Back in 2008, I faced one of my biggest fears — I went skydiving.
I had made a bucket list of 100 things I wanted to do in my lifetime, and this was one thing I had deliberately not listed (there is no way).
After talking with a few adventurous friends, however, I decided that if I was that afraid of it, it was something I needed to do.
So we all trotted down to the nearest skydiving facility, strapped ourselves to some instructors, and dove headfirst out of an airplane.
(Technically, I didn’t actually jump . . . my instructor, Liam, did. I told him to please not do anything crazy, so of course he did a front flip out of the plane, laughing hysterically.)
As terrifying as that experience was, it was also the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done.
And I’m here to tell you, skydiving was a lot easier than lacing up my shoes and going for a one-mile run when I don’t feel like it.
It’s easier to go with the adrenaline and exhilaration of doing something you think you could never do than it is to overcome inertia and the “I don’t feel like it” state that comes with repeated failures and broken promises to yourself.
And when you generate energy by pushing yourself farther, it’s easy to achieve all the smaller goals you keep setting and never achieving.
The irony is that the less you do, the harder it is to do things. And then you keep setting your bar lower and lower until you sink to a baseline that feels comfortable — and that is far below what you’re actually capable of.
You’re Not Who You Think You Are
This is especially easy to do the older you get, because we all keep buying into the messages that aging brings inevitable changes that prevent us from achieving our best.
Middle age, pregnancy, menopause — we all hear how these life events alter us physically, and not for the best. Then we use them as excuses to not try. (Don’t feel badly because I do it, too.)
Unfortunately, those beliefs become identities that keep us stuck:
- I’m predisposed to being overweight, it’s in my genes.
- I’m menopausal, it’s harder to lose weight because of my hormones.
- I’m a mom, I don’t have time for big goals.
- I’m 50, it’s too late to achieve my dreams.
The tighter you hold to these limiting identities, the less you try. You act according to who you believe yourself to be.
The key to breaking out of this dangerous rut is simple: shake things up and try for something bigger.
The good news is that you don’t have to jump out of an airplane to do it. All you need is to prepare yourself mentally to take more action — and then go take it.
It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are 5 steps to do it:
Visualize your ideal self. You always read about the power of visualization, and that’s because it works.
Go somewhere quiet and daydream about what your most exciting life would look like. What are you doing? Where do you live? What does your body look and feel like?
Don’t limit yourself either. Go there — because the more you can see that life, the easier it is to challenge yourself to do the things it takes to get there.
Question everything. What if none of your limiting beliefs are true? And what if the opposite is more powerful than you can imagine?
What if it’s possible to not just lose weight during menopause, but also get in the best shape of your life? What if it’s possible to not only start a successful business in your 40s or 50s, but also become a millionaire in the process? What if making the time to set and achieve a big goal could actually help make you a better mom?
By the way, all of these things have been achieved by someone else, so why not you? Fun facts: Julia Child didn’t start cooking until she was in her mid-30s, and Vera Wang didn’t make her first wedding dress until she was in her 40s.
Ask yourself the right questions, and question conventional wisdom. Whatever you believe becomes your reality.
Change your language. You have two “selves” competing for your attention: your average self and your ideal self — and sadly, most of us are listening to the former.
It should come as no surprise that these two entities speak differently. Your average self tends to speak in full sentences, whereas your ideal self speaks in three- to five-word phrases. And your average self uses “I” while your ideal self says “You.”
To put it another way, your average self operates in victim mode while your ideal self acts like a coach or a motivational speaker.
For example, your average self may say, “I don’t think I have what it takes,” but your ideal self will say, “You got this.”
Whenever you hear your average self telling you “I don’t feel like it” or “I could never do that,” tune in to your ideal self — and give her some mantras to use. “Just get up and go” or “You can do anything.”
Take action now. Pick something you don’t feel like doing — and go do it. Even if it’s something small, do it now.
Make your bed, unload the dishwasher, fold the laundry, get up and walk around the block, make the phone call, get dinner prepped.
Taking action, any action, blasts away inertia and gives you the boost you need to put your ideal self in the driver’s seat. And consistently doing the small things you don’t feel like doing trains you to be in action-taking mode, which makes it easier to take bigger actions more often.
Double your efforts. Take the max of what you do now and add 10%. Now double it.
Here’s what I mean. I recently decided to challenge myself with my push-up routine. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but a few months ago I could only do 30 push-ups on my knees.
I figured that adding ten pushups would be challenging, so I decided to do 40. Then quickly — without overthinking it — I gave myself a goal of doing 100 push-ups.
Truthfully, I didn’t think I could do it. But I decided that I wasn’t going to get up off the floor until I’d finished. Those 100 push-ups were the ugliest push-ups you’ve ever seen — but I got them done. And now 100 is my new baseline.
If the only greens you eat consist of a side salad with dinner, decide that you’re going to make the whole dinner a salad — then do it for lunch, too. If you want to cut back on drinking, decide to skip wine for a night — then abstain for a week. If all you can do is walk around the block, do it jogging — then set a goal to do a one-mile run.
The point isn’t to get into an all-or-nothing mindset. It’s to challenge yourself to see what you’re capable of. Even if you don’t make it to your big goal, you can be sure that you’ll easily achieve the smaller one just by getting in the game and going for it.
Bonus points: Do one thing that truly scares you or puts you way outside your comfort zone.
Volunteer to speak somewhere or join your local Toastmasters. Write something and publish it online. Have that conversation you’ve been putting off. Sign up for an endurance event. Take a trip by yourself.
Now you’re talking!
What Are You Capable of?
There’s tremendous wisdom in making incremental progress, because baby steps count and they add up fast. But it’s critical that you throw off your cozy security blanket and see what you’re made of.
If you always let yourself off the hook when you don’t feel like it, you’re on a downhill slide into that dangerous rut. The reason I call it “dangerous” is because if you stay in it, you will doom yourself to a life lived far below your true capabilities.
Who do you think you are? The more you stretch yourself, the more you become someone you didn’t think you could be.
The day I went skydiving, I created a new identity for myself. I became someone who felt fear and walked straight into it. I became unstoppable. I knew that if I could jump out of an airplane (albeit strapped to someone who made the leap for me), I could do anything.
You get one life, and you get one choice. Are you going to stay in your comfortable chair with a remote control in your hand, or are you going to stand up and walk out the door and see what’s possible?
We’re all afraid that we don’t have what it takes. But my biggest fear isn’t failing — it’s being on my deathbed, knowing I didn’t try.
You owe it to yourself to see what you’re capable of in this life. And I can promise you that spending it trying to lose the same ten pounds will keep you from doing it.
But once you start working toward your potential by raising your bar higher, and then higher again, weight loss isn’t just possible — it’s inevitable.