One of the most popular goals people set in the new year is to “lose weight.” I put that in quotes because it’s a good example of an amorphous objective that doesn’t mean much. Not just in its lack of specificity — how much weight? — but in that losing weight isn’t your outcome. It may be one aspect of your outcome.
Most likely what you really want — your ultimate outcome — is to be healthy, feel strong, move with greater ease, feel good about yourself and in your body. Maybe you want to run a marathon or run around with your kids and not be in pain. None of these outcomes really depends on the number on the scale. And if you focus on the ultimate outcome, the number on the scale may take care of itself.
Something to consider.
Another thing to consider: there are things that weigh us down mentally, emotionally, and energetically that have a bigger impact on our lives and our productivity than the number on the scale.
Unloading these weights can open our path to progress in our physical body outcomes and free us to experience greater creativity and productivity.
As I’ve shared before, life doesn’t happen in silos. Each area influences others. My approach to planning, to productivity, and to any area of life is holistic. Energy is contagious. How we feel in one area of life transfers to others.
With that in mind, here are three weights that I’ve found keep energy stuck and prevent the feeling of freedom we desire.
(1) Expectations of Your Potential
Trying to live up to the expectations that you or others have for your potential can feel like a huge burden.
Almost every one of my clients mentions in our initial call that they feel like they are not living up to their potential, and it weighs on every decision and every action.
It’s a feeling I know well. When I was in elementary school, every report card said that although I was a good student I wasn’t maximizing my potential. The thing is, I was getting A’s. How much more was there to give?
I always felt like I was falling short, and I carried that feeling through high school, college, and law school. Even as a young lawyer, partners at my law firm would tell me they believed I had more in me.
Maybe I have greater potential than I’ve exhibited. I believe I do.
I also know that the pressure I have often put on myself to maximize and optimize my potential hasn’t served that outcome. Everyone is wired differently, so your mileage may vary.
But what if releasing the burden of optimizing your potential was actually the secret to rising to your ultimate height?
Like a helium balloon released of the weight tying it down, you just might soar.
(2) What’s Possible
Some people can only see what is tangible and in front of them. The ability to see what’s possible — for ourselves, for others, for the world — is a tremendous gift.
This gift also comes with a heavy burden. When you can see the possibility for what something or someone can be (including yourself), you want to make it that way. Now. Without delay. And the world doesn’t work like that.
Visions come to form slowly, over seasons and years.
Seeing the world through a lens of what’s possible can prevent us from accepting things as they are. This resistance to how things are creates our suffering.
Releasing the weight of “what’s possible” doesn’t mean we stop doing the work to manifest our vision. It means we accept things as they are even while we do the work. We meet ourselves where we are, and others where they are.
Our imagined ideals of “perfect” have always been a heavy weight, and social media has intensified the load. In the age of Instagram we now try to live up to the images we see in our feeds, rather than just the ones we see in our minds.
The heaviest weight of all is trying to live up to the images we create and share online. The platforms started as places to share slices of our lives, but they have turned into branding channels.
The expectations that what we share online stays “on brand” and that our lives off-line match what we share online are the source of a lot of unnecessary pressure and anxiety for many of us, myself included.
This is something I’ve been contemplating a lot as I approach the 10-month mark of a social media hiatus. This is not my first one.
One thing I remind myself daily is that nobody is perfect. We are all human, and we are all on this journey together. No person has all the answers. No person is “ahead.” Each of us is on a different path, collecting different pieces of wisdom, and we bring that back to the collective to share it.
Sometimes we might trip and fall on our path. It happens to the best of us, often at the most inopportune times, like when the soap opera legend Susan Lucci fell while walking the runway for a charity fashion show.
When we release the weight of perfectionism, we are able to find the humor and joy even in the moment when we are down on the catwalk, just like Susan Lucci did.
Isn’t that a more fun way to go through life?
A Holistic Approach
Releasing the weights of our potential, what’s possible, and our illusions of perfectionism frees us to experience life as it is, instead of how we wish it would be or how we believe it could be.
When we aren’t loaded down by these burdens, we can experience our own humanity and the humanity of others. We engage in greater compassion for self and others, deeper connection, and foster more robust community.
And when we’re not constantly trying to measure up to these lofty ideals, it becomes easier to shed a lot of other things that are holding us back.
I invite you to try it. What have you got to lose?