If only I could get up in the morning. If only I could resist the cheese dip. If only I could leave work earlier. If only I had a more predictable schedule. If only my spouse was more supportive. If only my kids were older. If only my kids were younger!
There is seemingly no end to the scenarios we can imagine that would change everything. When we think about what is holding us back, the external circumstances that seem out of our control are to blame. And you know what, sometimes circumstances are out of our control, and they do make it difficult to create change. That’s okay. Life is allowed to be annoying sometimes. It doesn’t mean you have to sit around and wait for it to change. Here are a few ways you can work with the obstacles that try to trip up your healthy strides.
Allow the Obstacle to Exist
I have a wonderful running friend who inspires me with her positive attitude and big, contagious smile. She stays that way with a little help from a mantra that calms the waves of chaos that we all encounter from time to time. “I greet this moment fully, I greet it as a friend.” Because friends, we know this much is true: stuff is gonna happen. Cravings will come into your day, someone will drop a last-minute project on your desk as you’re about to leave for the gym, and apathy will wake up as soon as your alarm goes off in the morning. Instead of fighting these things, greet them as a friend. Yes, a friend! “Hello, 8:00 ice cream craving. I thought you’d be here today. I am not doing that right now. Maybe I’ll see you later.” What usually happens when we fight the craving for whatever we’re trying to resist? It fights back! But when we give it permission to exist without engaging in it, there is no reason to fight. It’s there. We all see it. That doesn’t mean we have to go pick it up and carry it around with us all day long. Let those temporary circumstances be. When you stop engaging with them, they’ll go away.
Manipulate What You Can and Do the Rest Anyway
Some circumstances, however, are not so optional. School and work schedules are not always determined by us. We can’t control the weather, the traffic or the choices that other people make. But once we accept them and allow them to be, they can be manipulated or worked around. If the school schedule means you have to wake up early to exercise, well, you’ll have a lot of company because many others are in the same boat! If the evening commute takes up the time you set aside for a workout, explore opportunities for exercise near your office and drive home when the traffic is lighter. Allowing circumstances to exist does not mean letting them stop you. Perhaps you settle for a 30-minute walk until you can make time for more. Perhaps you set a timer for social media so you can logout with enough time to prep lunch and snacks for the next day. If you truly want to bring change into your life, you will find a place for it.
Know What Habits Are Not Worth Changing
I know a few people who are total rebels. As soon as a routine is established, after a week or so they are off of their schedule doing who knows what just because it’s in their nature to buck the system. Even when they created the system! As a result, they’re frustrated with their lack of progress because they are convinced that consistency and sticking-with-it are the keys to getting into better shape. After seeing this pattern a few times, I threw out a crazy suggestion: just go with it. If they expect to become bored or rebellious, perhaps they should make variety and the option to change the plan at the last minute part of the structure. They’re happier with a grab-bag of options that they can choose at their discretion, and their internal need to buck the system is satisfied because they’re playing by their own rules. The same can be true for night owls trying to be morning people or procrastinators trying to plan meals a week ahead. The energy that we expend trying to change our default settings can be better used when we find a way to work with them. It’s not always possible, and results are definitely relative to the consistency of our choices, but if you’re okay with that then go with it!
So now I leave you with a question to ponder: what would happen if you replaced “if only” with “what if?” What if you met that obstacle as a friend? What if you did it anyway? What if you just went with it? What if?