Categorizing barriers into one of three buckets–excuses, challenges, and real–can help you remove them by applying an appropriate strategy.
Barriers are the things that get in the way when you try to do something different, such as put away your phone an hour before bedtime.
They prevent you from creating lasting change because they interrupt your rhythm. Barriers are what prevents new behaviors from becoming part of your life (i.e. habits).
If you’re hit with enough barriers in a short period of time and are unable to overcome them, then you may even start to backslide into old, less desirable habits.
Today I’d like to share a strategy I learned about removing barriers*.
I’ll use three, real-life scenarios to illustrate the different ways to categorize barriers, which can help you decide how best to remove them (whenever possible). All three of these scenarios happened to me personally in the last week!
Scenario 1: Yoga Class in a Construction Zone
Let’s say you enjoy practicing yoga. You know it helps you work all the major muscle groups in your body and clears the chatter from your mind. You’re scheduled to take an online class with one of your favorite instructors at 7 am.
But this morning when you look out your window, there’s a backhoe backing up with that shrill “beep-beep-beep” warning sound. The gas company is replacing the 100 year old piping infrastructure on your street.
Unfortunately, your peaceful yoga spot is directly at the place where the work crew is jackhammering.
The Excuse Requires Re-framing
Scenario 1 describes my favorite kind of barrier: the excuse. (I might have first run into this in one of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books.)
You might say, “I’m not going to find any peace trying to take this yoga class while all this construction is going on outside. It will be impossible to concentrate. Forget it.”
This happens so, so often!
While it’s true that the construction is a barrier to having the kind of experience you’ve come to expect as part of your yoga class, not doing the class because of it is a flat out excuse.
Most excuses are really challenges to overcome. We need to re-frame them as such.
Scenario 2: The Junk Food Up-sell
Perhaps over the past few years, you got into the habit of grocery shopping online.
As part of your weekly shop, you take a final look at your cart. You notice that it’s filled with lots of high quality, healthy foods, including organic vegetables and fruits.
But as you’re checking out, the site asks, “did you forget?”, and displays some other products, including Oreo cookies.
The Challenge Requires an Amazing Dream
This scenario describes a challenge to be overcome, in the form of a temptation. (Of course, not all challenges are this subtle.)
When faced with the junk food up-sell, your mind might start to make all sorts of rationalizations about why one treat won’t hurt you. Your mind may try to convince you that you’ve been so good and you deserve a little something. You’ll tuck those cookies away in the cabinet and only have one once and awhile.
The way to remove barriers that are challenges is to have an amazing dream. Meaning, have a compelling vision of yourself that includes how you behave and how you make choices. Be clear about why that’s important to you.
For example, having cookies could certainly be pleasurable. And, imagining yourself eating in a way that reduces inflammation means your whole body feels comfortable: young, mobile, and supple.
You can feel yourself playing with your kids without the joint pain and stiffness that you’ve been attributing to “getting old” (which doesn’t help your mood much either!).
Scenario 3: April Showers Bring Unused Sneakers
You’ve been reminded that the recommended amount of aerobic activity for adults is 150 minutes / week. The weather has been improving, and so you schedule several walks outside into your schedule this week.
Unfortunately, you missed your first scheduled walk due to rain. Now it appears as though April showers will be here all week.
The Real Barrier Requires Adapting
This scenario illustrates a real, legitimate barrier. It’s a fact that it’s raining, and the weather is outside your control.
Depending on your temperament (and the intensity of the rain), you could view this barrier as a challenge. In other words, you could put on a slicker or grab an umbrella and your shiny rain boots and go anyway. But if there’s a monsoon or thunderstorm outside, that’s not safe nor wise. The barrier is real.
In this case, the way forward isn’t necessarily about removing the barrier. It’s about adapting to the situation.
For our walker, that could be switching the planned aerobic activity to an indoor exercise bike for this week. It could be throwing on some tunes and dancing around while cleaning the house. It could be finding a kickboxing class on one of her streaming channels to experiment with, for occasions such as this.
Returning to our excuse-maker in Scenario 1 for a moment, moving the yoga practice to a quieter space in the house could be a way to adapt. So could taking an extra 5 minutes to pull down the shades and switch the class audio to earbuds!
Learning to Remove Barriers Improves Skill
As you’re categorizing and removing barriers, you’ll also be improving skills that can make future barriers less difficult.
For example, as you become more mindful of your excuses, you’ll become more honest with yourself. This requires courage or bravery, as well as compassion (so you don’t spend unnecessary energy beating yourself up).
The table below captures the top 3 skills you’ll build while removing your barriers:
|When the barrier is an . . .||Address it by . . .||Skills this requires include . . .|
|Excuse||Re-framing||Honesty, bravery, compassion|
|Challenge||Having an Amazing Dream||Imaginative, curious, reflective|
|Real||Adapting||Flexibility, creativity, resourcefulness|
Categorizing barriers into one of three buckets—excuses, challenges, and real—can help you remove them by applying an appropriate strategy.
With practice, you’ll also develop skills that can help reduce the number and intensity of future barriers. This will help you create lasting change with less discipline and more ease.