The two steps you must take to tackle any challenge life throws your way

We set a goal to be more active. We make a plan to make it happen. We just get started and then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, life happens.

We get overwhelmed at work. We catch a cold or flu. A snowbomb goes off and we feel like curling up into a ball until the end of time. Somehow, even though things inevitably come up, it’s easy to underestimate the challenges life will throw our way.

A better approach is to try to anticipate what obstacles will pop up on our way to achieving our goals and to develop strategies for how we’ll overcome them. It’s a hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst type of situation.

Life’s Biggest Battles

Though they’re easy to underestimate, the obstacles to moving more aren’t hard to predict. Some vary from person to person and situation to situation, of course, but the big ones are pretty universal—they come up again and again.

The top three include: not enough time, it’s inconvenient, and a lack of motivation.

And the top ten is typically rounded out by things like:

  • lacking confidence in ability
  • fear of getting hurt or injured
  • not enough energy
  • lack of skills, like goalsetting and staying on track
  • exercise is too boring or unenjoyable
  • lack of support and encouragement from friends and family 
  • it’s too expensive

Do any of these obstacles sound familiar? How many have you ran into before?

Likely you’ll identify with some a lot more than others, or perhaps with just one big one in particular. Depending on who we are and where we’re at, different barriers are bigger for different people.

But there’s something comforting about knowing that other people are struggling with similar challenges. We’re not alone. If you’ve struggled to find the time, or motivation, or confidence, it’s likely that a lot of other people have too.

That’s why it’s important to share our triumphs AND our struggles. When we make progress, it’s awesome to share it with those around us because they’re likely struggling with a different version of the same problem, or have in the past, or will in the future. We can help support each other tackle similar challenges.

Which is exactly what the rest of this post will focus on—the steps you can take to overcome any obstacle life throws your way.

Step 1: Increase Your Confidence and Motivation

To overcome an obstacle, you have to be confident that you can and motivated to do so.

When we’re lacking confidence and motivation, obstacles grow in size until they seem impossible to tackle. On the flipside, by increasing our confidence and motivation, we can shrink them back down.

Some confidence-boosting tips:

  • Remember past successes and times that you overcame obstacles that once seemed insurmountable. You’ve accomplished big things before and you will again.
  • Focus on achieving and celebrating small wins. We feel more confident when we take action and accomplish things. Every time you get better at something, try to let it sink in. You’re making progress. No matter how small it might seem at the time, focus on these moments of progress and use them to grow your confidence.
  • Think about people you know who’ve succeeded in similar circumstances. When you see people just like you achieving their goals, it can help boost your confidence that you can do the same.
  • Get support from your friends, family, colleagues, social media acquaintances, anyone and everyone. When people tell us we can do it, we believe them.
  • Be mindful of your mood. Often when we think we can’t overcome an obstacle, we’re really just in a bad mood or feeling down. But the opposite is also true—when we’re feeling good, we’re more confident that we can do anything. So, go for a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, do whatever you can to boost your mood and your confidence will likely follow along.  

Some motivational tips include:

  • Eat well. Here at ParticipACTION we don’t pretend to be nutrition experts, but what you eat matters to your motivation. If you eat junk and feel like junk, you’re not going to want to move. Fuel your movement with good nutrition. 
  • Sleep well. According to the Canadian Sleep Society, you need 7.5 to 8 hours of good quality sleep to have enough energy to move. When your sleep is on point, you increase your chances of feeling motivated. So, turn off your screens an hour before bed, keep them out of your bedroom, and try to stick to a relaxing, consistent routine even on weekends.
  • Stay hydrated! When you don’t drink enough water, your energy levels suffer.
  • Focus on what you can control! Don’t dwell on the things you can’t. 
  • Start with the smallest possible thing. Not motivated to go for an hour jog? Try a 5minute walk at first.
  • Have fun! The more fun you’re having, the more motivated you’ll feel. Don’t force yourself to do things that feel like bores or chores.

(To learn more about motivation, you can also check out this post about asking questions to discover a deeper reason to move or this post on tips for making motivation last.)

Once you feel confident about tackling your challenges and motivated to persevere, finding ways to keep going should get easier.

Step 2: Make a plan that’s grounded in real life.

The next step is revisiting your plan with your barriers in mind. The more realistic your plan, the more likely you’ll be able to stick with it.

It’s easier said than done, but try to resist creating a plan “in an ideal world.” Goals and actions and progress take place in real life, so try to keep that in mind every step of the way.

Think about when you’ll be tired and when you’ll feel most stressed. Try to think about what other priorities might get in the way and how much time you can realistically commit to your goal each day. Brainstorm things that have held you back or thrown you off track in the past.

Then, figure out strategies that work for you. Maybe it’s about planning your movement around your energy levels, or working out on weekends when your schedule is less hectic. It could be about figuring out how to move at home instead of having to go to a distant gym or yoga studio. Or perhaps it’s as simple as packing your gym bag each night because you never have time in the morning.

Obviously, you can never plan for everything. But try to figure out what problems you’ll likely face and what solutions will work best for you. The more realistic, the better.

The Biggest Thing

Of course, no matter how confident we are, how motivated we feel, and how good we plan, something will come up. Life will throw us off track.

But the biggest thing is recognizing that that’s absolutely okay. No amount of guilt or shame is going to change the fact that making movement a habit is hard.

Don’t get down on yourself if some days it feels like a struggle. Failing means you’re trying. Obstacles are opportunities to grow. The struggle makes us stronger.

Just keep going. Keep starting. Keep moving. Keep getting better and trying and pushing.

Because if you do, you’ll be able to overcome anything.