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Getting out of our own way

Lots of people will trip us up, making it more challenging to reach our goals, or creating obstacles which can derail us for a bit.

But the far greater likelihood is that we stand in our own way.

We’re not trying to do it - we do earnestly want the change or results we claim to want… most of the time, at least. But it’s often our own habits and beliefs that force the train off the tracks, or lie down like a suicidal maiden and block forward movement. 

I could write a whole series about the ways we self-sabotage and the reasons why, but for now, I’d like to focus on action. What do you DO about it? How do you get out of your own way?

First, it’s necessary to do some self-analysis.  Take time to honestly reflect on where you are vs where you want to be.  If you’re the analytical type - create these as columns on a piece of paper, and add a third column labeled “blockers.”

If you’re an artist or doodler, draw your dreams and realities, with some space in between to contemplate your pathway. Committing it to paper makes it easier for you to cultivate some distance and see patterns more clearly, and getting it “out of your head” is a very important part of the process.

Many people get stuck on the goal part of the equation. If you are unsure of the destination, focus on the journey. Define your trajectory by thinking about who you want to be or how you want to go through life.  Focusing on being the best version of yourself sets you on a higher path. The journey is usually more important than the actual goal, and it’s also under more of our own control.  

When you’ve defined where you are today and your ideal self or a future ideal state - it’s easier to ask yourself what is standing in the way of realizing the ideal. Do you have skills and means, but too much self-doubt? Is there something you fear? Failure? Or perhaps success? Are you striving for unattainable perfection, or stuck ruminating about past events?  What deeply-held beliefs do you have about yourself that are slowly turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy?

These blockers are the targets of change. Once you have a sense of a few of those, here are some things you might want to try as you work to change them or diminish their power over you:

  1. Recognize what you’re getting out of bad habits. We might label a habit as negative, but if there’s something you're trying to change and struggling to do so, there’s clearly some way you’re benefiting by not changing.  Stress eating is helping us manage our emotions around stress, even as it has other consequences.  Putting other people before yourself to the point of risking our health or happiness helps us feel important or needed.  Recognize what you are getting out of seemingly negative behaviors and find some alternative ways of getting those needs met if you want to change.
  2. Find good substitutes. Don’t expect to just quit something without finding something that replaces the negative behavior. Deprivation alone usually doesn’t work for long. Instead, find a healthier substitute for the thing you want to change.  When people quit smoking, they take up chewing gum, engage in mindful breathing or march in place. If you are engaging in relationships that aren’t healthy because they bring you a sense of purpose, how else can you find that purpose? What are some things that serve the same function of your behavior but promote growth rather than hold you back? Again… use your columns or your doodles to document.
  3. Nurture your strengths.  It’s easy to focus on what we want gone, but if we nurture and empower the things we like about ourselves - right now - other types of change become easier. If you haven’t already taken stock of what is good that you want to give free rein, add that to your written record. Give yourself permission to claim those and be proud of them - don’t be afraid to shine! If you are unsure how to nurture them, ask people you trust to help. (Ask a Plum!)
  4. Be willing to prioritize yourself. It's going to be hard to get traction on change unless you're willing to let yourself be important. Many women prioritize taking care of others, and this failure to grant sufficient time to your own importance is often a blocker in and of itself. You are the only version of you, and you deserve to be first at times
  5. Make self-care essential. At the bottom of almost every “advice” list for women is self-care, but it isn’t just something we say to cover our bases. Taking better care of yourself is a facilitator like no other. How will you have the energy to do things that are hard if you don’t have enough sleep, or you’re emotionally spent? Choosing to take care of yourself can feel like an act of defiance, but you need to see it as the thing that will give you the energy and clarity to do everything else. 
  6. Risk challenging your beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs usually end up as self-fulfilling prophecies. Lack of confidence makes us procrastinate, which then undermines our journey. When we believe what we fear, it becomes true. This might grant a strange “see, I knew this wouldn’t work” sort of satisfaction, but it doesn’t get us what we want.  Take a risk to believe in your greatness.
  7. Be OK with failure. Change in your Plum years isn’t for the faint of heart, especially after many years of entrenched patterns. You might not succeed at first - and you need to be ok with that. Try again. To evoke a sports analogy: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.  If you try and you are only partially successful, that’s more change than you would have achieved if you didn’t take the shot.
  8. Ask for support and accountability. Taking on the risk to make changes and show the world who you really are can be scary, and there is strength in sharing your intentions with others and asking for help. Friends, therapists, loved ones and even fellow Plums can lend perspective, ideas and support, serving as a source of encouragement and accountability. 

Let us know what you want to accomplish and how we can be of help. Getting out of your own way is fundamentally YOUR task, but there’s an orchard of help available… all you have to do is ask.

- Dr. Jill