Where Are Your Barriers?

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For anything you do there is a certain level of difficulty–a barrier you must overcome in order to accomplish that task. Like it or not, your brain is predisposed to take the path of least resistance, which means you will naturally avoid barriers, opting to swim with the stream rather than against it most of the time. Your brain prefers the highway with the least traffic, the restaurant with the shortest line, and the workout routine that hurts the least. For the most part, this natural reaction helps you move through life in a more fluid, efficient way, avoiding challenges as often as possible. At this point, you might be expecting me to tell you to face those challenges, climb those barriers, and do the hard thing, but there is a different approach which can be applied in many circumstances, and it makes life easier.

The whole point of useful habits is making the right things easier–much, much easier.

Barriers are neither good nor bad by default, they are just barriers; obstructions that make one thing more difficult than another. Think about a construction zone. A well-placed barrier might save a life or, at the very least, redirect the flow of traffic around potential hazards. On the other hand, poorly placed barriers can unnecessarily disrupt the progress of traffic and piss off drivers. Barriers are important, and, sometimes, you have a choice of where barriers go. You create, destroy, and rearrange barriers daily.

Lowering barriers

A few years ago I decided I wasn’t drawing enough. I have art supplies galore at home, but dragging it out when I got home from work was a barrier. Spending time with my family was a barrier. Being tired from the day was a barrier. So, I decided to carry it with me every day. Everywhere I went, my sketchbook and pencil bag went with me. I found I drew far more frequently. If I had a few minutes, it was close at hand. The barrier to drawing had been significantly lowered. I have taken a similar approach with my photography. I carry my camera every day. I shoot every day, even if it’s just a few random frames of nothing in particular. I practice my craft, and sometimes I capture something I’m proud of, which wouldn’t have been possible if I had to go back to my car to get my camera. I have a backpack full of opportunity. I have a business, a wife, and three children, and I am still able to make art, music, and shoot photos on a daily basis. Several times a week I hear comments like “How are you able to do all this?” It comes down to having barriers in the right place. Directly in front of a goal is not where I want to place my barriers.

Raising Barriers

When it comes to things you would rather not do, barriers can be your best friend. Barriers can be helpful for habit alteration. Have a habit you want to change? Place barriers between you and the old habit. The harder you have to work to accomplish something, the less likely you are to do it. Identify changes you want to make, and bar the road for the old way of doing things. This principle has long been taught in groups like AA or Weight Watchers. If it’s too easy to do, you will do it. Increase the difficulty and you increase your odds of resisting. An example of this in my own life is how I use my phone. I have disabled notifications for all social media and all apps with the exception of my calendar and reminder apps. I also hide any potentially distracting apps in folders so I don’t see them when I unlock my phone. This barrier helps me control the time I spend on these apps, since I have found them distracting in the past, and I am not good at resisting the urge to see why my phone vibrated.

Do this: sit down with a notepad and pen. Create two columns called “do” and “do not” (because there is no try). On the “do” side, write down some things you aspire to do, but are not doing. Consider the barriers that are preventing you from accomplishing this. Maybe it’s money, maybe it’s time, or maybe it’s your state of mind. Now, head over to the “do not” side and write down some things you currently do but would like to change or stop. What are some barriers you could put in place to prevent yourself from easily engaging in these unwanted actions? Now that you have some things/barriers listed, consider actions you could take to rearrange the barriers in favor of your desired outcome. Maybe it’s time you had some new barriers. Maybe it’s time you tear down some existing barriers.

A life well lived isn’t a life without barriers, it’s a life with the right barriers.

Where are your barriers?



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