3 Barriers to Successful Life Changes (and How to Deal With Them)
Life is hard man. It really is. In the movie Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone famously said:
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
I love this monologue. Usually if I feel the need to hear it it’s because I’m feeling down on myself. I’m putting myself in the place of the victim. I’m putting blame on everything around me for not having achieved my goals or reached the level of success that I aim to achieve.
The hard truth is there is never anyone or anything else to blame but ourselves. Climbing a mountain is done with careful planning, making the right moves, adjusting at the moment and never giving up. In life we can apply those same strategies in order to reach the measure of success we envision in our minds. How?
It starts by recognizing the barriers in our way. What are the things holding you back? What are the constant obstacles you seem too daunting to overcome? Where do they come from? What can I do to be in control? Will I ever reach my true goals?
If we break it down, most of our barriers are pretty much the same, or at least they fall into the same categories. I want to highlight for you some of these barriers that I’m sure you can relate to and I want to arm you some very simple techniques that will help you win your battles.
This is a barrier that is often time difficult to recognize, admit and deal with, especially when those negative influences come directly from people in your life. In today’s social media driven world, this is even more impactful because we have the mindset that the bigger our list of “friends” are the more we’ll feel wanted or loved. However, what often slips through the crack is the type of person we let into our lives. A bad relationship, whether that be with a friend, colleague, significant other or family member can drive us to create very bad decisions or force us to sacrifice the things we love. Peer pressure that comes from those around us is one of the most destructive occurrences in our lives.
Peer pressure doesn’t just stop in high school. For example, you’ve decided to pursue a healthier life. You’ve ,made a commitment to yourself that you’re going to exercise regularly and drastically cut back on your unhealthy food. You’re also a diabetic who consumes way too much sugar and you’re determined to change that. However, you have a friend who is highly physically active but doesn’t really care too much about what they eat. One day they ask you out to lunch, right around the same time you would normally go to the gym. They tell you it’s on them. After repeatedly saying no, and them pushing back, you agree to sacrifice your gym time for lunch. Your friend takes you to a pizza place. Not exactly the ideal place for someone looking to lose drastic amount of weight and cut back on the unhealthy foods. They also buy you a beer. Not wanting to be rude you eat and drink. The conversation you’re having is pretty much about how your friend has gained more muscle, or the date they went on a few nights ago. You can hardly get a word in about yourself and your new lifestyle change. Then all of a sudden you’re served the chocolatiest, most sugar filled dessert and human can make. This is where you’re going to decide to draw the line Your friend notices and starts to tease you. “Don’t be a woman, eat it.” The pressure intensifies so what can you do? Lunch is finally over and your friend tells you he’s off to the gym. You can’t go because you have to get back to work. In your mind you’re going to go later when you get off but before your realize it 11 pm rolls around and you never made it to the gym, mostly because you’re angry with yourself that you allowed someone to easily throw you off track.
This happens so often. I’m sure you can relate to a story like this. It seems minor but now you’re in a constant state of defeat. That experience won’t go away. Almost as quickly as you decided to make a change in your life, you’re right back to your old decisions because frankly, what’s the point? But you have complete control in that situation. I’m not saying don’t have lunch with friends but be in control of what you eat and don’t eat. If you’re invited to something but it conflicts with your personal time, it’s ok to say no, especially if you know that you won’t be able to make up that personal time later. We live too much to please others and neglect the person we have to live with every day, ourselves.
Techniques to try: If you find yourself in this situation give these a try.
- Realize that your goals are you own. Not everyone around you will have the same intentions as you.
- Let others around you know that you have decided to make changes in your life. Be specific about what you’re doing. If you explain your goals to them, they are more likely to respect your decisions and less likely to pressure you into relapsing into old behavior patterns.
- If they don’t understand do what the band Shinedown screams about and “Cut the Cord”. It’s really not as difficult as it might seem, especially when you are committed to your personal success.
- Try to find someone, whether it be someone in person or online, that is committed to the same or similar goals as you. You’ll both be able to help, push and motivate each other through situations where you feel like you’re being pulled away from your goals. It’s also nice to have someone with whom you can celebrate victories with. It’s more meaningful with someone that completely understands what it took to get to a finish line.
When you first find the motivation you’ve been searching for to achieve something positive in your life everything is simple at first. You find yourself easily able to make steps towards achieving your goal. You wake up with a purpose every morning and go to bed excited about chipping away even further the next day. However, there comes a period where your energy seems to run low and that motivation almost seems to run dry. The mountain seems taller to climb. This happens, especially after you encounter your first obstacle. When something pulls you away from your goal, pushing yourself back into place often takes double the energy and a ton of mental discipline. The end result is your goals get pushed aside or postponed until a later date.
Techniques to try: When you realize that you are postponing a step in your success plan:
- Stop and identify out loud that you are procrastinating
- Identify why you are avoiding that particular step. Be as specific as possible so that what you identify begin to look like manageable action steps you can take to reverse your mentality.
- Once you have identified why you are postponing, try to revise that step to fit better in you life. Perhaps the step is too big or too time consuming for you at that moment, but it doesn’t mean you quit altogether. Break down the step even further so that it seems much more manageable. It may push your completion date a bit further back but the outcome is truly all that matters, not so much the time table.
This one is important because this is solely on us. In my opinion I think this is the one that we do to ourselves more than any other. As I mentioned before, it’s not difficult to get motivated to do something. It’s also not difficult to figure out something that we want to achieve, or even how to do it. What IS difficult is removing the habit of making excuses. We make excuses for why we have not completed a goal or even taken any steps towards achieving one. The excuses are always minor and ridiculous and come with that sad tone when we explain it to others. We even play like we’re angry that the world is not giving us the opportunity to be successful.
There are a million excuses why we shouldn’t be successful, or healthier, or stronger, or ahead in life (read about some of these excuses).None of them ever really come from circumstances or forces outside of our control. In any situation we have a strong measure of control. If something matters to you and is important, you’ll do it. You’ll take the necessary measures to inch closer to your goal. It may take you months or years but you’ll get there. And when you do, no matter how minor it may seem to others, it’s absolutely life changing and addictive.
Techniques to try: When you come across yourself creating excuses, stop, and try this:
- Write down or say your excuse out loud and really pay attention to it. Is it actually a credible excuse?
- Get specific. Write down everything you are feeling and why this excuse came into mind.
- Keep a log of all the times that you’ve tried to assign an excuse to the completion of your goal. This log will provide you with good resource describing when and why you weren’t able to meet a step.
- Once you’ve recognized what the excuse is, identify what you can do to eliminate it. Sometimes this may take your attention away directly from your goal but you’ll never lose sight of it. Eliminating that excuse barrier inches you closer to your goal, believe it or not, even if indirectly.
- By facing your excuses head on you’ll begin to build a pattern of good behavior. You’ll begin to become mentally stronger and less vulnerable to negative barriers, such as excuses.
Barriers will never go away. They pop up when you’re working towards something good. I’ll never fully understand why. What I do know is that barriers begin to appear less frequently as you learn to identify and deal with them when they do appear. Don’t fear them and don’t live in denial. The path towards success is never smooth or easy. You’ll be challenged, tested and forced to second guess your decisions. But these barriers are temporary. You have the strength to break them down but you have to be willing to deal with them and not divert yourself from the bigger picture, which is a healthier, happier and more successful version of YOU.
Dream big, fight hard and take what you want.