There are all sorts of pressures at work to keep you where you are.
There are societal & cultural pressures which are the easiest (even if not always easy) to overcome. Yet, they hold back a vast majority of the population.
Then there are the closer, friend & familial pressures, which in certain cultures, can be extremely pronounced and restricting. These pressures hold back those who don't care about society's opinion, but care deeply for those of their friends or family (parents in particular).
Lastly, there is our own, self-imposed pressure. The inner-critic, the pessimist, our projected ego. This can be the strongest and most detrimental pressure of them all. It's the same one that causes people to take their own lives, and sometimes the lives of others.
HOWEVER, all of these pressures feed off two things: one bio-chemical and one metaphysical; which may be why they’re so hard to understand and control.
First, our programmed need for survival. Our brains have been trained over and over again, for millennia, to avoid risk and struggle.
They've even become masters at tricking us into thinking a perceived risk is infinitely more dangerous than it may actually be. Paralyzing us in analysis rather than promoting action.
As Mark Twain put it, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
So, safe and clear paths to survival will always attract us (or our brain's at least). It’s why the majority of us can live on in content complacency because fighting societal or cultural pressures is unpredictable and deceivingly dangerous.
Second, our sense of identity or ego. Once we've constructed a sense of self, core values, deeply held beliefs, we've made it more difficult for ourselves to change, especially in the eyes of our friends, family, and loved ones.
This stems from a diverse mix of emotions including: fear of rejection, need of consistency, and sometimes even fear of success (which is really just a mix of the previous two because it's a fear of change).
They're described quickly and trivially here but for some they seem like life or death and for good reason.
If we were to trace these fears back to their origins in our hunter-gatherer groups, they correspond to a real deciding factor between life and death.
In those days, not being accepted by the tribe meant banishment, and banishment meant certain death because it was nearly impossible to survive alone in the dangerous and untamed wild.
You can read up on this more here: Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think (it’s super useful and interesting).
Now, there are two ways to address the sources of our most powerful pressures.
First, our bio-chemical programming (the need for survival) can be fairly easily appeased once we've come to a single realisation that, Mel Robbins said, but COUNTLESS OTHER TOP-PERFORMERS agree with: "Motivation is garbage."
Motivation is not an external force that fills you up when the time is right. It’s largely thought of as “something that happens TO us”. That’s why we say, “I’m just not motivated” or “I don’t FEEL motivated.”
Motivation is really just discipline in achieving a goal that we perceive as “worth it”. It’s about having the right habits or systems and a dream so awesome (in the true sense of the word) that there’s no question about whether you would go after it. So, reframing motivation as something you create rather than something that governs your behavior will get you over your brain’s efforts to keep you safe and comfortable.
Getting over our metaphysical pressures, our ego, is a little more complicated, but just as do-able.
1. We can separate reality from our perception of it.
Everything we experience is filtered through our thoughts, history, and biases, but it doesn’t have to be.
Mindfulness practice exists to isolate our experience from these things, so that we are judging based solely on direct stimuli. In other words, we’re taking things for what they are or as they are in the present moment rather than adding our own opinions, predictions, or fears to them.
This allows us to remove all the minutia clouding our experience and hindering our goals because we can catch ourselves over-analyzing, preemptively judging, or discouraging ourselves in the moment.
2. We have a choice AND the power to decide.
Once we catch ourselves, it’s easier to change because we know that these negative behaviors are self-defeating, and instead of committing to them we are given the chance to stop and change. Repeating the process leads to forming new habits and therefore ultimate growth.
Conquering your pressures is rebellion towards your ego. Emerging victorious is what allows us to be ourselves. Being ourselves is freedom, so rebellion is freedom.