Posted by on Mar 3, 2015

Miguel Aragoncillo is a strength coach at Cressey Sports Performance based in Hudson, MA, previously working at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. Along with being a writer, online fitness coach, and blogger, he competes in both breakdancing and powerlifting (although, not simultaneously). This article was originally published on Medium.comWant to train with Miguel? We can hook you up. 

This phrase is probably the bane of a few people’s existence.

I can’t continue.

I can’t figure it out.

I can’t go on.

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.


To prevent this article from being very philosophical, I’ll relate it to a world that I’m very familiar with: fitness.

I’m in the business of changing people.

I change mindsets. I guide people through the avenue of exercise in order to achieve their desires of playing professional sports, fat loss, and improving their appearance.

When attempting to create a solution for change, one thought that has pervaded my mind the past few months is the thought of creating the correct solution for the issue at hand.

If you have the right solution at the wrong time it is still the wrong solution. First check: is it the environment in which a person is operating?

You not only need to decide on a set of actions, but you also need to surround yourself in the proper environment in order to change.

While I don’t fancy myself a wizard for creating change à la Tony Robbins, I do believe the following can create a better view on how your intangibles, such as your environment, can impact your goals. Your environment might be one of the following (or a mixture of two or more):

A Non-Threatening and Encouraging Environment

For most goals, if you surround yourself in an environment that encourages your actions towards these goals, the more likely you will be able to model yourself and preen your actions towards a more streamlined thought process. This is fair enough and straight forward to understand.

A Low Stress, Anti-Change (Internal) Environment

If your environment stresses you out due to lack of change, you can either:

  1. Continue your path for internal change.
  2. Don’t do anything.
  3. Take a step back and follow what your environment is dictating, or allow the external world to decide your actions.

Anecdotally, about once every 2 or 3 weeks, I’ll get a message or email from someone online who is frustrated with their personal training job at their local commercial gym. Understandably so — training seldom has a standard set of practices or a business model, and what management asks of you might seem unsavory (they often want you to sell sell sell).

This person is yearning for change, yet has been working in the same gym for the past 3–10+ years. This person yearns for deeper knowledge, changes in environment, and improvement in work place. But, confusingly enough, this is the same person that does not have an answer when I ask them, “Have you thought about quitting? Moving?

The world is bigger than your boutique commercial gym.

“There are far more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than 24 Hour Fitness.”
–Shakespeare, probably.

A High Stress, Anti-Change External Environment

At the same time, your environment also has the capacity to stress you by having too much pressure for improvement or change.

This barometer is literally pointing to change. Photo source.

This barometer is literally pointing to change. Photo source.

So if your environment stresses you out due to too much change occurring (that is, too much perceived by you) you can either:

  1. Allow your environment to swallow you up.
  2. Organize the disorder and maintain your integrity, staying on your path.
  3. Not do anything.

In the context of weight loss, many often mentally fight against many social pressures, whether it is from the context of after work drinks (and food), or family members’ resistance against eating salads for lunch.

There are correlations between societal and interpersonal pressures on body image and dietary influence, and to utilize the above study as a backside confirmation (that is, the study proves an understood thought process), it is a common thought process that if someone makes pressures you to think in a certain way to fit in, you often will.

I See No Changes…


If someone repeatedly says “I can’t do this!” then it can be assumed that they are:

  1. Not prepared for it physically.
  2. Not prepared for it mentally.
  3. Copping out.
  4. Intangibles

There are both internal and external stressors at play here. On the one hand you have yourself and your belief system on whether or not you can accomplish said task. And on the other hand, you have your environmental “checkpoints” that discourage or encourage you from changing.

So what can you do? What is the correct play here?

Well, sometimes you need to understand that waiting out your environment is important for change. And for other scenarios, you need to be the catalyst for change.

While this sounds like it is ending up to be another one of those articles that ends up being “It depends.” As the final answer, I’d like to offer another solution.

Decide on your goal, and pick your battles.

Know when to fold them, and know when to call people out on their bluff.

Whichever thought process you want to go with, understand that much like music, creating a solution is all about timing.

“How do you know when to do that?”

I’m glad you asked.

It comes down to experience. While some people may be geniuses and “have it all figured out,” more often than not those people are just rolling with the punches and going from one solution to the next until they do just that — until they figure it out through multiple and various experiences.

These individuals are rolling from one change to the next, just to make sure that they haven’t missed anything in the grand scheme of things. They still have a solid foundation, but they will try different things from time to time.

If something works, it will eventually find its way into the hands of someone who is in the habit of constant change.They make themselves open to the idea of change, and thus allow for their body to be a genesis of change.There is no stress involved with change, because it is inevitable for this person. Flexibility for perception will allow this person the ultimate capacity for understanding what type of solution to use at the correct time.

Solutions on Solutions on Solutions

So to end this on a relatively not-so-philosophical note, when someone comes to me, saying, “I can’t do [xyz],” I troubleshoot with them to find out about their mindset.

“Can you do this? How about this? If you do this before that, you can do this…”

I watch their body language. I watch their reactions to the various solutions that are possible. I dive deeper into some solutions, others I throw out the window. Sometimes people open up, others coil away due to the rapid fire of questions and solutions that I have just suggested.

At the end, I often find out quickly enough if this person is ready for change.

It is unfortunate, but I can’t change you, or the people around you.

I can only guide you through a path, or down a path.

It’s ultimately up to you to find out what kinds of actions to take at what specific time.

You can’t change without that.

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