How to Get Out of Your Own Way

Nov 19, 2021

In my conversations with hundreds of widowed people, I always ask about the biggest obstacle in healing and moving forward. Very often the answer is, “me.”

“I’m the biggest obstacle,” is what many people tell me. I frequently hear things like:

“I try to get things done, but I can’t get myself motivated.”

“I know I should get out of the house and be social, but I can’t find the energy.”

“I feel so overwhelmed and then I do nothing at all.”

“I want to eat healthier, but I never actually do.”

“I want to want to exercise, but I don’t really want to.”


Living life after loss is the last thing anyone wants. No one feels qualified to do so. It all feels so very impossible. And add to that, we feel stuck in the mire because we think we’re standing in our own way.

The good news is that it only seems like you are your biggest obstacle. In truth, you simply have a normal human brain.

The primitive part of the brain has only one job: to keep us alive. It keeps us alive by encouraging us to avoid pain, seek pleasure and conserve energy. Now add grief and that primitive brain launches into overdrive.

In the spirit of avoiding pain, the primitive brain says, “Don’t go out -it’ll be uncomfortable. It’s safer here at home.”

In the spirit of seeking pleasure, the primitive brain says, “Eat the sugary treats – that will help numb this terrible pain.”

And in the spirit of conserving energy, the primitive brain says, “Why exercise when the couch is so comfortable?”

So, you see, “you” are not the obstacle; it is more accurately your normal primitive brain, doing its job of keeping you alive by avoiding pain, seeking pleasure and conserving energy. There is nothing wrong with you. In fact, your primitive brain is functioning exactly as it should.   

What is actually happening is that the primitive brain is running the show. It’s orchestrating your life; dictating your every move. This is normal for all humans, and especially grieving humans, but it doesn’t have to be the default.

Instead of letting the primitive brain run amuck, we can activate our prefrontal cortex. This is the epicenter of reasoning, judgment and impulse control. In short, it’s the adult in the room. The more we use our prefrontal cortex, the stronger it gets.

The prefrontal cortex sounds something like:

“Eating healthy foods makes for feeling better and sleeping better.”

“Just 5 minutes of walking is always a mood-booster.”

“Spending time with other people is good for the soul.”

Notice the dialogue that happens between your primitive brain and your prefrontal cortex. Notice that the primitive brain always seeks instant gratification while the prefrontal cortex is more interested in the longer term. They rarely are in agreement. The question is which one directs the majority of our choices.

If your primitive brain is running the show and taking you where you don’t want to go, I see you. One of the first things I teach in my coaching program called Life Reconstructed is how to be “on to” your brain. If you’re interested in taking bigger strides forward and having a guide and a community of like-minded people to cheer you on, simply apply here and we’ll see if it’s a fit.

Learn more about Life Reconstructed.

Click here

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