When I started my journey to lose more than 200 lbs – I knew that it would be challenging. I had tried many diet programs and had read many promises that I believed could come true, and yet even with small success on several of these programs, eventually I would fail and end up back where I started. I found myself disappointed, depressed and ashamed. Most times, I would end in a mental state that was worse than when I had started.
In 2015, I committed to losing the weight and reaching my goal – I searched out specific characteristics about the program I would choose to follow that would help improve the chances of success. The program I chose had to have;
- A way of making me accountable for my results – good or bad
- An educational component, so that I could learn new ways of understanding my relationship with food and how to adjust it
- A program / plan that made sense to me and was founded in fact which was easily backed up by data that could be analyzed
If you examine the list above again – I’m sure you find that many weight loss programs come to mind that fit my requirements.
What I came to realize through my journey is that it wasn’t only the program I chose that led me to success and to be able to achieve my goal as much as dealing with the other feelings and situations that can influence and sabotage even the best of plans.
Here is my list of 5 challenges that I learned about on my journey that I needed to overcome to reach my goals. Below the list I’ll talk about each challenge in more detail and explain what I learned and how you can use it to help you achieve any goal that you have in your mind’s eye.
The unconscious mind and its ability to make a decision is a powerful thing. Although many may believe that things “just happen” to us, I have learned not to believe that. There are hundreds, if not thousands of decision points that we come across in a given day. A decision point is point in time where we are faced with making a choice. Sometimes we choose wisely and sometimes not. Sometimes that choice is evaluated using critical thinking methods and other times a choice is made in the blink of an eye. I won’t argue as to which method of choice is better as there are many books and studies about the topic – but what I do want to highlight is that I had to come to the realization that every time I reached a decision point – I could use the power of choice to move me closer to my goal. Conversely – there were many times when I was not as mindful / aware that I had reached a decision point – and here I found that what would win would be that action closest matching my existing habits. What I had to realize is that even when I didn’t actively make a choice – I was making a choice. Realizing this was empowering to me… frustrating… but empowering!
The good news is that becoming aware and active in your decisions is something you can work on. More good news – habits are formed over extended periods of time and absolutely change based on previous actions. The better your habits become, the better those unconscious decisions will become. Here’s an interesting TED Talk on how to implement small changes in habit.
In my case, meal time was most definitely a decision point. I’m faced with two options. Let’s call the “good” option (remember: this is the one that moves me closer to my goal) is Selection A. The “bad” option is Selection B. What I found through my journey was that having a plan and setting myself up to make Selection A the easier of the choices would result in higher success. In the world of weight loss, this is “meal planning”, making sure that I had readily accessible, healthy options that moved me closer to my goal. This can relate to chasing any other goal though.
Let’s say that your goal is to improve your photography. You should now realize that your current habits are something that you’ll need to overcome to reach your goal. You also know that you’ll be presented with decision points where you will have the opportunity to choose to do something that moves you closer to that goal. It is now up to you to plan ahead and make it so that when you come to the time of the decision point you choose Selection A over Selection B.
It’s not easy, but being mindful and aware is the first step that gave me more power in my decisions and allowed me to start crafting new, more productive habits that aligned with my goals.
An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much easier to give up than the bad ones. ~W. Somerset Maugham
The ability to achieve our goals relies heavily on our focus on those goals. Willpower, or the ability to exert control to accomplish something is a real thing. It is a wonderful thing and when complemented by determination and persistence combines into a force that can move mountains. The lesson I learned on my journey is that willpower and focus are finite resources. In general, we start our day with a certain amount of these resources and what I learned was that outside sources will chip away at these resources until we are left with none.
I have found that there is no greater nemesis of willpower than stress.
I had to consciously work and put effort forth to eliminate stress wherever possible. This was not easy, but if we let stress wear on us and deplete our focus and willpower, we will have less energy to continue the drive toward our goal. This lack of energy can also manifest itself when it comes to decision points, and we already know how important I feel that they are to the larger picture of our success.
The good news? Stress can be managed in many ways. Meditation being just one of them. In my case, I chose to use the method of living my day in “day tight compartments“, a method I learned about how to deal with stress and worry from a Dale Carnegie course. I would be conscious of when a stressful situation was upon me and I worked through it to either do my best to deal with it in short fashion, or accept that it likely wasn’t something I needed to be stressed about.
There are many situations that can cause us stress and chip away at our willpower and distract us from our goals. It is in our best interest to learn how to deal with and manage stress so that we can overcome this challenge on the way to our goal.
Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door. ~Benjamin Jowett
If our goal is large enough, doubt will be cast. We may hear it from those around us who we share our dreams with, or worst yet – it may come from inside.
Self-doubt may be something that you will deal with on the way to your goal. I had to deal with it in my journey quite a bit. There was the doubt that I would be able to make the change, the doubt that I was worth making the change, the doubt that I could maintain the change and the fear of what would happen if I did somehow manage to actually pull it all off!
The lesson I learned along the way, and still tell myself each day is that “I’m worth it”. I say as a form of my daily affirmation. I’ll explain these in more detail in a future post, but let’s just say that this is one way that I work to remove self-doubt.
Whatever your goal is – please know that you can achieve it. Don’t doubt yourself. I believe in you…
One of the main reasons that I had success with my goal is due to the support system that I had allowed to evolve around me. Note the word “allowed” in the previous sentence, it is there for good reason. I had to overcome my own pride and realize that having others know and support me in my goal would improve my chances of success.
This is not an easy thing as most people are proud and don’t want to admit that they could use help. In my case, I had to admit that I had a problem and I needed to accept all the assistance, love an support that those around me were willing to give. In previous attempts, I did not embrace this and in doing so I felt this was a game changer for allowing me to reach my goal with a bunch of people “cheering me on”.
In the case where the goal is not a “problem”, I still find that there is great value in vocalizing your intention and desire. There are many people that surround you that would be more than happy to support your and help you reach your goal – but they won’t ever have the opportunity to do so if you never tell them about it. Sometimes our pride, and the worry about what people may think of our goal / dream gets in the way… don’t let that happen to you.
Pride deafens us to the advice or warnings from those around us. ~John C. Maxwell
A lack of enthusiasm in achieving your goal can most definitely be a barrier. In previous attempts to lose weight, I found that I had an indifference in the results. Sure, I was happy when I would see the weight come off, but I didn’t have a burning desire to make a change.
I’ve found this to be the largest lesson learned on my journey and if you have a goal in mind – I want you to ask yourself this question.
How bad do you want it?
I know that the question is “cliche” and seems far to easy to answer, but think about it in the terms of the other 4 challenges above and be brutally honest with yourself as you answer.
- Are you willing to change and make new habits that support your end goal?
- Are you in a good mental state and able to deal with stress and outside influences that will look to distract you from your goal?
- Do you believe in your heart that you can reach the goal and are meant to reach your goal (hint: I believe you can…)
- Are you able to put your pride aside and tell everyone who will listen about your goal? Are you ready to accept their help and support when they offer it?
There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it. ~Napoleon Hill
The last and largest challenge I had to overcome was to get up everyday and be honest in my response to the question “how bad did I want it?”.
When the goal in your mind is your “burning desire” and something that consumes your thoughts when you wake and when you dream, you’re in a good spot to chase that goal.
Apathy, the lack of caring or indifference to the outcome can not exist if you are forging your path to your goal.
I hope you enjoyed this post and learning about some of the challenges that I’ve faced on my journey so far. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post and I hope you’ll share it with others. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out via email.