Lately, I’ve been hearing about barriers. Barriers to accomplishing a desired goal. Barriers to trying something different. Barriers to fixing a problem that seems worse than the path to fixing it. These barriers are presented with a wistful, resigned tone. “Sigh…I would but I can’t because…”
I’m not talking about the stuff that won’t happen because it isn’t priority. I mean, I’ll never be a great golfer for a bigger reason than lack of aptitude, and boy do I lack the fine motor skills and natural wrist strength that seem to make a natural golfer. No, I’ll never be a great golfer mostly because I lack the willingness to work at it. It’s just not a priority. Tennis is another example. I think I might have more natural skill for that sport, but I won’t be good at it because I choose to put my energy into other things. We all have things that we don’t care to be good at, or wouldn’t mind being good at but know that other things are more important to us. These aren’t what I’m talking about.
When I talk about false barriers, I’m referring to situations where people have a certain goal and the energy to expend on achieving it, but instead use the energy to invent excuses and obstacles. For example, someone wants to take their triathlon performance to the next level and sees an opportunity to gain from increased bike focus. But wait, can’t ride a bunch in the winter because I don’t like riding in the cold. I’d like to do more trail running, but I lack the ankle strength. I need to improve my bike handling skills but cyclocross is too scary and people will laugh at me because I’m not good at it. I wish I could be in shape like you but I don’t have time to work out. There’s lots more creative iterations, but these are some of the most common that people trip over again and again.
There are innumerable ways to overcome all of these objections, and a plan to address each is an article in itself. With false barriers, though, options aren’t even considered because it’s already been decided that “it can’t be done”. It’s like people are giving themselves permission later to explain why they didn’t meet their goals. Yeah, I didn’t meet my goals because (insert false barrier here). Now, if a certain goal would be nice but not realistic given other priorities in your life, that’s fine. Give yourself permission to set reasonable goals and enjoy achieving them. Don’t resent your other priorities in life– they have great value too. If not, reprioritize. Stop with the excuses.
I guess my unsolicited advice on the topic is this– if you hear yourself presenting a reason why you can’t do something consider if the barrier is real or an overcomable objection. If your barrier can be overcome, consider creating a plan to do just that. Or get help creating a plan to overcome the barrier. It’s an extremely rewarding process. The things I’ve done that are the most rewarding are those that unnerved me, the ones that I had to overcome my false barriers to achieve. These are the things worth doing.