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Being PresentDepressionEncouragement

How External and Internal Forces Disrupt Our Ability To Succeed

By March 27, 2021August 30th, 2022No Comments
external and internal forces

The snow pelted my body with stinging ice needles. Head down. Eyes slit, the cold penetrated my three layers of clothing. With the next gust of wind, I struggled to catch my breath and balance.

Trudging through thigh-high drifts, I finally stopped. Exhausted, heart pounding, the remaining quarter mile felt impossible. I had to catch my breath. Thankfully, Dave saw my struggle and waning strength. Grasping my hand firmly, he broke through the remaining drifts with short steps so I could follow. Following his footsteps, I thanked God for his 6’2” frame. Long legs cleared the drifts my short legs couldn’t. But more than the physical help, I recognized the tender care Dave continually offers me. Often, he husbands me by seeing my need and working to find relief, like trailblazing through huge snowdrifts. We realize that marriage requires us to pull together on the same side of the rope or snowdrift. 😉 When we fight together against obstacles, we’re stronger. And we balance each other’s strengths.

Once inside, I rested by the warm fire. Thankful for the strength to maintain our walking goal despite the winter storm.

Has your life ever felt like every step required more strength than you have?

When this happens, we need to identify where the challenge originates.

External forces:

While I didn’t cause the snowstorm, I couldn’t control it either. But, the storm posed an obstacle that forced me to make a decision. Would I walk in the storm to meet my goal or use the storm as an excuse to skip a day? If I didn’t walk, then I wouldn’t meet my goal. Dave and I discussed our options.

  • I could walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I’d be warm, but mentally it would wear me out more than the snowstorm.
  • I could walk around the interior of my house. Again, warm, but boring.
  • Or, I could bundle up, get outside in the fresh air my body craves, and walk as far as possible.

The struggle with external factors often involves your concept of control. When something comes at you, your choice is to:

  • React
  • Ignore
  • Affect

Your control is limited to what you can do in the situation. You can’t change the external force.

If you react, it’s an auto-response to the external stimuli. Often, reactions happen before we know what we’re doing. Your brain is on autopilot, and you’re aren’t 100% engaged.

You could choose to ignore the external factor. In my case, I didn’t have to walk in the blinding snowstorm. I had alternatives. I could ignore the goal. It’s not like someone was grading me on completing my walking goal after 28” of snow had fallen.

But, affect means you cause something to happen. I like that. It carries the thought of inspiration or positive action. When I affect something or someone, I control what I can in the circumstance.

While I couldn’t change the outside weather conditions, I could dress warmly, pull on a pair of boots, determine how much time I could tolerate the cold, and then walk accordingly. That quarter-mile walk felt like four miles with all the contributing resistance factors. Plus, it was great cardio!

Internal forces:

With internal forces, I found my struggles were with:

  • My mind
  • Self-limiting beliefs
  • Perfectionism

The first struggle was dealing with my mind. I didn’t have to walk. And, a year ago, I wouldn’t have. One look at the weather conditions, and I’d give myself a pass for this day. It’s crazy to walk in blowing, driving, and drifting snow, right? But, on this day, I chose not to take the easy out because my goal stared me down. Being 310 days into a year-long goal kept my mind focused on that one-year mark. If I took the easy pause today, I’d have to start my goal over. No way.

The second internal battle I faced dealt with self-limiting beliefs. Could I physically tackle and overcome the weather forces? In the past, I’d have accepted those self-limiting thoughts as unbreakable, impassible, and impossible and made the necessary excuses not to face the challenge. However, this time I recognized those whispering voices and challenged them to a duel. The length of the walk wasn’t as important as facing down the limitations and winning the battle. It feels great to win!

The third aspect meant tossing my perfectionism into the nearest snowbank, hoping it would sink to the bottom. My goal through the last year meant walking an average of two miles per day. As one who struggles with depression, the two-mile mark seems to be a magic number for me. I get enough work to the long leg muscles to release the good endorphins, which lift my mood. So why not do it on a treadmill? Because I discovered those two miles on the “hamster wheel” are agony which defeats the purpose of the walking.

When I’m outside, my mood lifts with the fresh air, the sounds of nature, the wind in my face, and the time spent with my husband. The treadmill only deals with the physical mileage. All the relational and emotional aspects disappear. On this walk, though, two miles wouldn’t be possible nor wise. With the 40+ mile per hour driving winds, heavy snowfall, and large drifts, I had to content myself with a completion goal. Translation: just do it, and it counts. How I wished I still had my dad’s old cross-country skis!

There are times in life when all you can do against the external and internal forces is put your head down and trudge into the wind.

You aren’t to blame for the situation, but you do need to deal with it. And you can control your attitude and actions related to the situation.

You’ll probably feel worn out as if you’ve been in a battle. And it may not look like you thought it would. That’s okay. You got to the other side. Smile. Be proud of your decision to face the obstacle head-on. Celebrate your win. You deserve it.

When external forces threaten to derail your goals take stock of your reaction, temptation to ignore it, or how you choose to affect it. And when internal forces try to keep you from forward progress (no matter how small), recognize and attend to your mind, self-limiting beliefs, and any perfectionism—Journal about it. Be honest with yourself or talk with a coach about finding victory in the face of obstacles.

You can’t control the forces, but you can control your response.


  • Kirsten D Samuel

    I empower Christian wives to discover they are seen, loved, and heard. These women find the freedom to be who they are beyond their partner’s struggles, and find hope that there is a life worth living.

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