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How to eliminate obstacles that are habit based to move forward with your goals.
A while back, a friend of mine desperately needed to get her life in order. She wanted to finally bite the proverbial bullet and start goal setting. She had mounting debt from some seriously bad decisions in college, she’d been floundering trying to climb the ladder at her job, and she’d been ‘meaning’ to start working out but couldn’t find the time in all the chaos going on with the rest of her life.
So she decided to start a morning routine. She’d read a post about it and how it was the greatest thing to be able to start your day in peace, and get some clarity first thing in the morning. Plus she’d be able to work out before work and thereby had no excuse for not trying to lose those extra twenty pounds that had snuck on the last few years. She was sick of being strangled by her pants.
Her first order of business was getting up earlier. She tried that for a few days, but quickly realized that it was HARD getting up earlier when your body isn’t used to it. Using logic, she decided to go to bed earlier to compensate for the lost hours so she wasn’t in full-on zombie-mode all day–feeling this way gave her even more anxiety anyway since she’d been working so hard to get a promotion.
The thing was, there was always something after work going on with her co-workers. Monday Margaritas. Taco Tuesday. Hump-day Happy Hour. Friday Fajitas. Which meant eating a million calories, drinking way too much, and staying out late enough to give your Mama a heart-attack. And you can guess where this was leading, right? Packing on more pounds AND not being able to get up in the morning.
The thing was, she’d begun a habit. And habits–especially when they have some kind of reward–are HARD to break or change. She desperately wanted to be able to do this morning routine thing. She felt a ton better when she worked out, she was less scatterbrained at work, and she felt like she had clarity again in her goals. Except for the after-work co-worker invites every night. (Obviously she wasn’t married with kids yet. Ha!)
But this habit had become her obstacle in getting her first goal accomplished: a morning routine.
When we have habits like this that are reinforced, it’s a million times harder to change them.
She was being rewarded with eating out, fun with friends, and drinks. That was a super hard thing to say “No” to. But she was committed. And she knew she HAD to find a way to get through this obstacle to move forward with her goals and get her life on track.
One of the best ways to get through a habit-based obstacle like this is to figure out the point at which you’re about to fall into your habit pattern–and instead have an obstacle intervention set up.
If you’ve heard of the WOOP method of goal setting, you may already know where I’m going with this. The WOOP method wasn’t terribly effective for me, simply because it focuses on more emotional and flowy concepts. Don’t get me wrong–I can be super emotional with the best of ’em! But I need something hard and certain in black and white right in front of my face.
The one part of the method from the book that stood out to me, though, was the part on obstacles. One of the techniques for getting around an obstacle is called a WOOP Intervention. This is detailed out in the bookRethinking Positive Thinking, by Gabriele Oettingen.
WOOP Intervention is basically where you print out this little card to carry around with you when you can predict an obstacle for one of your goals. You list the goal, and include what the obstacle is that you can already see coming. Then at the bottom you fill in the blanks so that it reads something like, “When it’s time to _________, and I feel like __________ instead, I will __________.”
You’re making a plan to save yourself from the obstacle. I love this, because I’m so busy and scatterbrained all the time, that if I have an obstacle come up, I go with the easiest solution (which usually ends up costing me money or calories.)
Obstacle Intervention Tips + Tricks
My only hang-up with this is that I would probably forget the card is even on me. However–if I’ve made a plan and written it down, the chances that I’ll remember it are like a million times better. My alternative to that would be to set a reminder. You can actually set location-based reminders now, too. So, for example, if you know you’ll be tempted when you walk into the coffee shop to get a giant sugar-laden bear claw when you really just want sugar-free coffee, your reminder will pop up when you get to the coffee shop location reminding you of a healthy snack instead of that guilt-packed bear claw.
Remember that some obstacles are fears, other obstacles are lack of planning, and others are habit-based. And some obstacles just can’t be avoided. These are usually urgent or emergency situations that come up.
What are some of the obstacles you foresee in your tasks and goals getting done? How have you worked around or through them? Let me know, I love hearing solutions! And if you just need another perspective, shoot me an email!
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