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Old Dog, New Tricks: One Step at a Time Down a Two-way Street

Posted on: June 13th, 2014 by Eric Lichtfuss No Comments

Eric Lichtfuss, ASM Wellness

I recently started going back to school  3 days ago. I decided that I want to deepen my practice in healthcare, and that requires going back to school for the long haul. I am currently knocking out science prerequisites which I’m missing (because I have a BA in Communication – not exactly science-heavy), then I need to apply, and be accepted to a Bachelor’s to Master’s track program in order to get where I want to be. I don’t want to wait any longer than I must, so I decided that after nearly 10 years of not being in college, I would just back in with a full 14 credit summer semester. It’s certainly trial by fire, and I’ve already begun learning a lot about myself, and a lot more about life.

Many of us yearn to make a change in our lives that requires a big commitment, and some risk. I’ve had a number of people tell me that they’re impressed that I’m willing to go for it, and to make a big change – there’s really no part-time option for me, so I need to reshape my life in order to do this. I keep responding with words that almost sound like they are coming from someone else’s mouth, because I’m enacting them without really being aware of it. So, I thought this might be a good opportunity for me to start an informal “thread” of blog themes that may recur as frequently as I think I have a worthwhile collection of lessons to pass along.

Today, I want to offer some ideas and suggestions intended to help break down the barriers we seem to build for ourselves, in our minds, that prevent us from moving towards our goals:

 Find Your Support System

Firstly, let me say that I’m very fortunate to have a great support system, which makes things easier, to be sure. Without a support system, I don’t know that anyone can achieve their greatest goals in life. The lucky thing is that we can all have a support system. We may need to look a little longer. We may need to look outside our existing relationships in order to build new ones (with instructors, mentors, employers, peers, etc). I do believe that forming the right support system can be done, with some effort. None of us live on an island, or in a vacuum, so why try? This expands into the topic of asking for help, in all capacities, but I’ll save that for another entry.

Identify What Will Feed Your Goals, and What Will Detract From Them

This one is really, really, super-duper hard for me. I struggle not to decline when I’m asked to do something. I want everyone to like me, and I want to please everyone. My wife has a post-it on her work computer that reads: “sometimes I look at my to-do list, and remember that I don’t rule to world.”  This is a tough one to keep in perspective.  We cannot do it all, so we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking we can. We need to know, and honor our limits….before we burn out. Overdoing it, and burning out is bound to let you, and someone you care about, down. I set a firm boundary at the beginning of this week with a client who wanted to schedule a late evening appointment, and didn’t seem to want to work within my constraints. There was a time when I would have caved and allowed him to walk all over me, working until well into the night, without dinner and still needing to hit the books. I was stressing about it. I decided to explain to him that I end my work day at a particular time, with rare exception, so I can maintain boundaries and a balance. I lost that income (for this week, at least), but I also lost the undue amount of stress I was dealing with as I went back and forth with him, anticipating the next scheduling negotiation. I think I came out ahead, and that’s because I knew my limits, set my boundary and stuck to it.

Just Start Moving

 I am going to keep this to a 3-point entry today, and end with this one. I am as guilty as anyone else in the world of not seeing the trail, for the mountain.  I took the visualization of my high-concept, lofty goals, and kept letting myself get suffocated under all the fatalistic thinking, ifs, ands and buts about it all, as well as the abject fear of failure. Yikes! Who likes to fail?  Nobody. But there are plenty of cliches about “you can’t succeed if you don’t try,” and “with great risk comes great reward.” But what about not thinking of the big-picture risk? Break it into the smaller bits, and don’t worry about having a master plan in action. I don’t have more tattoos because I stifle myself by thinking that I need to know how every tattoo on my arm will have to work together. I’m preventing myself from making any progress because I’m trying to over plan it all. Not that a plan is bad, but a journey really does start with one step. Do something to move in the direction you want to wind up. If you wind up taking a few classes that don’t count for degree credit, so what? If you spend a little money that wasn’t entirely on mark, odds are you’ll find that it wasn’t a waste, as long as it was a calculated decision. It might be better to start doing a little right now, rather than putting off action in the interest of formulating the perfect plan.

I still don’t absolutely know where I want to wind up. I’ve got a pretty darn good idea, and I know that the couple places I might want to wind up in my career all start with an awfully similar path. So, I finally, for once in my life, started taking steps in a direction, rather than on a really specific path. But I also did it with a purpose.

So, figure out where you want to be, identify the paths to get there, and start moving in that general direction. Refine your path as you go. Don’t just let yourself waste away as you try to master your future in your own head. Some movement is better than stagnation.

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