Get out of your way! Your biggest obstacle to reaching your goals.
My good friend recently saw a homeless person sobbing in a parking garage stairwell. Something compelled her to stop and ask if he was ok. He was not. He said was contemplating suicide and the only thing stopping him were his religious beliefs. My friend calmly talked with the young man and told him. ‘Something told me to stop because I saw something in you.” She went on to encourage the man to strive to achieve just one small task each day towards a better life. Just one. The homeless man brought out a notebook and literally wrote down the words, ‘just one thing.’ He then asked, “Do you really believe in me? Do you really think I can change?” “Yes, I do.” she answered.
Perhaps it was his raw vulnerability that made her answer ‘yes’ or perhaps my friend was just being nice and optimistic for the sake of humanity. Perhaps the exchange meant nothing in the end and the man went back to his destructive ways. But perhaps the belief that change is possible (by you or someone who believes in you) is all anyone needs to spark real change in their life.
There is an obstacle that all of us face that keeps us from reaching our goals. It isn’t the oft-mentioned variable of time. It isn’t your job or your busy family & social life. It isn’t your genetics or your physical limitations. It isn’t money, lack of education, or fancy degrees. Here’s a hint…it’s you! More specifically it’s the voice of your inner critic. To silence that critic you need more than simply a ‘can do’ attitude, faith or will power. You need a question, and that question is how can I feel successful…today. Ironically, some of our best teachers in facing obstacles are those who have the biggest obstacles to face - The disabled, the injured, and the heartbroken.
Just this last week, the very first ever combat veteran amputee just reached the summit of Mt. Everest. How on earth could a man with one leg accomplish a feat that most with two legs cannot? I would guess that a soldier who has their legs blown off must sooner than later face the fact that they wont run or walk again (at least not with their original legs) and they must confront the question – so what can I do (to feel successful)? Compete on a wheelchair basketball team, counsel other disabled vets, or climb a mountain?
So what about you?
*Start with a list of 1 thing. Just one small step you can take today. Rework your resume. Take a walk around the block. Give 10 hugs. Call your brother you haven’t spoken with in a year and tell him you love him. Do just one damn thing…and then do it again tomorrow.
*Volunteer…or visit a hospital. When you’re trapped in your own head, you often play the same tape over and over – poor me. And maybe your grievances are real…maybe your heart is broken, maybe you did lose your leg, and maybe you do have no money. But here’s the rub…someone always has it worse than you. Always. When my brother was in the hospital recovering from his stroke, his suite mate had lost his leg in an accident. This man was joyous and surrounded with the love of his family. He was grateful that he had only lost his leg, not his life. My brother realized that if this man could lose his leg and be happy, my brother could certainly choose to be happy and grateful too. Perspective has power – so does gratitude.
*Lean into the pain. It’s natural to run from pain. Our brains are hard wired to flee from perceived (and real) threats. Certainly if you’re in the wilderness and you see a bear, it’s probably a good idea to turn around and go the other way. But your fear is a bully and deserves to be met toe to toe in a back alley. What I have learned from years in fitness, professional disappointments, divorce, loss, and setbacks is that the way forward is through the pain…always. You can’t avoid, mask, or hide from your own mess. It walks around with you - You might as well accept pain as your companion, teacher, and motivator…then kick its ass.