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  • Writer's pictureFamily Counseling Service

Lay Aside Every Encumbrance

Getting the most out of life requires that we be very intentional about the choices we make, the influences we expose ourselves to and the distractions we allow into our lives.

An encumbrance is a burden or impediment; something that holds us back from reaching our goals.  We all have various encumbrances in our lives that can trip us up when we are striving towards a certain goal, trying to live up to our values, or trying to find joy and contentment. 

These obstacles tend to be the same things that entangle us repeatedly, but we have become so accustomed to them that we either don’t even recognize them or we fail to see that most of our obstacles stem from the same underlying cause.  These are typically the things that cause us to feel powerless, defeated or, even, hopeless.

There is an unlimited list of what these encumbrances could be for you, but maybe considering some of the ones below will help you identify your own.

Relationships.  As you think about your relationships, which ones help you feel encouraged, empowered or valuable?  Some of our relationships are very affirming and remind us what is most important in our lives.  However, others leave us with increased self-doubt, worry, confusion and dejection.  They say we become like the people with whom we spend the most time.  Consider which relationships nourish you and which ones need to receive less of your attention.

Fears.  We all have them to some extent.  These may include fear of failure or success, fear of not meeting others’ expectations, fear of making decisions, or fear of rejection, and the list is endless.  Taking control of your fears requires, first, acknowledging that they exists.  Be honest, at least with yourself, about those things that plague your mind (even unconsciously) and you can begin to make intentional choices that refuse to give into them.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is taking action in spite of your fear.

Guilt.  This is a huge unseen drain on our energy, focus, confidence and drive.  Guilt can subtly make us feel unworthy or incapable, causing us to make our own desires subservient to someone else’s.  We may even be so accustomed to feeling guilty that we cannot separate what we really want from what someone else wants.  Guilt has a way of telling us, “What you want is not important.” Or “You’re just being selfish.”    The trick is to find the balance between being the kind, supportive person you want to be, yet not losing your own identity in the process.

Unresolved Anger.  Holding onto an old resentment has a myriad of effects on our relationships, choices and self-esteem.  Anger skews our perspective and causes us to be defensive and abrasive in ways we may not even realize.  Often, an underlying bitterness causes us to carry a chip on our shoulder that influences the way others receive or respond to us.  Anger is often deceptive because we may say that we have forgiven someone or forgotten an offense, but in reality, it crosses our minds so often we have just gotten used to the tension it creates.  Again, be honest with yourself about any bitterness you still carry around; it takes a toll on every aspect of your life.

Unhealthy Habits. An addiction or unhealthy habit (over-eating, alcohol/drugs, electronic device addiction) generally exhausts more of our lives and demands more of us than we ever intended.  These habits can be consuming, while we ignore the objections of those close to us when they question them.  Typically, these are activities that make us feel better (e.g., substances or food) or distract us from dealing with real life (e.g., television or social media). To regain our focus and recapture the energy these behaviors drain from us takes determination, self-discipline and, perhaps, professional help.

An Obsessive Passion.  This could be anything that so consumes and drives us so intensely that we ignore other important areas of our lives.  This may be an insatiable desire for more possessions (i.e., keeping up with the Joneses), a drive to achieve success, an urgency to have our kids achieve beyond their own interests or abilities, or even a desire to be highly esteemed by others.  These kinds of passions create tunnel vision and throw our lives out of balance.  If not brought back into balance, they can destroy relationships, health and the personal satisfaction we think we are chasing.

These are just examples of some of the encumbrances that can entangle you to keep you from actually achieving your goals.  Many of these can even cause you to think you are making the best decisions, but they are actually creating a huge drain on you and preventing you from finding success, contentment and joy in your daily living.  You can begin to take charge of these simply by becoming aware of them in your own life, recognizing the impact they are having on you and those around you, and taking small steps to make healthier choices.

Larry Deavers is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker & Executive Director of Family Counseling Service of West Alabama.

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