I tell myself I’m not old enough to be ‘set in my ways’, but I know I have strong preferences for how to do things. For example, books and movies must be enjoyed in order. You can’t see Iron Man 3 before you watch Iron Man and you can’t skip Iron Man 2. That’s an almost unbreakable rule for me.
Generally, these inclinations serve me well but occasionally I realize they are a barrier to successfully completing a goal. In those moments I recognize I have a choice: make an uncomfortable but helpful change or choose to stay in the comfort zone and forego the goal. Lately, I’m aware that I often opt for the latter. It’s time to address that.
I have two approaches to a book or course: 1) Work one chapter or lesson at a time, taking notes, responding to questions, doing activities as I go. 2) Plow through all the material and then deep dive the parts that resonated. For the first book I used Option One and I took away a lot of personal insights. Naturally, I figured I’d build on that success and do the same for the next book. Only the next book didn’t lend itself to the same approach. It was written more as a conversation. Chapters didn’t cover a topic but were grouped together to support different related ideas. I reverted to study Option Two and quickly worked through the entire book.
Here comes the part where my normal ways of doing things became a barrier to my success.
I created a new Self-Study Book in Maple and got to work. Only when I finished the first chapter I discovered I had no Study Notes from chapter two. My next Ahh Ha was several chapters later, but the book didn’t number its chapters. I could not fathom how to move along if I didn’t have an orderly progression from one chapter to the next. I could skip a chapter but I needed a chapter number for the next entry so the notes were in the right order.
I became stuck. For days. Literally. No work added to Maple, even though I had read the book and made specific Notes to review and think more on certain ideas.
About a week later I was venting my frustration and lack of progress and Scott laughed (deservedly) at me. He reminded me we built Maple to be flexible specifically to accommodate all sorts of learning resources and formats. Side note: You aren’t even required to put in a Chapter Number or Name for a Self-Study entry. The cause of the hold up was not the system – it was me. In fact, Maple helped me to realize that. It could handle whatever I entered, but I had decided that to progress, my self-study work had to be a certain way (with Chapter Numbers).
After the useful nudge from Scott, I journaled about what the real issue could be. Of course, no secret, it wasn’t chapter numbers. Within minutes of that revelation, I was back to work on Book Two. (In case you were wondering, I used letters in the Chapter Number field and grouped related Chapter Names that way – worked perfectly!)
The real lesson was that when we encounter resistance it’s in our nature to say something else isn’t working well or doesn’t suit us. The problem must be out there in the world. But, painful as this truth may be, sometimes the resistance is coming from within. We create our own obstacles to impede ourselves, don’t we?
Not everything is going to be exactly the way we expect it to be. That’s a part of life; we can’t do anything about that. What we can do something about is our response. Initially, I chose to stay in my comfort zone and it made me irritated and ornery. When I chose to be work differently, it moved me forward in a bunch of ways. I made progress on my challenge and I gathered up a lot of insights.
Think of where you may be stuck right now and ask yourself “Am I the barrier?” If your answer is Yes, you are not alone. Let’s all have the courage to make a different choice and move forward. It’s worth the discomfort.
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