I've talked before about how to use other people’s influence to help you make progress toward your goals. Now I want to talk to you about the way we sometimes use other people as an excuse for why we can’t be successful. It’s helpful to surround yourself with positive influences that make it easier for you to reinforce good habits. Here’s what’s NOT helpful:
*Waiting for your spouse to go work out with you, so that you can start an exercise habit. Other people cannot be responsible for whatever YOU do or dont’ do. Your spouse does not need to start working out so that you can work out. Depending on them to go with you means that you can only be successful if THEY show up. This takes the power away from you and assigns it to them. So if they lose interest or if that’s just not their priority, it means that YOU fail. So you end up not only feeling bad about yourself, but also secretly blaming and resenting your spouse for not showing up for you. Taking responsibility for your own success means not depending on anyone else to do it with you, or for you. Being successful means building the skill of relying on yourself to show up and get it done, even when there’s no one doing it with you. Other people don’t want to be responsible for managing your life. But if they see you taking charge and being consistent, they’re much more likely to be inspired to join you than they are to take the lead and drag you.
*Looking for praise and recognition from other people. So many of us get discouraged when we’re working really hard, and no one else notices. I hear people complaining all the time about “I’m so discouraged… I lost 25 pounds and no one at work has said anything!” If you repeat this kind of crap to yourself, you can build up so much disappointment and resentment that giving up starts to sound like a good idea. We tell ourselves, “why bother, it’s not making a difference anyway!” Please stay alert for this kind of BS thinking. Looking for approval from other people only sets you up for disappointment, because most people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they barely notice what you're doing. If your reason for change is to get recognition and approval from other people, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. First, because it usually takes a drastic change before anyone else notices what you're doing, and second because after you reach your goal, you still need to maintain the behaviors that got you there, even after nothing’s changing on a day to day basis anymore. You’re not a child and you cannot rely on praise from other people to feel good about yourself. If you need external validation for success, then your happiness could be taken away at any time as other people go on about their own lives and aren’t making a big deal about yours. If your validation comes from within YOU, then it’s there no matter what’s going on around you. Decide to be proud of your progress because you know what you’ve done to get there, and because YOU are the only person who needs to celebrate it.
*Worrying about what other people are thinking. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say that they want to start exercising but they’re afraid to go to the gym because they think all the super-fit people there will be laughing at them. Or they went out for a walk and some stranger made a snarky comment about their weight, so they haven’t been back outside ever since. Listen, it’s a normal function of our primitive brains to fear judgment and rejection from others, but you can’t afford to let this sabotage you. Remember what I said before: most people are so wrapped up in themselves that they barely notice you. This is especially true for strangers. If the people at the gym notice you at all, it’s only for a split second and then they’re back to worrying about themselves. And unless you ask them what they’re thinking about, whatever story you make up about it is exactly that: a STORY. You’re telling yourself that whoever’s looking at you on the treadmill is laughing at you, when they might actually be saying “good for her, she's getting healthy.” Whatever is going on in other people's heads is none of YOUR business, and it definitely doesn’t get to decide what you do or don’t do with YOUR life. So let other people think whatever they want (if they’re even thinking about you at all), and keep your attention focused right where it needs to be: on yourself! Don’t let some made-up story in your head that isn’t even true, decide whether you succeed or fail.
*Comparing yourself to other people. Do NOT judge yourself by how you think you compare to other people. The only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday. When you look at other people, especially on social media, you’re seeing the image they want you to see. You’re not seeing their challenges, their setbacks, their struggles and their drama. Even the most beautiful and perfect people can still be stressed out and miserable. Comparing yourself to someone else’s standard of perfection is a guaranteed recipe for feeling bad about yourself. There’s always going to be someone else who looks better, runs faster, has a fancier car, more friends or more money than you. When you focus on them instead of your own progress, it diminishes your accomplishments and discourages you from staying the course. Remember what I said before about looking for external sources of validation to feel good about yourself. You can be inspired by other people but don’t forget to recognize how far YOU’ve come, and all the hard work you've done on yourself.
*Finally, stop blaming other people if you’re not doing whatever you promised yourself. You can still go on your walk even when your workout buddy cancels on you. Your kids aren’t trying to sabotage you when they want to have pizza even though they know you're trying to lose weight. No one’s forcing you to eat whatever they’re eating, or do whatever they’re doing. Don’t assign responsibility for your success to someone else, and don’t blame your setbacks on someone else’s lack of participation. You are the only person who gets to decide what you do or don’t do. You are not a passenger in your life story, you are the PILOT.
Take. Your. Power. Back. You are the only one responsible for what you do. If you succeed, it will be because of what YOU did, and the skills that YOU built. If you have a setback, it will be because of something YOU did, or didn’t do. And if you learn from that and improve and try again, it will be because of YOUR resilience. Other people cannot manage your life, nor do they want to. They have their own priorities. Only you can know what is in your own best interest, and you don’t need anyone else’s permission or approval to take action.
So don’t go looking for other people to help you succeed. Succeed, and let other people be inspired by you.
If you want some help sorting this out for yourself, I'm here for you. I'll even pay for your first call. See for yourself how your life could change with the help of a certified coach.