When obstacles become excuses

Obstacles pop up in our lives all the time. Usually from clients who didn't hit their goals or make progress, they say "life got in the way this week", or even a more simple "life. Ya know?" and I do know. I know there are so many things that make this whole habit-change/behavior-change thing that much tougher. The problem is that although there are seasons where things are more difficult/busy than others, there aren't really seasons where things are actually easy. And if they are, they don't last long before another obstacle comes up.

Let's talk about what kind of obstacles come up. They can range from fairly small and just annoying to significant. From least to most significant, here's a non-exhaustive list:

- Friends who like to go out to eat

- Working late - Unexpected plans or visitors

- Families who are not on board with your changes

- Vacation

- Work travel

- Schedule change

- Big life change

So the question becomes: If these obstacles are always a potential interruption, how do we move forward towards our goals?

Plenty of clients and potential clients I have talked with end up feeling resigned that these are their circumstances and they'll never reach their goals. Never lose weight, create a new habit, feel better, cook at home more, etc.

I call BS.

What we do is plan for these obstacles. You aren't psychic so you're not going to know everything that's going to hit you in a given week. Except what I've really learned from doing this for years? The things that come up for us are cyclical. You have the invitation out to happy hour on a weekly basis, you travel for work monthly or quarterly, your schedule is inconsistent or are being asked regularly to work overtime.

I want to take a second and make an important differentiation here. Obstacles come in two forms: Recurring, or out of left field.

Recurring obstacles are the reason that most of us haven't made the type of progress we're looking for. Every time we try, we are foiled by the things that come up for us semi-regularly. Even spontaneity is recurring because it's usually a pattern of spontaneity. You don't have to know all the details to know that something fun is probably going to come up last minute and to plan to get your important things out of the way early so they get done consistently.

For things that are recurring (whether they're on a weekly basis or less frequent but predictable), plan ahead for how you'll handle it when it comes up. GIRL. This is how you hack your life. Look ahead and plan for what might reasonably happen, based on previous weeks. Without this, we are flyyyyying by the seat of our pants every week and are shocked that our meal prep didn't get eaten when everyone asked you to happy hour a few times that week. Most of the things that happen aren't new to us - they happen on a recurring basis! The sooner you learn from the experience you've had in the past and suss out what works and doesn't work, the easier this whole thing is going to be.

Out of left field obstacles are the things that haven't come up for us recently and we genuinely didn't expect. Your co-worker quitting and leaving the responsibility to you to do their job on top of yours, random business travel or a friend surprising you from out of town are all things you can't plan for ahead of time because again, you're not psychic.

These are a little less straightforward than the recurring obstacles because they usually differ in exact situation, but the strategy is still extremely similar: figure out the characteristics of this situation that make it challenging (routine change, lack of control over food/exercise, etc.) and mentally file it away. Then figure out what works/doesn't work to help that situation. The goal is to create a mental library of options when something goes awry with similar characteristics - you'll be able to draw back on that time you were asked to travel last minute from work and had no control over your food choices or routine.

Put simply, obstacles become excuses when you don't learn from them, and let them be a reason you're not doing something when they've already happened once or twice. For example, if you say that working overtime is your obstacle but work overtime each week or several times a month, that's now an excuse and not just an obstacle. But if you were to create a plan and even to lower your standards during those times you can still make progress and it's no longer an excuse!

To sum it all up, learning from your experiences is the best (and only) way to overcome the obstacles that threaten to stop our healthy habits in our tracks. Without doing that, you'll be stuck in the same cycle. You have the power to take control, so do it this week!

xo, Corin Groustra

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