How to Stop Life from Getting in Your Way
Remember Tarzan, that fictional man who was raised in Africa by the great apes? Did you know that the first Tarzan movie was produced over a hundred years ago….and that more than 50 Tarzan movies have been produced since then?
No, this episode is not about Tarzan, but stick with me this story leads into a wonderful example of how we can more easily get what we want, including a more energized life.
Are You Achieving Your Goals?
Years ago, when I was visiting a state park here in Florida, I learned that some of the old black and white Tarzan movies, back in the 30’s and 40’s starring Johnny Weismuller was actually shot here in our state. And the lodge we were staying in, built during that era, featured wonderful pictures of Tarzan, Jane, and their son named “boy.”
I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me because once you leave the beautiful shores of Florida, and go to its interior, we have jungle-like landscaping, complete with snakes and alligators…although as you know, Tarzan wrestled crocodiles, not alligators so they had to bring in fake crocodiles.
These swampy areas also have those thick vines that Tarzan swung on to travel from tree to tree. Here's a picture of me swinging on a vine near Wakulla Springs.
But that’s where the similarities of vines in the Tarzan movies and my backyard ends.
Does Life Ever Get in Your Way?
Because, while I have plenty of those Tarzan-like vines in my backyard, you can’t swing from tree to tree. They are actually quite invasive and tangle themselves around a tree.
But that’s not all. We have lots of invasive vines. Some are woody, others look like the branches of rose bushes with dozens of prickly thorns every inch or so – and together, these vines cover the tree canopies. In fact, these vines, with perhaps a half dozen or so climbing up each tree, are so prolific that they not only suffocate the tree but strong enough to pull down the canopy, bending and then perhaps even breaking the tree in half.
I can almost hear you thinking, “So, what do these vines have to do with ME?”
And, as I was looking at all these tangly vines, in my own backyard, blocking out the beautiful warm sunlight, I realized that it looked a lot like the tangled mess we sometimes see in our own lives.
Let me elaborate…
Imagine Your Goals as Tall Strong Trees
Imagine if you will, some beautiful trees…whichever type of tree you like best….standing tall and proud in your backyard or neighborhood park. Gloriously spaced apart so you can see the full canopies of the trees and admire their beauty. Pick a tree for each goal in your life.
- One represents perhaps, a fulfilling career or retirement, for that matter.
- Another tree represents health…who doesn’t want health, right?
- Maybe a third tree representing the loving relationships you desire in your life – family, friends, community.
- I’ll add another tree for financial freedom.
- And, of course, one for energy…because when we have energy, it seems like everything else is possible.
- We should probably have a tree representing time for fun stuff like hobbies and vacation.
- Maybe another tree for happiness and joy – or a life with less stress perhaps.
- Maybe you have even more specific goals like running a race, getting your diabetes or high blood pressure under control?
It’s beautiful, isn’t it, to imagine having all these things? A wonderful, fulfilling life.
And, Then Along Comes "Life"
And, then along come these vines. The ones we have here in Florida grow fast – an average of a foot a month. So, in a short time, these vines grow up those trees of your life. Block out all the sunlight. They suffocate and kill your goals, your dreams.
What do those vines represent in our life?
Well, we all have a different story. Some these vines are representative of the realities of our lives. Such as inherited genes that dealt us a disease or condition that takes our time and energy away from our other goals. Or an injury or disability we have. A financial strain that requires us to work harder than ever. We all have real things that gets in the way of reaching our goals. Makes doing so a bit harder.
But, I would venture to say that many of these vines that are making a tangled mess of our goals, are our excuses. The excuses that we make up as to why we don’t have those things…why we can’t have them.
Now, when I’m working with clients who having a difficult time reaching their goals, they often share a story that doesn’t have a lot of excuses.
Oh there are plenty of reasons why they can’t do what they say they want to do, but they’re not excuses. They have this attitude that there’s nothing they can do about them.
Cut Down Your Excuses
But, here’s the thing about the vines in my backyard.
A quick and easy way to help the trees, is to snip the vine at the ground level. Yes, I could dig up the root and get rid of them forever, but trust me, it’s not quite as easy as you might think…because I’ve tried.
That’s because the roots grow right under the tree, and are actually entangled within the tree’s roots. Oftentimes underneath the tree’s roots so it’s hard to get to. Plus, they are so plentiful.
One of those thorny vines have roots that are tubular in nature, like a large Idaho baking potato weighing a pound or more. I remember digging up one and feeling successful…only to find that underneath were more and more of these roots.
Others are lanky “trees” that grow horizontal, along the ground and send down roots every few inches and then sprout off more vines along the way.
And, you know what? The excuses you have in your life…btw you are not alone, we ALL have excuses…are like those vines. They’re so entangled, not just on the canopy of your goals…what you see in your life. These excuses go deep into your life…and are sometimes difficult to get rid of completely.
Be don’t despair. I don’t mean to paint a picture of a tragic situation in which there’s nothing you can do. Because that’s far from the truth.
You Have A Choice
Because, you have a couple of options. First, you could spend the time and energy to dig up the roots of your excuses…which may take years of counseling to do. Or you can snip the vine of your excuses at the source of its nourishment so you can suck the life out of it.
And, with my vines, if I snip it at the base, and then wait a few weeks for it to completely die, I can often pull the vine down off the tree.
So, let’s do the same with our excuses. Snip it at the base. Cut it off from nourishment – so it can’t grow anymore. And, eventually it will die. Allowing that tree, representing the goals in your life to prosper.
Ok what do I mean by snipping the life out of our excuses? Start by naming those vines. Those things that are getting in the way of achieving all your dreams.
Ask yourself, “Why can’t you do the things you say you want to do? If you’re not driving, why not spend a moment writing them down.
Here are some common ones that I hear a lot from clients:
- I work long hours and the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day is to cook a healthy meal and exercise
- Or maybe work is too stressful.
- Plenty of people have shared that they don’t like to eat healthy – or maybe it’s their family that doesn’t want to eat healthy…and they don’t want to make 2 different meals.
- Another common excise is that they don’t like to exercise
- Or they can’t exercise because they have a bum knee, bad hips, or foot issues.
- Or maybe it’s just a general statement of “I’m too old to start working out”
- I often hear from clients that they would like to get to bed earlier but there’s just too much to do – cleaning the house, doing the laundry, or maybe it’s just that they think…because of all they do…that they deserve to stay up late to watch their favorite shows
- I could go on and on…we all have so many excuses (me included) as to why we can’t do what we say we want to do.
Stop Breathing Life Into Your Excuses
So no more excuses. Snip it. Stop breathing life into all your excuses.
Maybe you have bad knees or bad genes? Think you’re too old? Too overweight? I often hear “I don’t have time. Life’s too stressful.”
Are those things true? I’m sure there’s some element of truth. But, if you really wanted your goal to happen, would you find a way around these? Of course.
So, maybe you really don’t want to achieve your goal. At least not right now. And, that’s ok.
But, if you do want to…you’ve got to get past your excuses, chop down those vines in your life.
And, for that to happen, I’ve found that it helps to find someone who has done just that – overcome the same exact barriers that you say you have.
Perhaps you're thinking, I’d like to exercise, but I’ve got bad knees. You think that’s tough? Try “no knees.” When I was consulting with Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute, I had an opportunity to work with veterans with the Vail Vets program out of Vail Colorado. There I met so many individuals with one, two, or even four amputated limbs who are competitive skiers, or they play golf, or bike. So, if you have bad knees or shoulder or back…look for what you CAN do, not what you can’t.
Think you’re too old to practice a sport? Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage – at the age of 64. I find these stories so inspirational. In fact, I'm in my middle years and still take tap dancing classes in classes filled with kids.
"I’d like to eat healthier, but no one else in the family wants to and I’d have to cook two separate meals." I heard this years ago when I was facilitating a full-day stress management program at a hospital.
I didn’t have to say anything, another woman stood up and responded. “So? You’ve the one that’s taking the time to shop and cook. Do what YOU want."
Then, she shared how she made that change, too, and how she figured that her husband would head to the nearest fast food restaurant…and he didn’t – at least not every day. He griped a bit, but he started eating what she cooked. Hmmm.
Whenever I think I don’t have enough time I think of my mom. Mom and dad had 9 kids. And, once the youngest went into first grade, Mom went back to work, full time, AND went back to school.
She got her bachelors degree, masters, and finally finished her doctorate when she was 62. And, for those last 15 years or so, she also commuted 1.5 hours each way into work.
And, she never lost sight of her kids. Nearly every weekend my parents drove to visit them. Some were just a few hours away. Phil was 16 hours away. And, me? Most of that time I lived in south Texas which was more than a 40 hour drive. And, they did that several times a year.
Wish you could get more sleep but got so much work to do at night? Or the kids keep you up? Or the spouse snores? Again, ask around and I’m guessing you’ll find other people who have managed their day in such a way that they get the sleep they need.
A couple of years ago when my daughter was ending her 6 weeks for maternity leave, she she struggled with how to get enough sleep to be able to do her work. She asked around and found others using a book called, Moms on Call, which suggests how to put your young one on a schedule to help them sleep through the night. And, it worked. Both mom and baby got more sleep – and my daughter was able to make an easier transition back to work.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Stop thinking that energy, health, and life balance is just for those who have great genes or are independently wealthy – and don’t have to work for a living – or are just plan lucky. No, it’s also available to the rest of us, too.
What are your excuses? Go ahead and write them down…and then go in search of a way to snip the life out of them. Ask other people how they do it. Think outside the box and you’ll be able to snip those excuse vines that are killing your goals. Blocking out the light in your life.
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