Facing Obstacles on the Way to Change

We’ve decided it’s time to make a change in some area of our life. It’s something we have considered for quite some time and have reached the point when the benefits of change outweigh any reasons to keep doing a particular behavior. We’re nervous about this new habit and at the same time, we’re motivated- even excited- about what’s to come. We try it out, it goes pretty well and then wham! We’re hit with some sort of challenge, an unpredicted turn of events that suddenly makes this change in routine much harder. Sound familiar?

I see it all the time in my practice- a client who has thoughtfully created a plan to work out three days a week and then… their child is sick at home and they can’t get to the gym, a client who has decided to leave their job and then… their spouse gets laid off and the family is depending on their income, or a client who desperately wants connection in their new community but… the fear of past rejection prevents them from joining a group. Obstacles are a normal part of the process of change.

When our kids were very young, we read the book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, at least a million times. It is a story about a dad, his 3 young children and baby, and their dog going on a bear hunt. Along the way, they encounter a variety of difficulties- long, wavy grass, a deep, cold river, thick, oozy mud, a big, dark forest, and a swirling, whirling snowstorm- and with each complication there is rhythmic repetition of lines:

We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no, we have to go through it!

This refrain often comes to mind when my clients and I co-create strategies to address their obstacles. The truth is that there are obstacles to be found on any journey, however smooth the road ahead appears. Often times we try to circumvent the barriers and perhaps pretend they don’t exist, but like the children in the story, eventually, we need to face them.

So, how do we meet the obstacles and challenges we face on our wellness journey? Sometimes it requires flexibility in our thinking- getting out of the mindset that there is only one way to do something. Sometimes it involves reframing the situation and approaching it with a fresh lens. And sometimes, it requires taking the first small step.

The client with the sick child decided she could use a fitness app at home and invited a friend over to have her own “class.” The client whose spouse got laid off right before he was going to make a job change, explored options within his current company and the client who wanted connection with others but was afraid of putting herself out there, decided to volunteer for events at her child’s school. They each faced their obstacles and in turn, gained confidence to meet other challenges they might encounter on their way to change.