In December I made a commitment to regain muscle mass I had lost over the years. I chose the Happy Body Program. There are quite a few podcasts that talk about my progress. It was exciting in the first six weeks to drop from 28% body fat to 23%. However, now, the honeymoon is over. I know the exercises, have reached my ideal body weight, and have a good routine established. It will be many more months to get my muscle mass increased to ideal and then after that I continue with a daily practice for life to maintain my strength. The excitement is gone. This has got me thinking about the five universal obstacles to change. I desire to continue with the Happy Body exercises with ease and joy and I fear they will end up being a chore and I may just drop them. Yikes! I need a surefire way to keep up the excitement with ease.
I remember first learning the obstacles I will share next and the simple solutions or antidotes. They were originally taught to me as the five obstacles to meditation and attributed to the Buddha. They seemed so simple, yet I could really appreciate how they summed up the problems that arise when we attempt to add something new to our lives or create positive change. What most impressed me about the teaching was that the solutions were very simple and, in my experience, effective.
The five obstacles are:
- Not wanting to do it (aka laziness)
- Attraction to other things like drug of choice or other things that don’t really get you the change you said you desired.
- Resentments, ill will, aversions
- Worry, restlessness, distractions
Doubt can take two forms. First, it can be doubt as to whether what you are going to do is possible. For instance, is never getting angry really possible? Or,is it possible to stop the constant chatter of the mind. Is it possible to be healthy and only 13% body fat. Does this method I am considering really work? Or is someone just after my money. Is it really possible for someone to start their own business and succeed? Can I get ahead in life without lying or cheating? If I give money away, will I have enough money? You get the idea. Is what you desire possible? You can’t really stick with something long if you are not sure it will work.
Second, one can have doubt regarding their personal capabilities. For instance, you might know that a method has worked for others, but wonder if it will work for you? Other people may have stopped the stream of constant mind chatter, but maybe they are special. You may wonder if you are capable of doing it too? Or, others are successful at business, but maybe I do not have what it takes. Being unsure you can do it often stops people from even attempting to do it. It is a serious obstacle.
The remedy for doubt is to get more information. Read about what you are going to do. Talk to people that are doing it and/or have done it. Try it as an experiment to see if it might work. You want to thoroughly check out any method you might want to use. Find people that have used it and check out the results they got. This method of investigation will allow you to become convinced that it works.
At the same time, consider other options. Is there a better method for you? Can you adapt the method to fit your personal style? And most importantly consider what happens if you don’t do it? How will your life be? Even if the method doesn’t deliver 100% will your life be better if you go for it?
NOT WANTING TO DO IT
The next obstacle is just not wanting to do it. Sometimes this is translated as laziness. I have a clear personal example of what this obstacle looks like.
I have a history of compulsive eating. At one point I was in a 12-step program to help me deal with my eating disorder. There was one point where I started overeating again. I didn’t want the results. I knew the program had all these wonderful tools I could use that were designed to stop my overeating. I could journal, call other people, plan my food, read literature, etc. I just didn’t want to do any of them. They all seemed like too much effort. I was in the obstacle of just not wanting to do it. I wouldn’t have called it “laziness”. I was doing lots of other things, but I was not interested using the tools of the program. I didn’t have any doubt that if I put in the effort I could arrest my overeating. I just didn’t want to. Finally, I thought of something I could do that felt effortless. One of the tools was going to meetings. That seemed really passive to me. I could go, sit, listen and leave. All without trying to pressure myself to stop eating too much. It felt really easy and I decided to do 90 meetings in 90 days. I did some of the meeting online, so I didn’t even need to go out sometimes. Anyway, by the end of the 90 days I was not overeating anymore.
Just like for the obstacle of doubt, considering other options is a good antidote for not wanting to do what would ultimately be for your highest good. If you want to be healthy, but keep eating food that makes you fat or sick then you encountering the obstacle of “laziness”. The antidote is to contemplate what you really want in your life. Think about what will happen if you get what you want as compared to the result if you don’t make the change. When it comes to healthy eating think about being vibrant in your later years as opposed to having a stroke, heart attack and lying in bed recuperating.
If you simply don’t want to do it, after you have considered what happens when you don’t do it, you may be able to come up with one small positive step towards your goal. For me I was unwilling to control my food or take any action that felt like I would need to commit to eating a certain way. However, I was willing to put myself in an environment of people committed to eating well and somehow the desire arose in me to eat well. I just wanted to.
Another good story about how a small choice in the direction we would like to go can change everything is Cindy’s story in my book, Developing Awareness. In the chapter, Meeting People Where They Are”, Cindy, unable to care for her teeth and at risk of losing them, was able to change everything when she determined she was willing to floss the easy front teeth.
ATTRACTION TO OTHER THINGS
This obstacle is similar to the previous. Maybe we would like to do our program for change, but we want to do something else more. Maybe we want to be 20% body fat, but we want that birthday cake more. Maybe we want to be refreshed in the morning for work, but we want to watch that late night movie more. Maybe we want to exercise, but we want to lie in bed more. Maybe we want a good relationship, but we enjoy thinking bad things about our partner.
In this obstacle we start focusing on what we don’t want. Maybe we desire a strong body, but we don’t want to exercise in the cold or rain or too hard or … you get the idea. We have an aversion to part of the practice. We don’t like the food we have to eat, or the work we have to do, or what we have to give up. We resent our choice and we resist part of it. This, ultimately will lead us to stopping the practice.
In meditation, the distractions that arise are simply thoughts that keep our mind in the future or past instead of in the moment. Maybe we are thinking about what to eat next or what happened yesterday. We may be planning or we maybe reliving a past event. These are all distractions for meditation.
In terms of making a positive change, a distraction is getting swept up by the day’s activities and forgetting to do the activity that will create the positive change. Maybe you leave the house without food planned and you end up somewhere hungry without good choices. Or maybe your day was so full you forgot to leave time to exercise. Sometimes we just forget to reflect on our life and choices and get swept along in habitual patterns of reacting.
The remedies for the last three obstacles are quite similar to the first two remedies. While all five obstacles are different, the solutions are really the same. It is all about focusing on what you desire and what will bring you what you want and turning your back on the activities and things that will not bring you what you want. Keep your resolve strengthened by contact with people with similar goals and by reading about what you desire to achieve and people achieving it.
I was once living with a teenager and we were studying internal martial arts. I always just pushed myself to practice even if I didn’t want to. He was an example of more skillful means. He would turn to YouTube first and watch master martial artists. It didn’t take long before he was inspired to practice. This is certainly a good way of applying an antidote to not wanting to do it, and the other obstacles.
Finally, be gentle with yourself. Sometimes knowing is not the same as doing. We are not our subconscious mind, but the habits and beliefs that reside in our subconscious are influencing everything we do. Part of the path is loving ourselves without judgment. We move to take right action without making anyone or anything wrong – including ourselves. If what we know would be best, is outside our capabilities, then it is not the best action. Choose something that takes less effort and is pointed in the direction you would like to go. Each day affirm your commitment to positive change. Listen to an inspiring podcast or YouTube video or take any action you know that will get you excited. Then end each day rejoicing about what you were able to do for yourself.
If you have enjoyed this podcast take a moment to give it a five star review in iTunes. If you are feeling stuck and would like to have a session with me visit my website at changeanythingnow.com to find out more. Sessions for this podcast I do for free. How does it get better than that?
Cheery Monday by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Podcast: Copyright 2018 Dorena Rode – All Rights Reserved