You’ve decided what you want. Maybe you’ve gone all in by hiring an accountability coach. And you’ve been diligently working towards it. That in and of itself is huge. For a while the pleasure and the self-confidence that that inspires is enough to sustain you. But inevitably, whether you have an accountability coach or not, you will begin to feel the burn. A tightening, a discomfort, a desire to stop. In our experience, it happens like clockwork midway through our 12-week sessions.

Feeling the Burn

Technically feeling the burn comes from exercise terminology when your muscles start to run out of the quick fuel they use for energy and you literally feel a burning sensation. In our lingo, it’s the shift between running on the quick energy hits of inspiration and motivation and switching to the slower burning energy of consistency and the momentum that comes with it. Without accountability, this is were a lot of the drop off, shiny object syndrome and goal threatening procrastination set in. You might even feel a sense of rebelliousness. Don’t worry, it’s just the ego freaking out. It’s not a huge fan of change. 

And it is what it means to be on the path to accomplishing your goals and part of the reason you set them in the first place. You want to develop this level of discipline. You knew there would be some serious discomfort in the name of positive change, you just got lulled into thinking it wasn’t going to be this hard. Yet there is good news. It only lasts a few weeks. So let’s talk strategies for how to manage the discomfort: 

1. Acceptance

Accept that this is part of the process. It’s not supposed to be easy. The fact that it just got harder for some odd reason just means change is taking root. You are not alone, there is nothing wrong with you, you are simply in the process of accomplishing a goal. 

2. Manage through the Change in Energy

As every runner knows that has ever ‘hit the wall’ the change in energy is real. Imagine that week 6 to 8 in our process is just like that. At this point your focus is to keep going, not run faster. This is time to ask, am I overcommitting? Do I need to scale back a bit to avoid burnout and go further in the long run? Once you get used to the change you can push a little harder.

3. Be Curious

Unlike the exercise and running examples we are using here. The resistance you feel is not due to a metabolic process, it is going to come from old patterns of thought and behavior. You can think of them as limiting beliefs as explained by author Gay Hendricks in The Big Leap or as we think of it as a form of fear. Steven Pressfield says it best in the War of Art,

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.

Either way, your resistance is usually not about what you think it is. It runs deep and it has shown up in various forms and various times in your life. Most people don’t realize how much they are going to learn from setting goals. They are usually focused on what they perceive as the benefits of the goal. However, the unintended consequence of setting goals is facing your own resistance and moving through it. This is by far the most interesting and transformative part of accomplishing a goal, so be curious about your resistance. It has so much to teach you. 

At AW we lovingly refer to this stage in our process as the messy middle. Last week, I realized I was in resistance so I looked at what I had coming up for the following week and scaled back my commitments. On one of my days off, I made a point of carving out a few hours to myself. Using the strategies outlined above, I noticed and accepted that things were suddenly feeling hard. I managed through the change in energy by scaling back and creating a little white space. Now I’m in the phase of being curious. I hope if the need arises, you will use these strategies too.