In Georgia, the weather in the spring and fall is ideal, so I take every opportunity I can to get outside and take walks in the woods. There is a trail by my house that I go to regularly. As you may imagine, it helps me clear my mind while I get a little exercise in the process. I also find that it’s when my mind relaxes that I have many of my bigger epiphanies.
On a walk not too long ago, I was looking down to change the song on my music player. Taking my attention off the trail, I snagged my foot on a root and stumbled.
It’s very interesting what happens when we stumble. It’s obviously a setback in the context of taking a hike, but the act of stumbling has positive side effects as well.
First, it actually increases your speed and momentum in a forward direction.
Second, it motivates you to immediately refocus your attention on what you’re doing.
I’ve been working on myself for as long as I can remember. Each year, I set goals, create vision boards, and work on new daily affirmations.
Invariably, I encounter an obstacle or setback in the form of a momentary and significant return to a destructive behavior; for example, the consumption of a large number of cookies.
In the past, my mistake more often than not was that I viewed these instances as insurmountable, leading me to give in and fall into old habits.
This is a primary reason so many of us struggle to create sustainable change in our lives. When we stop moving forward, the easiest and most familiar way to go is back.
Change and growth to our bodies and brains is a constant process. To see it any other way is a recipe for failure. If a body builder has an off day, that doesn’t mean he goes back to square one or quits working out – it’s just a matter of picking up where he left off a few days earlier.
Working to change ourselves can be a relatively quick and gratifying process, or it can take months of focused effort to find success… and challenges will undoubtedly arise.
Here are some strategies to overcome obstacles by changing your mindset, so you can break through and achieve your biggest goals in life.
1. Maintain Your Commitment by Choosing Goals That Matter to You
President Calvin Coolidge once said:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
We only truly fail when we stop trying, and we’re certain to have success (eventually) if we continue to move forward. For this reason, it is vital to set goals that matter deeply to you, and to stay focused on the benefits of achieving your goal and the dangers of coming up short, e.g. health issues related to remaining overweight.
As my mother used to say, you have to get up and dust yourself off. Be patient with the process. Do your best to align your goals with your values and deepest dreams, and you’ll find it easier to keep moving in a positive direction. You will get there.
2. Muster Motivation by Staying Focused on the Positives
Attitude is everything, and everything is most certainly about attitude. We all know that even the most capable people fail when overcome by negative expectations, and we’ve all seen Goliath brought down by those who can remain positive and continue to believe.
Find inspirational messages you can repeat in the morning, mantras you can tell yourself when times get difficult, and friends who’ll help keep you motivated and enthusiastic in your times of greatest need. Sometimes the key to overcoming challenges can be as simple as sending your brain the right message to keep your thoughts focused and optimistic.
3. Stay Ready by Watching Your Energy Levels
One thing I’ve become acutely aware of in myself is the need to maintain the highest possible energy. The days when I eat poorly or didn’t get enough sleep the previous night are when I’m most susceptible to giving up in the face of setbacks and obstacles.
Become acutely aware of how you’re feeling all the time, and be ready to do something about it. Know the foods that weaken you and the types of situations and people that drain your energy. Treat the energy you have as a precious commodity so that it will be there for you in your times of greatest need.
4. Tackle Problems by Harnessing Your Imagination
I recently watched the film The Martian. In it, the main character (played by Matt Damon) discusses the challenges of being an astronaut. He talks about the inevitability of problems in space and the catastrophic nature of failure.
According to Damon’s character, there are only two options: give up, or start solving problems.
Nothing is more amazing about humans than our incredible creative abilities. When we have the confidence and courage to be imaginative, no obstacle is insurmountable. Likewise, if we ignore this incredible faculty, even the smallest roadblocks will stop us in our tracks.
5. Extend Yourself More Self-compassion
Have you ever noticed how hard we are on ourselves? We’ll give others a break, but never offer ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
When challenges arise and failure feels close, treat yourself as you would a child or a close friend: speak to yourself with the compassion and guidance that you’d extend to someone you truly love. Being there for yourself will help you find the inner peace and resolve to push forward in the face of adversity and disappointment.
6. Stop Comparing Your Situation to Anyone Else’s
Comparing ourselves to others can be crippling when it comes to making progress. For example, looking at our bodies and comparing them to athletes or models is just insanity. And yet, millions of people do it, and many give up when they can’t live up to the impossible standard.
The problem with such comparisons is that we see insurmountable gaps in where we are and where we want to be. That’s what makes it so easy to resign, give up, and settle for the way things are.
Everything we do that improves who we are benefits us forever. We don’t have to look like supermodels, but every ounce of greater health we achieve allows for increased happiness and success in our lives. Change the metric from ludicrous extrinsically-based goals to incremental positive growth within.
7. Gain Momentum by Tracking Your Progress
It’s this simple: That which we measure improves.
In some cases, measurement is very easy – tracking our debt or personal income, for instance. Others can be far more difficult to track, like successfully holding our tempers or being more present with loved ones.
Even so, it is extremely important to measure progress for two reasons. The first is because knowing we’re keeping track will help us stay vigilant and focused on the target (I also recommend checking progress regularly to see how you’re doing).
It’s also important because of the human need to quantify results. Nothing is more motivating to continue, particularly with something difficult, than seeing the positive results of your efforts.
If you can’t measure things quantitatively, try journaling to track how your day went, how you felt, and any progress you felt you made, as well as any obstacles or setbacks you encountered – especially if you overcame them! Few things are more rewarding than consciously recognizing personal growth, so it’s well worth the time.
Thanks to modern neuroscience, we know that our brains are like plastic. They continually form and remold themselves throughout our lives, just as our muscles grow or shrink based on physical activity.
This is great news, because it means that every step forward truly is a step forward. Just because we run into an obstacle on a given day doesn’t mean that all progress will be lost. Whatever new connections have been made in your brain remain.
The other good news is that we can actually use setbacks as motivation to move forward with renewed energy and focus. This is because setbacks sometimes create guilt, but guilt can actually be a healthy emotion because it creates the desire to take action in a positive direction. Use this motivation to propel yourself back into the process and keep moving through whatever challenges come your way.
You can learn how to overcome obstacles by changing your mindset, and really just need to understand one key principle: We only fail when we stop trying.
This single subtle change in your mindset will foster the constant growth we all aspire to in life!