Barriers Are The Enemy – Or Are They?

Rolling Roadblock by Brian Forbes

Would you let the sheep block you from the path, or would you block the sheep?

Barriers are a notorious, common enemy to anyone trying to reach their goals.They have many manifestations – something that gets in the way, laziness, etc. – but the result is always the same: they keep us from accomplishing our goals. There’s a lot of articles floating around the web on how barriers are evil goal and productivity killers and how you need to identify them and kick ‘em in the shins.

But what if we use barriers to our advantage? What if we flip them over and make them into a good thing? Is it even possible to use barriers to prevent ourselves from becoming derailed from the path to our goals? I think the answer is yes.

Use Barriers to Prevent Yourself from Getting Lazy

I can be quite a lazy person sometimes. There are some things that I just I prefer to take the path of least resistance on. Anything that I’m not in the habit of doing I find it hard making myself do it. I don’t mind cleaning every day, but with fitness despite how much I enjoy the activity, sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Especially whenever I’ve gotten out of the habit, it’s really hard for me to get back into it.

When I finally realized and acknowledged my own laziness, and found ways to combat it, I was finally able to stop saying “I should do x” and actually start doing it. Barriers became one of my favorite ways to make myself do stuff I’m not in the habit of doing.

Exercising is one thing that I’ve never had too much difficulty getting myself to do – except once I’ve fallen out of the habit and haven’t exercised in a while. Then, no matter how much I tell myself I want/need to start exercising again, it doesn’t really matter because I’ll often find some excuse not to do it. But, I’ve found a simple “barrier” that gets me used to it again, and back into the habit. It’s simple: It gets in my way.

Okay, well, exercise doesn’t just magically get in my way. I put the tools I need to work out in the way so that I’ll see it frequently on my way around the house. Rather than having the dumbbells off in the corner in a neatly arranged sequence, I pick out the ones that I need and set them in a high-traffic area of the house. That way, it’ll be easier for me to workout and I’ll think about it more often and my guilt will push me to complete the routine. Once I’ve gotten back into the habit, it’s not too difficult to put the equipment where it belongs and I’m much more self-motivated to go exercise on the allotted days.

Flip the Barrier Over to Do The Right Thing and Avoid The Wrong Thing

Another example of using barriers properly is how I used to spend my mornings. Frequently I’d wake up, make coffee, and then plop my butt down in front of the computer for a couple of hours reading the news, blogs, etc. and in general wasting valuable time. Without me even realizing it, I was throwing away around two to three hours every morning.

Then one day I decided that I needed to schedule my days to get more done, and to ensure that I knew what I needed to do every day. While scheduling, I remembered the old advice that exercising first thing in the morning would help you to feel great throughout the day and more productive. It’s something I’ve heard multiple times before – but never took to heart. So I started working out first thing, taking a shower, and then getting on with my day. Not only did it make me more cheerful and more productive, but I gained a ton of time in my day by just not being lazy in the morning. Another nice side effect was that I unintentionally changed my morning mood from a “perky-morning-people-should-be-shot” kind of person, to a “HIHOWAREYOUI’MFANTASTICTHANKS!!” kind of person.

As it turned out, my old morning routine was a barrier of its own, blocking my path and making it seriously difficult to build any momentum for the rest of the day.

I want to be productive somehow each day – so why was I wasting two hours every morning just sitting in front of the computer? The fact is, it was the easy thing to do. Even so, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Drafting that morning schedule and posting it in a conspicuous place built a wall of guilt around the office chair every morning. If you have a negative morning routine like what I had, use a barrier to get you to skip it for a new routine. Get up, go outside and breathe the fresh cool morning air, and go for a walk, do a body weight workout, or go to the gym.

Other Ways Barriers Can Help

Using barriers works for things you don’t necessarily enjoy but know you need to do too. Here’s some ideas of other ways barriers can help:

  • Want to learn how to do pull ups? put a pull-up bar over a frequently used doorframe or in a high-trafficked (by YOU!) hallway and every time you pass through, do a pull-up or negative.
  • Want to watch less TV? Cancel your subscriptions to cable networks, toss away all the batteries to your remote.
  • Want to eat less bad food? Donate everything in your house to others who need *any* food, and stop buying the bad food from the grocery.
  • Want to get more done in the morning? Change your routine.
  • Have difficulty spending less on impulse buys? Only carry cash to force yourself to think more carefully about your purchases.


Barriers can be a foe or a friend – even trivial ones. The key is recognizing what they are and either tearing them down where they cause problems or building them up where they’ll help out. Sometimes, we might not even realize something is a barrier – like my former morning routine.

If this article has helped you take control and use barriers to your advantage, let us know! We’d love to know about them, and I bet they might help other readers too.

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