with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Pursuing Your Passion – Getting Out of Your Own Way

Due to the overwhelming response by those who attended the last meeting, here is a summary of the topic presented: "Finding Your Passion, Part II".

In many of the lessons found in Cheryl Richardson’s book, Life Makeovers, she reiterates the point that once you have set a goal, made a decision, and taken a step forward in your life – the universe tends to step in and place barriers in your way. What do some of these barriers look like and what does it take to get through them?

In my essay on "Learning and Living Against the Odds", I talked about the challenges of good intensions, specifically involved weight loss. All of the issues that get in the way of our "good intention" to lose weight are barriers, or, as I like to call them, little stabbing, sabotaging arrows that inflict pain upon our good intentions. Here are a few of the "sabotaging arrows" highlighted at the last meeting when facing the goal to lose weight:
graphic representing our big arrow of good intension attacked by the smaller arrows of self sabotage, graphic by Lorelle VanFossen

  • Food Confrontation: Food is everywhere you look.
  • Peer pressure: Friends urge you to eat, saying you that you don’t need to diet, etc. You suddenly get invited to a lot of dinners.
  • Self-doubt: Can I really do this? Is it possible? Aren’t I okay as I am?
  • Family: Oh, You’re fine the way you are. You’ve always been big boned.
  • Eating Out: (form of peer pressure) Eating out is special, so eat all you can. You must eat what they serve you.
  • Denial: You can’t say no. It won’t work.
  • Procrastination: I’ll start tomorrow.
  • Loss of Control: I can’t do it. It’s too much. Overwhelming.
  • Expectations:High: I can lose 100 kilos in three weeks. Low: It’ll never work.
  • Lack of Information: I don’t know how to do it. I think I know, but I’m not sure.
  • Will Power/Temptation: Just for tonight, I’ll… Once won’t hurt much.
  • Media: Food is everywhere. Skinny people are everywhere.
  • Time: There just isn’t enough time. I don’t have time to eat right. This is a waste of time. It takes too long.
  • Energy: I’m so tired, some food will pep me up. Exercise is exhausting. It’s too hard.
  • Money: Dieting is expensive. Exercise is expensive.

These arrows sabotage our good intentions, our goal, our wants and desires. They shoot us down, sometimes even before we get started. What does it take to overcome these sabotaging arrows?

  • Choice: You have to make a conscious, clear commitment, not a wishy-washy "I would kinda sorta like to lose some weight." Say clearly: "I will lose 20 kilos by June."
  • Determination: In addition to making a choice, you have to have the will to keep on keeping on.
  • Persistence: Going against the efforts of the universe to stop you in your tracks is hard work. You have to keep at it, day by day, sometimes minute by minute.
  • Courage/Risk: To make your goal come true, there are times when you just have to jump off the cliff, climb the mountain, and cross the river. You have to face your fears and plow through them to get to your goal.
  • Inspiration/Motivation: Along the way, seek out methods to keep you going. Do you like good quotes or saying, positive books, and/or music? Surround yourself with positive reinforcement using all of your senses including sight, sound and smell.
  • Faith: Faith comes from many sources: Faith in a greater purpose or being in life, faith in yourself, faith in your goal. Faith means feeding your spirit as you reach for your goals. Faith moves more than just mountains; it can move you.
  • Support: Surround yourself with compassionate people who want you to succeed. Look to them when weakness strikes or when you need to celebrate. Learn how to ask for help and support.
  • Patience: Realize that all good things are worth waiting for. Some things just take time. Plan for that time.
  • The Plan/Map: You rarely plan a trip to a place you’ve never been before without some kind of a map and/or guide book. Create your own plan and map to chart your course. Stick to the path. And don’t forget to schedule in some pit stops or rewards along the way for congratulating yourself as you reach high points along your course.

All of these tools, and others you may come up with, will help you create a huge arrow that will bulldoze through the sabotaging arrows coming from the opposite direction.

How Can I Make This Work for Myself?

Don’t have a weight problem? Feel like this doesn’t apply to you? We chose weight loss as it is one of the most common goals people choose and have the most trouble accomplishing. What is your own personal goal and dream you want to achieve but can’t get there because life gets in the way? You can replace the topic of “weight loss” with anything. Let’s do it with the powerful goal of:


What gets in the way of you living your best life? What stops you from moving forward with your passion and living each day to its fullest? Here are some of the sabotaging arrows the group came up with:

  • Peer pressure: Friends don’t understand. They say you don’t need to change anything. Others aren’t doing this, why should I?
  • Self-doubt: Can I really do this? Is it possible? Aren’t I okay as I am?
  • Family: Oh, You’re fine the way you are. What do you think you are doing? Who do you think you are?
  • Procrastination: I’ll start tomorrow.
  • Denial: You can’t say no (to everything and everyone else except yourself).
  • Expectations:High: I will rule the world in two weeks. Low: It’ll never work.
  • Lack of Information: I don’t know how to do it. I think I know, but I’m not sure.
  • Loss of Control: I can’t do it. It’s too much. Overwhelming.
  • Will Power/Temptation: Why bother?
  • Keeping Up With the Joneses: Too much time spent trying to make money, be successful, famous, etc., and no time to pay attention to myself.
  • Media: Everyone else is better than me. Why should I try? It’s easier for "them".
  • Time: There just isn’t enough time. I don’t have time. This is a waste of time. It takes too long.
  • Energy: I’m so tired. It is hard work and exhausting. It’s just too hard.
  • Money: Living my best life is expensive. Living my best life won’t make money.

Sound familiar? Create your own list of the things that are getting in the way of you living your best life. The larger your sabotaging list is, the more solid your second list should be. You need to create a strong "good intentions" arrow to plow through your sabotaging list. Have you really made a clear choice about your "best life"? Have you created a plan and designed a good map, and set up a reward system? Have you surrounded yourself with the inspiration to keep the faith and the support to cheer you on? With these things, you can find the determination, persistence, patience, and the willingness to risk that will keep you on track to attain your goal.

Facing the Wall

Watching the first day of the Winter Olympics, as a long time skier of both downhill and cross-country, I enjoy watching the women’s cross-country 15m race. Italian skier Stefania Belmondo, a favorite in the race, broke her ski pole at the 10.5 km mark and it looked like the end for her. Having been at the front, she quickly fell back into the pack. I watched the other women chugging their way along the challenging marathon course as they plunged up and down the hills of snow in extraordinarily cold temperatures, their breath barely having enough time to turn white before it was sucked back in. What stamina! What massive endurance training these women must go through.

graphic of a penguin skiingReplacing her lost pole with one from her coach, Belmondo faced the backs of her fellow marathoners, an intimidating view to say the least. Within moments, she plowed her way into the pack in front of her, a valiant effort. Just before the 14 km mark, the two women in front poured on the steam, battling for first place. So did Belmondo from deep in the pack behind. Moving at an incredible pace, Belmondo not only surged out in front, she crossed the finish line way ahead of her Russian rival, Larisa Lazutina, in a stunning display of strength and determination. I went crazy, jumping up and down and crying in my living room.

Athletes, especially those who do any kind of marathon and endurance work, learn to pace themselves. They also learn about something very critical to their success. They learn about the "wall".

Familiar to many of us as the shooting pain in our side, the gasping painfully for breath, and the overwhelming urge to quit, the wall is faced by marathoners during every run. They, too, gasp for breath, their bodies screaming in pain and their brains shouting "STOP!" Yet, they learn to go through the wall because the stuff on the other side is worth the pain and suffering. On the other side is the "second wind". The breathing eases, and the pain drops away as endorphin and other chemicals relaxes and "numbs" the body. They can concentrate on their rhythm and pay attention to their surroundings and not their agonized bodies. What stops most people from successful endurance training is the fear of the pain and agony before the wall. Athletes learn to embrace their pain, to go through the fear to the other side.

Courage is not the absence of fear,
but rather the judgment that something else
is more important than fear.
Ambrose Redmoon

Life itself is a marathon. You have to pace yourself as you go. When you encounter a wall, you have to choose to go through it. Our fears include thoughts that keep us from losing weight or living our best life, or whatever our goals, dreams, passion, or purpose are. Our fears get in our way and we need to build a huge arrow to break through the wall.

What would happen if you did indeed choose to live every day as if you were living your best life? What would it look like to really live your best life? I asked participants what they get by going through the wall and what they get by staying on "this side" of the wall.

Going Through the Wall Looking at the Wall
More energy
More enthusiasm
More happiness
Feel good
Better relationships (with self/others)
Like/Love myself
Less risk
Known territory
No changes
No improvements
Feels the same
Often feel angry/disappointed
Maybe boring

When I think about Stefania Belmondo, I consider the fears that smacked into her "good intentions" when she felt her ski pole break. She saw her dream of winning fly out the window. Her reputation, her income, her future dreams, everything went bye-bye. A bystander handed her a pole to keep her skiing, selfishly helping her, but it was too short. She kept struggling on until her coach finally handed her a new one. Inside, she gathered together all the scattered pieces of her competitive spirit. She looked at the wall of bodies ahead of her, and probably visualized all the bricks in her wall of fear. This wall of fear might have consisted of all the people who told her she would never make it, that she wasn’t good enough, that this was a waste of time, a lost cause, and a lost dream, it’s too late…and other huge bricks in the way may have represented her loss of energy, focus and concentration. She looked at that huge wall and turned herself into a giant arrow of intention. She gathered together her determination, courage, risk-taking, persistence, faith, motivation, and planning skills and made the choice. She smashed through her personal wall of fear, and the wall of competitors, leaving them behind in the blowing snow of her blinding pace.

Look at the walls facing you in your life. Some maybe huge, others small. Maybe it is the fear of making a decision about your job, or maybe it is deciding whether or not to clean your bedroom. Look at the choices on each side of the wall. Sure, staying on this side of the wall is safe, but look at all the good things on the other side. What is stopping you from plowing through that wall? Belmondo believed she deserved nothing less than the gold medal. What do you believe you deserve? Are you getting it?

The Life Makeovers year long project has completed in Tel Aviv with Lorelle VanFossen and Ruth Alfi, but you can get involved or start your own group through the author of the book, Life Makeovers, Cheryl Richardson.

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