When we allow our dreams to expand outside our comfort zone, it can feel downright uncomfortable and overwhelming, as all sorts of real or imagined self-induced barriers arise. We may need to wade through a barrage of obstacles on our way to attainment of our dreams—from well-meaning folks with divergent advice to those not-as-well-meaning attempting to dissuade us to those who believe we’ve lost our minds for even trying. Of course, the loudest, most obnoxious voice asserting the countless reasons why we should not even bother can be the one in our very own head. When we learn to expect, recognize, and accept the appearance of those barriers, we position ourselves in a place of empowerment to continue on in spite of them. Take Samantha, for example. Though she had never run more than a neighborhood block in her life, she dreamed of running a 5K race with her girlfriends. The following are some impediments she finds herself up against (and how she successfully addresses them):
Physical. As Samantha starts training (a bit too zealously at first), she begins to suffer from uncomfortable shin splints.
The antidote: Rather than falling to her knees, silently thanking the running gods for an excuse to bail out, Samantha continues to build fitness with cross-training (biking and yoga) until she is able to lace up those running shoes and get out there pain-free once again.
Logistical. Working a forty-plus-hour week, raising kids, and helping run a household leaves little time for exercise.
The antidote: Each Friday, Samantha schedules in her training for the week, reminding herself that even short, consistent exercise sessions are much better than none at all. This consists of everything from a brisk twenty-minute lunchtime walk at work to waking fifteen minutes early to get in some yoga, to an impromptu flag football game in the park with her children.
Psychological. As a child, Samantha was told by more than one adult that she was not the athletic type. She naively, but understandably, bought into that subjective judgment, internalized it, and has doubted her capacity to be a runner ever since. Negative self-talk such as, “I can’t . . .” or “I’m not [fill in the blank] enough,” are common and persuasive.
The antidote: Samantha searches for evidence that she is indeed athletic, breaks goals down into manageable micro-action steps (running a half mile without stopping), offers herself tons of high fives, and proudly shares her continuous effort and progress with family and friends. She also remains vigilant for those limiting beliefs, shifting them into positive self-affirmations by both faking it until she becomes it and with consistent I can, I will statements. Eventually, Samantha starts to believe it and become it, successfully completing her first 5K race.
So, whether your dream consists of a lofty career goal, the adoption of a simple healthy habit, or a long-held personally fulfilling objective, be sure to use the Why Not Me? Mindful Break to head off those limiting beliefs at the pass.
Why Not Me? Mindful Break:
Imagine I am sitting down across from you, looking straight into your eyes, kindly but firmly inquiring: Why not you? In other words, I believe in you.
Identify the barriers. What are your perceived physical, logistical, and psychological limitations? Are there any others standing in your way?
Is this limiting belief a thought or a fact?
Decide how you will address or work around each of them. It may be helpful to enlist a trusted friend to assist you.
Consider what your dream or goal might look like if it were easy. Hang on to that vision of possibility in moments of struggle.
What would you do if you knew you would succeed?
What’s the worst that can happen if you try? What’s the best-case scenario? What about something in between?
When we learn to expect resistance and obstacles on the way to reaching our goals, we can outsmart our own limiting beliefs, potential distractions, overwhelm, and fear of failure (or of success). The self-doubt and fear can chatter on all it wants. Ultimately it is you who gets to choose whether or not you believe it. So, let’s try that again: Why not you?
Excerpted from Breathe, Empower, Achieve: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Women Who Do it All (The Experiment Publishing, 2019).