I’m about to tell you something you might not like. Ready? Here’s what’s up:

More often than not, you’re the only thing standing in the way of whatever it is that you want most.

It’s not that you don’t have enough time, or enough money, or enough energy. It’s not that you aren’t good enough or smart enough or “ready” enough or whatever enough. It might feel like those things are your most stubborn obstacles, but they’re not. It might feel like those things are insurmountable and that, if they suddenly disappeared, everything would be perfect, but it wouldn’t be.

Because those things aren’t obstacles, they’re excuses. They’re safety blankets we can cover ourselves in to protect us from actually doing the hard work and going out on every limb and just generally making shit happen, despite our fear.

You say you want to treat your body better by fueling it with whole, healthy foods. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) you “don’t have time to cook.” You “can’t afford it.” You won’t be “ready” to make the change until after your best friend’s bachelorette party or your niece’s birthday celebration or your week-long vacation or whatever abstract time in the future sounds reasonable for making the change you’re afraid of making right now.

But, do you want to know a secret? Making the changes you want to make and doing the things you want to do never gets less scary. You can put things off until you have an extra $100 or an extra 2 hours, but then what?

Because – real talk - change is always scary. Admitting your dreams and goals and then going after them is always a thing of uncertainty and fear. Seriously, you guys, I’m scared, like, all the time. I just signed up for a 50-mile trail race in December and I’m honestly terrified about it. I went full-time with Life Less Bullshit about a month ago and I battle fear about that at least once every single day – and usually a hell of a lot more than once.

So, change is scary, yes? We can all agree on that, I think. But, all too often we fall back on our excuses instead of dealing with that fear head-on. We tell ourselves whatever we need to tell ourselves so that we can keep things exactly as they are, and in doing this we’re constantly (and, usually, subconsciously) asking ourselves the single most significant question that keeps us from our goals:

How much can I get away with?

Story time:

For over 25 years, I unknowingly let this question guide my entire life. I’d say that I wanted to learn everything I could in college, but then I’d do the bare minimum amount of work necessary to just get good grades. I’d say I wanted to feel great about myself and my body, but then I’d do the absolute least amount of physical activity possible to just avoid gaining weight. The questions I was unknowingly basing every area of my life around sounded like this:

“How many of these cookies can I eat without feeling sick?”
“How much wine can I drink without embarrassing myself?”
“How little can I study for this test and still get an A?”
“How long can I spend on Gchat at work without getting caught?”
“How many kickboxing classes can I skip before my pants get tight?”

Essentially, how much can I get away with?

And here’s the problem with that mindset: You wind up treating yourself as badly as possible. You set some arbitrary “don’t go past this point” mark in your head, and as long as you don’t hit that point, you’re fine, right? Until you’re not. Until you actually do hit that point and then, because you still don’t want to change your behavior, you set yourself a new, lower bar. You think, “Okay, okay, but as long as I don’t wind up there, I’m fine,” and all the while your best self and your best life are passing you right on by.

So, listen, it’s time we stop trying to pull one over on ourselves like this, isn’t it? To stop breaking the promises we make to ourselves. To stop asking, “How much can I get away with?” and to completely flip our perspective instead. It’s time to start asking some different questions.

The 4 Questions You Need To Ask Yourself

1. What do you want?
Meaning: What do you actually want? Forget what you think you should want or what other people want for you. What the fuck do you want?

2. Why do you want it?
Wanting something isn’t enough. You can tell yourself you want something “really badly,” but what does that actually mean? Nothing, because wanting something “really badly” doesn’t give you an emotional connection to your goal. So, once you know what you want, it’s time to get honest and clear about why you want it. What would it mean to you to achieve it? How would your life be better served by pursuing that goal on a day-to-day basis?

3. What are you willing to do/change/sacrifice to make it happen?
Knowing what you want isn’t enough. Being able to articulate why you want what you want isn’t enough. Because, and I can’t stress this any harder, nothing changes if nothing changes.

4. What’s the next best thing you can do, right now, to move this forward?
You don’t need a five-year plan. You don’t even need a one-year plan. All you need – seriously, all you need – is to figure out one small action step that you can take right now, in the next 24-hours, to move yourself forward. Then, do that thing. Then? Do the next thing, and the next thing, and the next – one small, actionable step at a time.

Is that as sexy as a color-coded, grandiose, five-year plan? Of course not. But – and here’s the most important thing – there’s nothing less sexy than a “perfect” plan that never even gets put into action because you’re just sitting there asking yourself how much you can possibly get away with instead.

On the other hand, do you know what is sexy? Taking action. Realizing there’s never a “right” time for anything, and doing it anyway. That’s sexy. Being nice to yourself is sexy. Setting realistic expectations is sexy. Not giving up when shit gets scary? That’s sexy. And the sexiest thing of all? Hard work. Consistent, dedicated, fuck-all hard work – because it’s the only thing that’ll get you exactly where you want to be.