Getting out of your own way

Published by Lori Pickert on January 21, 2013 at 08:48 AM

This post is part of my series on PBH for Grown-ups — you can see all of the posts here.

When you decide to move forward and start, you will have to overcome a series of obstacles. Most of them will be very low barriers — about curb height. But they stop nearly everyone. You will have to step over these low barriers in order to make any progress.

The very first barrier is you. You are the first person who will get in your own way and prevent you from doing your meaningful work.


One of the ways you do this is by anticipating what other people are going to say and jumping in to say it yourself first. It’s a real time-saver!


- I don’t have any talent.


- It’s wrong to be ambitious.


- I should focus on my family.


- My house is a mess; that should come first.


- I shouldn’t spend time/energy/money on myself.


- There’s no time anyway.


- The kids deserve my time while they’re little/this age/in their teens.


- I’m too tired and I never exercise. My health should come first.


- I’m being selfish.


- I don’t even know what I want to do. I don’t have a passion.


- I shouldn‘t do this for myself until I have everything else working right: the house, the kids...


Inertia works like this: A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. If you’re sitting still, you’re going to have to push a little harder at the beginning to get going. Once you get going, it’ll be easier.


This defeating self-talk is one way to save a lot of time and just quit before you ever start.


Let’s remember why we’re doing this in the first place:


- Because we want to live a life of purpose and meaning.


- Because we want to make a contribution.


- Because we want to set an example for our children.


Is it selfish to invest time/money/space/energy in yourself?


I could go down your personal list of self-defeating talk and address each item one at a time. Your family is a garden and you are the soil from which they grow. If you don’t feed the soil, it gets leached of its essential nutrients. What you try to grow there gets weaker and scrawnier and more prone to disease. And so on.


But we need to just shortcut this whole process. Every time you start talking this self-defeating crap to yourself, imagine that your child is saying it to you about himself. If you don’t have children, imagine that someone you love is saying it about herself. If someone you loved talked this way, you would leap to their defense. Why? Because they matter. And because the reason we’re on this earth is to figure out what we have to offer and how to give it.


You matter. The world needs what you have to give.


Perfection is impossible. If you’re going to wait until your house, your life, your weight, and your children’s lives are perfect, go find a comfy seat, because you’re never going to start. You may as well put your feet up.


You are helping your children live a life of purpose and meaning by striving to live a life of purpose and meaning yourself.


When this drumbeat of negativity starts in your head, stand up, stretch, take a few deep breaths, and then tell yourself: It’s okay. I matter, too. The world needs me, too. I forge the path my children will walk. I don’t have to be perfect; I just have to be willing.


And know this: When you begin to live a life with more meaning and more purpose — when you begin to do your own meaningful work — you will have more energy. You will feel better about yourself. You will be happier. You will have more to offer your children, and your advice to them will be predicated on your actual experience. Instead of taking away from your life, this work will add to your life. Because you feel better about yourself, and about life in general, you may find yourself on an upward spiral. You are reframing your life. You are nudging your priorities into line. You are focusing on what matters, and that will change your life.


But before you even begin, you have to give yourself permission. Permission to care. Permission to try. Permission to fail. Permission to be imperfect. Permission to care about yourself as well as the people you love, so you can do more, be more, and give more. Permission to be whole, flawed, real, and embarrassingly out here where people can see you.


It’s not going to be easy. But it is doable, and that is all we require.

The whole problem with people is … they know what matters, but they don’t choose it … The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters. — Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees



Comment by amy21 on January 21, 2013 at 09:14 AM

My personal barrier: "My interest/passion/project isnt bringing any income to the family so it's not worth investing in." This is very hard for me, a non-wage-earning at-home parent, to overcome. I feel frivolous.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 21, 2013 at 09:29 AM


i need to go up and add that to the list!

money is something that’s easy to see and measure — we can use it to keep score and assess value. it’s much harder to appreciate the worth of something that’s more or less invisible: self-esteem, talent, skill, becoming a stronger and better version of yourself, living a more authentic life.

Comment by Misa on January 21, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Amy, I feel like that a lot, too. I also feel the flip side of that. which is almost as bad - and maybe worse - is the opposite thought, "I can really invest in my interests that could possibly make money and only in a way that could be making money right away." Nothing makes me dislike something more than when I pressure myself to MAKE it make money.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:40 AM

i think the *pressure* can raise anxiety and shut down creativity (and joy). there are people who try to motivate through pressure and fear but that does NOT work for me. I do best when I feel like everything is fine. No pressure. No fear. Then I can concentrate, get in the flow, be creative, write, produce.

I think the best way to look at this is: investing in my talents and my interests makes me the best version of myself, and the best version of myself is going to feel great and probably make more money.

Comment by Kate on January 21, 2013 at 10:53 AM

This post resonates with me so much, as does Amy's comment. Only a few months into homeschooling our 7 year old, I've felt that all my focus should be on supporting his interests. But you've expressed so clearly the flaw in my thinking because I now see that if I commit to seriously pursuing my own passion for writing poetry - not because of any money that can be made but because through writing I feel more myself - then I'm embodying the principles that I want him to live by. Taking time for my own deep interest will enhance rather than detract from our family, and the broader education of our son. Thank you!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:34 AM

thank you, kate. i love what you’ve written here. a parent who *has* deep interests, who honors them, and who dedicates time and energy to them — that is a family culture that is more likely to raise children who do the same. <3

Comment by Stacey B on January 21, 2013 at 11:03 AM

For me the biggest barrier is how I tell myself I am going to fail, that it would be easier to do something easy. Or that my life is too hard without this. But if I can calm myself a little I can see through this (no always) and realize that what I am doing is bringing more to my life than it is taking away. In fact when I am working on the projects that are important me everything else becomes easier, or at least I have a better perspective as to how the whole of our lives fit together, you know the bigger plan/dream.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:37 AM

you always anticipate me. :) i have written in the forum about the problem of keeping your dreams too small. i’ll definitely be writing more about this on the blog.

when I am working on the projects that are important me everything else becomes easier, or at least I have a better perspective

i think this is the challenge point for a lot of people. it feels like *more* work and you’re going to have *less* energy and things are going to be *harder*. once you start, you find that your total burden feels lighter, you have more energy, and things are easier. it’s the upward spiral. doing things that matter changes everything.

Comment by Stacey B on January 23, 2013 at 02:40 PM

I'm in the middle of writing a post about battling my monkey mind. Writing and discussing all of this has been really helpful. Talking about what is difficult reminds me that I am not alone in feeling this way and gives me the release that lets me return to what I was working on.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 23, 2013 at 02:57 PM


Talking about what is difficult reminds me that I am not alone in feeling this way...

i think that’s an important way we can support one another — and remind each other that it doesn’t have to be effortless to work. (which connects nicely to what i posted about today...)

Comment by amanda {the hab... on January 21, 2013 at 12:26 PM

that quote is perfect. and so damned true.

and yes, there is never a perfect time to begin anything: a novel, a family, renovating your house. dive in and swim!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:32 AM

never a perfect time to start ... therefore always an excuse to *not* start.

the key is really just beginning. <3

Comment by Angelina on January 21, 2013 at 02:36 PM

This is a fantastic post - I just shared it with my acquaintances on facebook. My friend Sarah shared the link with me and I'm so glad she did. I've just had the realization (last week) that I keep getting in my own way with regard to one of my biggest and most important goals - reading this post underlines that realization and will be a good post to read any time I start feeling discouraged.

More than that, though, I appreciate you verbalizing what I've believed for years - that when we take the time to enrich ourselves we are enriching our loved ones too - whether it's our children, partners, family, or friends (or any combination). I know that when I feel depleted and defeated I cast that same shadow over my kid and when I give up - I teach him to give up. Hearing someone else say it is wonderful.

Thanks for this wonderful pep-talk!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:31 AM

thank you so much, angelina. :)

Comment by Kim on January 21, 2013 at 03:32 PM

I love that quote and that book is sitting in my reading pile just waiting for me to read it, can't wait!

I am one of those people that usually just dives right in, it isn't always pretty when I come back up, but the process is always filled with learning which forces me to grow...I really can't ask for more than that.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:30 AM

thank you, kim — i hope you like the book! :)

process -> learning -> growth. yep. :)

Comment by Alex on January 21, 2013 at 05:11 PM

I have told you before via twitter that this is close to my heart. I went and looked back on my old personal blog for any posts I might have written on this topic. I found one!
Here it is:

Continue spreading this message, it is so important for Moms (and Dads) to know!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:29 AM


alex, thank you so much for sharing your post.

I have learned how important it is for me to be creative. It is so important, like water and air.

My children love to see what I can do, not just for them, but for myself.

beautiful. i think there are so many parents who are trying to guide their children into a certain kind of life (and certain kinds of activities) who don’t walk that way themselves. and it doesn’t just benefit them — it benefits us, too. thank you for sharing this. xo

Comment by Wendy on January 21, 2013 at 11:27 PM

This is right where I was at today. Looking forward to Monday more each week! Thanks!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:29 AM

thank you, wendy. :)

Comment by jacinda on January 22, 2013 at 12:38 AM

Oh lori, you are speaking straight at me again. Thanks.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 22, 2013 at 08:29 AM

you are so welcome. you should try to find time to come talk in the forum with us. :)

Comment by Rachel on January 28, 2013 at 04:17 PM

Can anyone speak to how to figure out what is meaningful to ourselves? When I force myself to think, I draw a blank....I feel like I'm in the trenches of mamahood and have no clue what matters anymore, other then the kids and their schooling, etc -- so out of touch with myself.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 28, 2013 at 06:11 PM

next week’s post is about finding your meaningful work. :) (and there will be a second bonus post on learning how to focus.)

Comment by kayte on February 13, 2013 at 09:37 AM

Perhaps you are going to get to this—I am several posts behind—but I wonder about the next step after declaring to yourself that you will not let anything get in the way of your project/interest/time --- Declaring it to your spouse/partner/parent that is sharing your life. The return you speak of – more energy, better example, etc. isn’t always immediate and sometimes the block isn’t just the negative thoughts we have to ourselves but also the fear of having that talk with the others around us. I would love to see a discussion on approaching others with our newfound respect for ourselves and the practical implications of your new purpose on the lives of those around us (besides our children)… I have a friend who especially struggles with this and I would love to know how other cope.

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 13, 2013 at 10:17 AM

that is a great suggestion! thank you!

Comment by Cindy Chupp on February 20, 2013 at 12:28 AM

I love, love, love your series! Just discovered it via Pinterest. In my 5m snatches of time, I intend to read the entire thing. :) THANK YOU!

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 20, 2013 at 08:06 AM

thank you, cindy! :)

Comment by Kara on August 22, 2013 at 09:54 AM

Whoa. and YES!

It is like we're on some sort of weird mind meld this week where you keep writing exactly what it is that I need to read this week.

Thank you.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 22, 2013 at 02:43 PM


~ ~ m i n d  m e l d ~ ~


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