An idea for gently getting "unstuck"
Laying down our old goals & attempting something new.
It sounds silly to admit out loud, but for years I let myself be frozen in building healthy eating & consistent exercise habits as an adult.
At some point, I decided I shouldn’t attempt mastering anything new until I was competent at achieving the basics. It sounds kind of wise, doesn’t it?
However, as a result of this black and white thinking, I rarely attempted to exercise, eat well, or even stretch. All of this happened because I decided I wasn’t going to move forward with new goals until I mastered the ability to consistently drink eight glasses of water each day.
Finally, I realized this approach was self-defeating and even a little lazy.
Instead of waiting, I gave myself permission to “fail” at the water goal and I moved onto other goals.
With the help of an accountability partner, I turned my attention to more frequent stretching, completing my daily physical therapy, eating vegetables that weren’t carrots (gasp!), and even doing some consistent cardio.
After experiencing some success with a number of healthy habits, I eventually returned to trying to hit my daily water drinking goal. Except, this time, I began with renewed confidence. I possessed new skills to create healthy eating habits and fitness routines that were both gentle and challenging.
Within a few weeks, I was regularly drinking 8 glasses of water a day. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was boring for my taste buds. Yes, it was tedious. Yes, I frequently wake to pee in the night. There were days I didn’t hit the goal and days I totally forgot to try.
But, mostly, I regularly drank more water than I had in my entire life. I was shocked, delighted and frustrated that I hadn’t “quit” sooner.
As I reflected on this liberating experience, I realized that this was a pattern across multiple areas of my life. I frequently choose to stay in stuck-ness, because there’s was certain entry-level milestone or basic task that I couldn’t muster the energy or skill to complete. Time after time, I refused to accept my failure and attempt another habit or project.
Eventually, I had a second realization about my situation. When I refused to move forward, I was accidentally create a comfortable excuse for avoiding progress in all other areas. For example, what’s harder, drinking water or working out? Whoops. I made the “easy” thing a stumbling block and an excuse!
Currently, I’m calling these little areas of self-created stuckness “water problems.” I’m still looking for other times and places where I’ve done this with other well-meaning projects. Here’s a few more examples that might illustrate the idea of a “water problem” — that’s become a convenient excuse:
“I’ll never be able to save for a vacation, because I always go over budget on my groceries.” (Groceries are the water problem, I could pull money from the clothing budget for the groceries overage, not just from the vacation fund.)
“I’ll never have a good marriage, because we don’t do a regular date night.” (Date night is the water problem. I could practice speaking kind words, instead of wishing for a weekly date.)
“I’ll never see my adult friends, because my kids evenings are too sporadic.” (Kids evenings are the water problem. I could plan two nights a month and miss their evening routine.)
“I’ll never be able to memorize bible verses, because I still can’t remember John 3:16.” (John 3:16 is the water problem. Choosing to try memorizing new verse might be a solution.)
“I can’t start a new prayer journal, because I haven’t finished the bible study I started last spring.” (The old bible study is the water problem. Starting the new prayer journal might be new habit to try.)
“I can’t volunteer at my church, because I don’t participate in a small group yet.” (The small group is the water problem. Volunteering at the church might be a new solution.)
Hopefully, these examples generate some ideas of places where this feeling of stuckness could be happening in your own life! I’m still slowly searching for other hidden places in my life where I’ve created my own “water problems.” Thankfully, I’m more equipped to move on more quickly. My new pattern now looks a bit more like this:
Look for an area of long-time failure
Give myself permission to “quit” and try something entirely new
Learn and grow
Decide if I need to return the old goal at all
Return to the old goal, with new confidence and skills
A small change
Previously, I offered up a series of questions to you at the end of these reflections at the end of the month. This time, I decided to change it up and send you this note on the first of the month.
Now, instead of looking backward together we can reflect and make changes together for the new month — we’re looking back and looking forward!
Your Turn …
Can you see yourself in my story? Is there a “good goal” that’s become a convenient excuse? What would it feel like to consider setting that goal aside for a time? Are you open to that idea? If yes, what live-giving alternative would you work toward instead?