Overcoming the Obstacles to Change is a Challenge

September 14, 2021
Katy Milkman, a behavioral scientist, shares the research-proven tools that work best to help us overcome the obstacles to change.

Three Ways You Overcome the Obstacles to Change

1. Start Fresh – Pick a date that helps you recognize you’re starting a big effort in your life, even if it’s a Monday, the start of a new week.

2. Temptation Bundling – Pair an indulgence or something you love with something you “need” to do. You can only watch Netflix when you’re exercising, for example.

3. Build a Growth Mindset – Your beliefs guide your expectations and outcomes. When you realize you can grow and change, you’re more likely to be successful.

Katy Milkman, in her book How to Change, has many more science-based ways of overcoming your challenges to change. 

Overcoming Obstacles to Change Through Science

Overcoming the obstacles to change is key to improving our lives. 

Katy Milkman, in her award-winning book How to Change, describes seven main reasons we don’t make the changes we want – or need.

These include getting started, impulsivity, procrastination, forgetfulness, laziness, confidence, and conformity. 

Thankfully, Milkman, a behavioral scientist, shares with us the tools research and science suggests work best to make our changes and overcome the obstacles to change. 

Your best bet is to find the book, read it, and start working with someone (a friend or professional) to get started. 

I’ll outline some of what Milkman suggests, but since change is so personal, I won’t go too far into the weeds. 

Weight Loss to Build Better Health

I work with a personal training client, who is looking to lose weight to mitigate some of the pain she feels due to significant scoliosis.

She’s working to overcome the obstacles of being a nurse working 12-hour days, the stress of the pain, and her feeling of being overwhelmed by the challenge.

The first suggestion I’m making for her is to “start fresh.” 

Milkman says when we want to change, it’s best to find a date or moment where we can start fresh, even if it’s a Monday morning!

So we’ll gather our information, make a plan, then choose a good place to start fresh. 

Temptation Bundling is a Way to Overcome the Obstacles of Change

My nurse client and another client struggle to commit to the changes they need. 

Milkman describes the concept of “Temptation Bundling.”

The idea is that you limit an indulgence to when you’re doing a task that needs a little extra motivation. 

My nurse client likes watching Netflix; she hates food prepping and cooking because the act of standing over a counter or stove is painful. 

And choosing to cook better food is critical for her weight loss goals. 

Temptation Bundling might be watching her shows while cutting up and preparing her meals. 

She might also find an app to gamify her progress in eating better food.

Build Up Your Confidence By Teaching Others

My client definitely struggles with her confidence in her ability to overcome the obstacles to change.

She’s been worn down by the continual pain in her back. 

I tried a lesson from Milkman with her, although I wasn’t very good at it!

I asked her to help a person with scoliosis who was also struggling with weight loss and pain!

Milkman, though, says that encouraging someone to share their wisdom conveys that they’re intelligent, a good role model, and the kind of person who succeeds. 

If we can get my client to share all she knows about managing pain and managing her scoliosis, 

She’ll build additional confidence to manage her weight loss journey. 

When I did my half-baked effort to get her to give advice to herself, she did already have a plan she had been thinking about. 

She knows what she needs to do. 

Milkman suggested creating an “advice” club for people who share their own wisdom about the process. 

What We Think Shapes What We Do

For years as a bike racer, my expectations were that I had to win or podium – or at least do well and be a factor. 

When I didn’t, I really got down on myself. 

What Milkman argues is that our expectations shape our outcomes – how we think about something affects how it is. 

If we have a fundamental belief that we can overcome the obstacles to change, we can do it.

This is nothing new, but Milkman shared research about how our beliefs about something change our emotions. 

We’re describing a “Growth Mindset,” a concept where if we believe we are works in progress, that we can learn and grow, we are more likely to succeed. 

For my client, we need to continue to instill the belief that the past pain and life conditions do not in any way dictate her future success. 

And the fact she shows up to training sessions twice a week regardless of how she feels says a lot about her belief that she can change. 

Education 101: Overcoming the Obstacles of Change Through Belief

In the last few years of teaching middle school, I started doing a lot with “Growth Mindset.” 

It made a tremendous difference in the lives of kids who feel like they’re failures and they will always suck in school. 

We’d always known that the kids who could successfully teach others would know the content and ideas much better.

And growth mindset was a belief that they could learn, grow, and prosper. 

I assigned my client a few tasks: research scoliosis support groups and health professionals who specialize in scoliosis. 

When we next get together, we’ll compare notes, set up a plan, and set a date to get all serious. 

It’s exciting to be on the sidelines as she makes potentially life-changing decisions!

Overcoming the Obstacles to Cycling and Running Changes

What does my client with scoliosis have to do with training for cycling and running? 

We’re all training for something. 

We all have changes to make in our lives. 

A growth mindset helps us improve our training; otherwise, training is a waste of time. 

My whole cyclocross season this year is about changing my attitude in the races. 

I have a fresh start in a new season.

I have a growth mindset and a clear emotional goal during the races.

And after each race, I’m going to evaluate how my attitude was, how my mindset worked or didn’t work, so I can make adjustments as needed. 

Coaching clients, for me in Simple Endurance Coaching, is not just about a training plan. 

It’s about supporting clients with what they need to make the changes they seek to make. 

Let’s Talk!

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