What barriers stop you from putting your lifestyle change into place?

Simon Long

Simon Long

Simon is a highly experienced personal trainer and behavioural psychology expert
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Hey everyone!


I hope your isolation is going well! 

Ahhhh I’m so bored!!!

Today you’re going to learn how to look at a new behaviour and discover what’s going to hold you back. Every new habit you aim to build will have barriers that prevent you from getting started. But thankfully, there are a finite number of reasons this can be the case.  


A well established approach to finding what’s going to hold you back is the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF), which outlines 14 categories of barriers. So I don’t overload you with info we’re going to look at the first 7 today. So let’s get started!




Do you know x?


These barriers appear when you don’t have the information you need. For example, you may have decided you’re going to start cooking your Friday night takeaway curry from scratch instead of ordering in, but you don’t actually know how to cook.


To overcome these barriers you need to look at where you have information gaps. Consider what you don’t know about applying the behaviour. Write down each piece of missing info as a question, and then use good sources to find answers.


Other examples of knowledge gaps include:


  • Not knowing where you can do a certain type of training (e.g. where you can run safely, or where you can go to play tennis).


  • Not knowing what you would find enjoyable for lunch, outside the usual sandwich meal combo you have from Tesco.




Do you know how to x?


Skill barriers exist when you don’t have the abilities needed to complete the task. An example would be choosing the behaviour of regular weighted training when you don’t have the ability to train with good posture and movement patterns. So you end up injuring yourself, which results in you not doing the behaviour again.


Overcoming these barriers usually requires practice, as although it is a cliché, practice really does make perfect. However, it can sometimes need a teacher of some sort. For the example above, this could be a personal trainer (I’m available for face to face personal training and online fitness training =] ), but it could alternatively be Youtube videos which teach you good form (AtheanX is well worth checking out!).


Other examples of Skill barriers include:


  • Not being able to cook (Links into the knowledge barrier! They often come together).


  • Aiming to run 5km, but not having the ability to run that far yet.


Memory, Attention and Decision Processing


Can you remember to do X?


Are you focused on doing X?


This is where the barriers begin to get a little more complex I’m afraid! But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! 


This barrier essentially comes down to your ability to focus on the task. This can come from a few different directions:


  • Can you remember to do the behaviour? If not, consider creating some kind of reminder, or adding cues to trigger the habit. I’ll put up a video today on behaviour cues, which you can find on the Body Development Centre Facebook  and Youtube, or in the blog here.


  • Can you focus on the task? For instance, are you exercising, but becoming distracted by something on the TV and so doing a lacklustre session. It may be worth considering what you need to cut out to allow you to focus.


  • Can you choose your behaviour over alternatives? For instance, you may have decided to eat healthily this evening, but then a friend invites you out to a restaurant. To overcome these often requires you to have a focus on why you want to change, which I’ve done a video on previously here


So to overcome this barrier, have a think about why you aren’t focused on your new behaviours, and take the steps needed to get your attention back!!


Behaviour Regulation


Do you have a plan of how to do X?


Do you have a system in place to monitor whether you did X?


These barriers relate to not having things in place that help you manage your behaviours and habits. Often this comes down to now having a plan, or not monitoring how well you stick to that plan.


Creating a plan, also called an action plan, is easy. All you need to do is specify what you will do, and when you will do it! But do be as specific as possible! Ambiguity leaves options for your Gremlin to convince you to stray.


Beyond an action plan, you’ll need a self-monitoring strategy. Essentially this helps you to keep an eye on how well you are following your plan. These work best when they’re visual, so think colourful graph on the fridge over text in the back of your notebook.


I’ll be doing videos and articles on action planning and self-monitoring in the future, so make sure you give me a Like on Facebook and a subscription on Youtube so you don’t miss out! 


Social/Professional Role and Identity


Is doing X compatible with your identity?


Does doing X go against your personal or professional role?


These barriers come into play when doing the behaviour goes against who you are. When it comes to weight loss and fitness, this is often an identity that is detrimental to your health, such as being the big drinker in your group of friends, which makes it difficult to not binge eat after a session, as well as making it tough to find the motivation to train when you’re hungover.


If these type of this or that situations are the problem, then consider your long-term goals. As getting hammered may be nice at the time, but if it’s holding you back from being who you really want to be, then you may realize it needs to stop when you take a long-term view. 


However, sometimes the clashes are not so this or that, and you can look at how you can have both. Following on from the “big drinker” example, you may well still be able to go out and have a session with your friends once a week, as long as you focus on nailing your nutrition the rest of the time, and have the day after as your rest day.


Remember, becoming healthy and fit doesn’t need to be a this or that situation most of the time. And when taking a long-term view, always keep in mind that there has to be a balance between being good, and having fun!


Beliefs about capabilities


How easy/hard is it for you to do X?


This barrier comes down to confidence and self-belief. Essentially, if you don’t feel confident in your ability to do something, you become much less likely to do it (This is commonly known as self-efficacy). 


Overcoming this requires you to adopt a growth mindset (i.e. I can improve with effort), as a fixed mindset (i.e. my abilities are static) will lower your motivation to do the task. You can find out more about these fixed and growth mindsets here.


Another good trick to overcome a low sense of self-belief is to focus on autonomy. Humans thrive on personal choice, and if you feel you’re choosing to do a behaviour because you really want to, then you will become far more motivated to put the time in you’ll need to get good.




How confident are you that you will be able to implement X?


Optimism can be hard to separate from the last category but has been shown in research to be separate enough to need its own category. 


Essentially your optimism is your belief that you will be able to overcome the barriers that stand before you, whilst your beliefs in your capabilities are how confident you are that you can do the task at hand. 


Building your optimism comes down to finding your barriers, and putting strategies in place to overcome them. So essentially, focus on all the other categories, and if you’re happy that you’ve found everything that’s holding you back, your optimism will be golden!!



And that’s the first seven categories of barriers! As I mentioned, there are seven more, so make sure you follow me on Facebook and Youtube to find out what they are! And I will try to remember to link the article here too! 


As always, if you have any further questions from what you’ve read today, then please do feel free to drop a comment below. Alternatively, you can email me at si@bodydevelopmentcentre.co.uk.


I am of course available for both face to face personal training for the residents of Leicester, Leicestershire and the surrounding counties (although this is on hold until after the covid 19 epidemic). In the meantime, though you can jump on to online personal training, which is available to anyone worldwide!


I will also be launching online fitness classes and behaviour change webinars soon, so be sure to follow my Facebook for more information when that launches, as well as all the usual free tips and tricks you would expect. 


And if you’d like even more free tips from myself, then check out the Body Vision Facebook page and Youtube channel! I do even more videos there, and you can also find the Body Vision app, which has the amazing Body Vision meal planner in it! All available for absolutely nothing!!


You can find out more about the app on the Body Vision website, and you can download it for Apple and Android devices now!


And of course, for anyone who wants some amazing hair to go with their new lifestyle, make sure you follow Demi at Here Come The Blondes for even more amazing tips and tricks. Her Instagram can be found here and her Facebook is here.


Until next time though, take care and have a great day!



Simon Long - Leicester Personal Trainer