So you’ve created your goals. These shiny new goals might be written in curly script or on a beautifully organized list, but if we don’t move into action, then the goals won’t help us get anywhere!
Taking action could be scary for you – or it could be exciting! However you are feeling, it’s important to recognize that if you don’t take the first step toward your goal, you won’t be able to start the journey of making change.
Today, let’s think about the barriers that block us from taking action and how we can support ourselves in the journey toward achieving our goals.
There are so many reasons why people encounter barriers in the journey toward change. If people didn’t struggle to make change, there would be no need for counselors, life coaches, or mentors! My whole career is about change and examining barriers to change, and believe me, if only making change was as easy as setting a goal!
For most folks, a root cause for delaying change is fear. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes, and is often connected to experiences we’ve had and beliefs we hold about ourselves. Most of these experiences and beliefs began in childhood – and this often makes people feel as if they can never change or they are destined to be stuck in their current state.
But luckily this is not the case!
Now, I’m not going to change your life in one short blog post, but I can talk about some tips that can help to identify points of fear and barriers to change, and work to disable them.
Tip #1: Engage the fear
As long as it doesn’t pose a danger to your physical or mental being, when you are confronted with a point of fear or a barrier to change you should try to engage it. This means don’t run away! If you notice that you are hesitating, avoiding, giving up before you start, discounting your ability (among other things), you need to stop and investigate WHY you are doing that thing. Here’s what an investigation might look like:
- I’m noticing that I’m avoiding the weight room at the gym – why?
- I can’t walk a mile, I’m way too tired – why do I think this?
- I don’t want to go into that social event – why am I hesitating?
- This is never going work, I’ll fail – why do I assume this?
This is just the beginning, too. You can continue asking yourself ‘why?’ until you feel like you’ve investigated the barrier or fear to its point of origin. Below are some conclusions that you might come to as you continue to question yourself about those barriers and points of fear.
- Are you worried that you’ll fail because you’ve tried to diet before and it didn’t work out?
- Are you hesitating to invite friends out because you don’t think you have anything interesting to say?
- Are you questioning your ability because people around you been putting down your efforts?
Tip #2: Do something different
Once you’ve engaged the fear to the point of understanding it better – you might not understand it completely! – you need to recognize that continuing to approach the fear in the same way will not produce different results. This is important. We all need to switch things up and scaffold support for journey. This means that we may need to put on some metaphorical training wheels to help us conquer a fear. Here are some examples:
- If the weight room makes you nervous: get a personal trainer to help show you some moves, bring a friend or partner, go at a time when the gym is mostly empty, wear headphones to distract you, face away from other gym-goers.
- If you feel like you can’t walk a mile: Start by walking a shorter distance, try walking for 5 minutes and check-in on stamina, bring a friend or partner, walk slower
- If you feel uncomfortable at larger social events: start by going out with just one person and work your way up, go with a friend or partner, set a time limit for yourself (only go for 10 mins for example)
- If you feel like you’ll fail: write down what strategies you’ve used in the past and be honest about your level of effort. Then see if there are other strategies that you could employ such as engaging the help of a friend, using social media or apps, fun reminders around the house, journaling, talking with a counselor or someone you trust
Tip #3: Self-monitor
It will be important to be honest with yourself about your level of adherence to your goal, moments when your fears or other barriers have gotten in the way, and what you did to tackle the blockage. You can do this in the form of a journal, phone app, sticky note, blog, etc. But I recommend writing it down in some way so you can look back from time to time to look for patterns, strategies that have worked, and how you’ve improved.
Keeping track of this information doesn’t have to take a long time. It could be a quick memo in a phone app that lists the date, the situation, your identified barrier and how it got in the way, and the strategy that you used to tackle it or what stopped you from tackling it.
For example: April 2nd. Got an invite to go to a yoga class with a friend, initially did not want to go because I was bloated and felt puffy. Identified fear/barrier: poor self-image. Strategy: reflected on the last time that I went to yoga and meditated on how good/refreshed I felt afterwards. Decided to go to yoga, and in the end I felt serene and less puffy!
Reading the example, you might think that selecting and using a strategy to overcome a fear or barrier is easy. Sometimes it is easy – but don’t get discouraged if it isn’t! Fears and barriers to change have often developed over years, if not decades, so it will take time and intentional effort to over come them completely.
Try out the above 3 tips when your fears start to creep in and threaten to knock you off your journey toward change. You might not get it right every time – but that’s OK! No one is perfect, and without mistakes, we wouldn’t be able to measure our growth.