good to great. There might be a hundred circumstances legitimately figuring into our decision to stay where we’re at in the “good enough,” but we need to be honest. Is there something in the view itself – the overlook to bigger success – that causes us to seize back consciously or unconsciously?
Maybe we fear ultimate success because we don’t like change, because we don’t think we deserve a truly great life, because we can’t imagine ourselves being “that” person – the person who has it together, the person who is really fit and optimally healthy. “Optimum” anything, we tell ourselves is too extravagant. It’s for the lucky few or maybe just better-adjusted many. We might even tell ourselves we don’t “need” optimum, that we’d be just as satisfied with good. No. Trust me – you won’t be just as satisfied.
Sit back and play a game for a minute. Imagine yourself in that “optimal” existence (e.g. of health, of vitality, of self-fulfillment). Imagine all the amazing things you could want but think are too lavish for you somehow. Imagine living that very life. Are you getting uncomfortable yet?
Sometimes we keep deeper success at arm’s length because we’re afraid of what we’ll be called on to challenge or give up about ourselves. More than weight or weakness, sometimes our self-concept is the hardest thing to shed.
In some dark, hidden corner of ourselves, we stop short of believing we can have it really good – that we should have it really good – that we deserve to have it really good. The corner stubbornly refuses to be filled or changed or otherwise improved, choosing to retain some portion of deprivation. Obscured, perhaps long-entrenched messages limit our thinking in this way. We’re conditioned to not ask for too much from our lives. We were taught to not aim too high or expect too much. Think of how this might play out for you and in what areas of your life – relationship, vocation, social life, creative life, body image, fitness, etc.
Maybe we survived parts of our lives by learning not to expect much. Our circumstances in those situations were the inputs in our personal adaptation. However helpful these patterns were in the past, at some point we need to understand that they do nothing but hinder us in the present. This is not the script we have to go through life with. If it doesn’t serve you any more, stop repeating it. Understand what you need to about what went into it (i.e. why the messages are what they are). Accept being uncomfortable and lean into the self-defeating parts until you’ve managed to diffuse their influence. Then let it all go.
More importantly, fill your life now with different messages that will come together in a new script. Sure, it will take a certain amount of retraining. However, with time you’ll be able to rewire your thoughts and shift default tracks. Next time you begin to make a choice that isn’t in your best interest, remember it doesn’t have to be this way. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Simply tell yourself, “I could do it differently. I may be doing this just because it’s comfortable/easy – or not doing that because it would require a personal change in identity (i.e. I’m now the person who says no to bread. I’m now the person who prioritizes my sleep and doesn’t stay out until all hours. I’m now the person who makes the effort to get to the gym instead of happy hour.) Other times, we find we don’t think big enough in envisioning our goals.
This isn’t about perfection, mind you, but it is about letting yourself succeed. It’s about giving yourself a shot at expanding your expectations. It’s about saying no to sub-consciously self-sabotaging and yes to what is possible but perhaps entirely obscured by your own assumptions about what is attainable and what you deserve. It’s about doing exactly what you probably don’t want to do – push the envelope.
Let me tell you this right now in no uncertain terms: you get to have optimal health when you’re ready to own it (and, yes, work for it). You get to have vitality when you feel you deserve it. You get to have deep and genuine well-being in as many areas of your life as you’re willing to let it take root. Sure, your journey and version of success will be unique. The fullness of life isn’t any more generic than life itself. The experience of it – the nuances and gratification – will undoubtedly surprise you. The key is first being open to the Primal potential itself.
Thanks for reading today, everyone. Have you ever been your own impediment? What would you add to the idea of letting yourself succeed? Have a happy and safe 4th of July.