Imagine that you’re riding a bike down a beautiful, empty trail when all of a sudden, you approach a rock in the middle of the path:

What do you do? Do you keep pedaling and smack into it? Do you slow to a stop and just turn around shrugging your shoulders and saying “well, at least I tried”? Or do you change course by looking around the rock for a new path to get by?

When we embark on a new endeavor, like adopting an exercise program or changing our diet, it’s natural to think ahead at what might keep us from succeeding, or to look out for ways that disaster might strike. Heck, as a heath coach I teach clients to anticipate possible bumps in the road so that they have a plan to tackle those barriers if and when they happen! The pitfall that I want to discuss today occurs when you begin to create tunnel vision so that all you can focus on is that rock in the road. If you keep staring at the rock as you approach it, it begins to feel less like a rock and more like a boulder, completely blocking the road and thwarting our efforts to get by:

When my dad taught my sister and I how to ride dirt bikes, one of the first tips he gave us involved avoiding obstacles. He always told us, if you see a big rock in the road, don’t look at it. Instead, look at where you want to go and the bike will go that way. He was right! If I look at the rock or obstacle in my path, then I’m sure to run straight into it every time, no matter how much I’d like to avoid it. If, however, I shift my gaze to where I want to go, the bike avoids the obstacle and I can continue cruising on.

The same concept can easily be applied to our goals. The first time a challenge comes our way, it’s easy to focus on all of the ways that it won’t work out, and to cop out and think “well, it was fun while it lasted”. Remember, if you focus on the rock, you’re sure to hit it! As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”. Focus on where you want to go, avoid the rock, and continue on your way. Here are some tips for how to do this:

Identify the obstacle, and make a plan in advance for getting around it. When you learn to anticipate bumps in the road, you can avoid the surprise and struggle when you come up against them. My favorite technique is to make an “if/then” plan that allows you to decide how you’ll handle a challenging situation if it arises. For example, “If my boss takes us out to a surprise lunch, I’ll choose a lean protein and vegetables to eat”.

Make a vision board. It’s easier to remember where you want to go if you have a clear vision of the destination. A vision board is a great visual representation of what success looks like to you. Pick out images and/or words that inspire you and represent your current goals. When your masterpiece is finished, put it somewhere you’ll see it each day to remind you of your destination.

Set daily reminders to remind you of why you’re doing this. Some clients put sticky notes around their house for encouragement. It can be a simple “You’ve got this” or “This is so you can enjoy vacations with friends”. The more you are reminded of your why for changing your behavior, the easier it will be to stick to the changes.

Train your mind to recognize negative thought patterns (“see, I knew this would happen” “I will never change” “I knew I couldn’t do it” “I wish I had the will power to avoid this obstacle”), and intentionally shift toward positive thinking (“I can do this” “I will overcome this obstacle by [fill in the blank]” “I am doing this for me” “I am worth it”). No matter how far along you are on your health and fitness journey, negative thoughts will pop up. Learn to acknowledge that they are there and replace them with positive thinking that will serve you better. Over time this gets easier and more automatic.

Obstacles will always pop up on your road to success. Your task is to acknowledge that they are there and keep your focus on where you want to go. The mind is a powerful tool that can be used for or against you.

My final question to you: When you approach a rock in the middle of the road, where is your focus?