Is the fear of failure or difficulty stopping you from achieving your goals? You want to start a new career, but hesitate to take such a big risk. You want to lose weight but don’t think you can bear to turn down that slice of cake. You want to travel the world, but are too intimidated to go alone. You really want to achieve these goals but your brain keeps throwing up obstacles. It’s scared that the action required will be too hard.
I recently encountered an elderly patient who needed physiotherapy to help get her walking after surgery. Every day she would lament how hard it was. She didn’t think she would ever be strong enough to walk again. Physically her body was capable, but her mind was rebelling against this challenge by trying to convince her to give up before she had even started. Maybe you’re thinking that she is just weak, or lazy? You would never do that? Actually this is a completely normal and extremely common thought process. It’s known as the principle of least effort. Your brain works the same way as water running down a mountain. It takes the easiest path. But sometimes that path doesn’t lead us where we want to go.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Firstly, I want you to know that you can achieve absolutely anything you set your mind to. You don’t have to be super human to overcome these mental barriers. Teaching your brain a slightly different approach may allow you take the first steps.
Most importantly, stop telling yourself what you cannot do! Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you will be right. Self-fulfilling prophecy is very powerful. The stories you tell yourself matter tremendously and it is all too common for us to focus on our perceived inadequacies.
Recent studies suggest that self-compassion is more important to emotional health than self-esteem. Everybody fails. Everybody has things they struggle with. Instead focus on what you ARE capable of and your ability to improve.
Next, understand that it’s ok for things to be difficult. If you’re not being challenged, then you’re probably not getting the growth your aiming for. The easy and painless path is rarely rewarding. Things become easy only once we have the skills needed to succeed. Adaptation demands difficulty. Adaptation is a mental or physical change that makes the task easier – which is exactly what your brain wants! The principle of least effort strikes again! Except now your brain is working towards your goals instead of giving you reasons to quit. By embracing instead of avoiding difficulty, we gain opportunity. The opportunity to achieve anything your heart desires.
I am proud of many things I’ve achieved in my life, however none of them were easy. They were terrifying, exhausting, painful and often all of the above. It was hard to leave Australia and compete overseas. I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. It was painful every time I left my family. But I’m so glad that I worked through my fears, because I grew so much as a person. I gained resilience and began to understand what I was truly capable of. The only way to grow is to make it though difficulty. And when you do finally succeed, there will be new challenges. The more you challenge yourself – the more you will be capable of taking on.
You can break through any excuse when you are willing to embrace difficulty. Focus on your capabilities rather than the obstacles. Be prepared to work through things that are hard. Sometimes it sucks! Absolutely. I can only reassure you that you will be capable of much more than you imagined.