Another year is gone and maybe you’re looking back with disappointment. You just haven’t achieved as much as you wanted to. At the beginning of the year, you had visions of a whole new you yet nearly twelve months later you haven’t managed to make it happen. What’s worse this time is you actually started and made progress but ended going back to your old ways. Now you can’t help but feel annoyed at yourself. Why can’t you stick with something for once?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Like most things of value in life, lasting change does not come easily or quickly. You will confront challenges and that’s a given. The good news is these obstacles are not insurmountable, lasting change is possible.
So chin up, as you start to set some new goals. Look forward to the new year with a renewed sense of optimism. Now you know what you’re up against you can be ready for it. Are you ready to finally make some enduring changes in your life? Here are nine obstacles you are likely to encounter and what you can do to get past them.
1. You’re afraid
We all face fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, we even fear success. Fear is with us wherever we go and it’s there to keep up safe. If we try to venture outside what is familiar it’s triggered. The thing is, in order to make any significant change in your life you have to overcome it, you have to figure out a way to get past it.
So how do you do that?
As scary as it is, you have to take a step to do the thing that scares you. As author Susan Jeffers puts it: ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Your mind is busy conjuring up all the worst-case scenarios yet often the most horrible outcome you envisioned never materialises. Even so, taking action can be easier said than done so this may help:
- Consider the worst possible outcome if you were to make the change and be honest. Is it embarrassment, loss of money, criticism? Spell it out.
- Think about what you could do were that worst outcome to happen. What could you do to mitigate or solve the problem were it to happen?
- Now consider the worst possible outcome were you NOT to make the change. What could you miss out on if you didn’t grab an opportunity for instance? Would you regret it for the rest of your life?
- Now, you will hold the two worst possible outcomes in your hands. You now have to decide which option to take.
Remember if want to change then it’s for a reason. You’re not satisfied with how things are. Sometimes focusing on that can give you the impetus to move forward. If your vision of your desired future is compelling enough it will push you to take that first step.
2.You’re racked with self-doubt
I like to call this one the ‘not good enough’ syndrome and it’s a product of the limiting beliefs you hold in your mind. The key is to recognise those thoughts when they come up, be aware of them and see them as what they are, just thoughts.
Remember just because you think something doesn’t make it true. Are you really not smart enough? Is your idea really stupid? Are you really undeserving or crazy to have the vision you have? Can you find evidence to the contrary?
Your in-built bias to the negative can influence you to focus on all the bad things that could happen and amplify their significance. Instead, focus on your successes or identify others that can serve as inspiring examples.
Confidence is the antidote to self-doubt so find ways to disprove the voice of that limiting belief. Take action in direct opposition and dismantle those beliefs one small step at a time.
3. You get stuck in your head
Sometimes you are so preoccupied with making the right decision that you make no decision. You get so bogged down in analysing all the possible outcomes that you never take a step towards the change you want to make.
In this article, James Clear warns about the dangers of mistaking motion for action. When you’re in motion you’re busy doing something that will never produce an outcome. Thinking and analysing fall into that category. True action on the other hand brings a result.
Thinking carefully about what you need to do and creating a plan are good habits to cultivate but you can’t allow them to paralyse you. Eventually you have to turn your ideas and thoughts into concrete steps if you are ever going to make progress.
4. You can’t find the time
Have you been excited about making a change but allow other priorities to get in the way? The only way to overcome this problem is to make the change you want as, if not more important. That means knowing why you want it in the first place.
You have to remind yourself of the benefits of achieving the change. Visualise it and focus on how it will impact your life if it were to happen. What are the repercussions if it doesn’t? Commit to your vision and you will find a way to make the time for it.
‘What if I really don’t have the time?‘ I hear you say. Well on a practical level take a hard look at what you are spending your time on. Are they all necessary? As an example, could you cut down on the amount of television you watch or limit your internet use?
What I’ve found is that when we really want something we find a way to make the time.
5. You try to do too much too fast
Sometimes you’re so excited by making a change that you try to go for it all right away. Overwhelm follows and you get discouraged by how difficult it is. Progress stalls and eventually you end up going back to your old habits. Do you know someone who started a weight loss program with a bang? They went on a strict diet and to the gym every day only to tail off and regress a few weeks later.
Be smart and avoid the danger of taking on too much too quickly or being overwhelmed by how much you don’t know especially if you are trying to upskill. Start with small steps, achieve mini goals, gain confidence and build momentum. Small wins add up.
6. You have no staying power
Closely related to trying to do too much is the ‘I want it now’ mentality. Now more than ever, noone has the patience to wait and instead quit if they don’t see instant results.
Remember real change takes patience and perseverance. Creating the new habits that will help you get to where you want to go will take time to establish. So if you’re someone who is only interested in instant gratification then success is unlikely.
Instead, focus on the long term goal. Remind yourself of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Remind yourself of the pain of not achieving that goal. Set smaller milestones so you feel a sense of achievement along the way and remember to celebrate each small success.
7. You can’t find the motivation
Motivation is a great thing. It can be just the burst of energy you need to take that first step and create that initial momentum. If you want to create lasting change however, you can’t depend solely on it to see you through. There will be days when you don’t feel like it, when you’re feeling down or dealing with other challenges.
What gets you through those days and keeps you taking the steps is your commitment to what you want. It’s remembering the reason for wanting to make that change in the first place. Having a strong why and being firmly committed to achieving what you desire is critical in getting you over the hump of demotivation.
On days when you don’t feel like it ask yourself: ‘Do I really want to go back to that crap situation?‘ Focus on the outcome if you stay the course, but also be aware that if you don’t have a compelling enough reason to make that change when the going gets tough you’ll probably quit.
8. You haven’t learned to deal with failure
We all make mistakes, inevitably we’ll slip up and fail. Is it a missed workout or did you break your diet? Maybe you didn’t get the result you wanted or expected. The key here is to not let that failure completely derail you. Get back on track right away.
I love James Clear’s article on avoiding the second mistake in which he talks about the impact of the second ‘mistake’. He explains that in the long term building good habits aren’t really influenced by individual mistakes. Not making a second mistake is far more important.
So, if you fall the best thing you can do is to get right back up and keep going. Missed one workout? Don’t make it two in a row. You messed up on that diet today? Get back on track tomorrow.
So you fail at something or something doesn’t go to plan. Use that as a teaching moment instead of as a stick to beat yourself up. Failure happens, you’re human. Remember it’s not the end of the world and get back on track.
9. You try to do it alone
If you’re lucky you’ll have positive, supportive people in your life who will help you as you embark on changing your life. Sometimes though this isn’t the case but it doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone. You can choose who you want to associate with and create new, more empowering relationships.
If supportive people aren’t in your immediate circle go out looking for them. Are there any online communities or meetup groups of people who share your interests? Join and start a conversation.
You should never underestimate the benefit of being around positive, like-minded people who share your interests and it’s reciprocal. When you help others to do better, you also attract people who want the best for you. They can extend that helping hand when you falter and give you that boost of encouragement to keep going. Remember you are not alone it’s just that sometimes you have to do a little work to find positive, motivated people like you.
Change may be hard but the alternative is probably worse
Remember change is essential if you are to grow. Without it you stagnate and before you know it you’re stuck in a mediocre life that lacks meaning.
When obstacles show up you may be tempted to say ‘I’m ok, my life’s not that bad.‘ and go back to the old behaviours but is that really the life you want? One where you settle for the status quo because it seems easier while deep down inside you know you want more?
The choice is ultimately up to you but here’s what you can do starting today. Take full responsibility for your life and start to build a belief that as challenges come you will be able to figure them out. Move forward with confidence knowing that you have everything you need to succeed, you just need to take it one small step at a time.
Now over to you.
Are you trying to make a change in some area of your life?
Have you encountered any of the obstacles mentioned above?
How are you getting past them?
Let me know in the comments.