What’s stopping you? This is a question that I have been asking myself a lot lately. What things, mindsets, people, and excuses are getting in my way and preventing further success? As I have shared in previous articles, busyness has been a huge distraction for me and I have worked hard over the last few months to step back, relax, and reevaluate where I am and where I want to go. As clarity starts to settle back into my mind, I now find myself stuck with a different problem: how do I start moving forward again?
I have been pondering that question for some time with few results. Recently, I realized that I was asking the wrong question. I needed to first figure out what was stopping me. Was it a lack of confidence, motivation, or no direction? Was I fearful or still too sick? What things do I need to remove from my life so that I can move forward?
In my career as a consultant and a professor, I have coached many people in the same place, so I figure it is time to start taking some of my own advice. This is actually harder than it sounds. It is easy to hand out directions when you’re not the one lost. As I think back and study what most people who are stuck have complained about, I think that there are some consistencies and patterns that we can all learn from.
At the risk of oversimplifying all of our own unique situations, there are three common roadblocks that keep many of us stuck:
Unrealistic expectations. We tend to judge our own success by what we see in others. We see the people who have “made it to the top” and set our own expectations too high. Sure, there is nothing wrong with striving to be the best we can be and hoping to one day join the ranks of the elite in our industries. But, what we have to remember is that success does not happen overnight. We look at the people we want to emulate, then look at ourselves, and give up before we ever get started. Why? Because the gap between what we want and where we are is too big.
The truth is that most really successful people did not set out to be the biggest, richest, or most notable people in their field. They simply set out doing what they loved. Success for them was found in every day that they got to follow their passions. Eventually, this led to greatness, but that was never their goal. In fact, I would say that it is an unattainable goal. If greatness is all we want, we will always look for shortcuts and corners to cut to get there quickly. Naturally, these shortcuts actually get in the way of our success. We fail trying to jump the gun, rather than simply enjoying the journey and taking our time to do things the right way, the long way, and yes, even the hard way.
Sense of Entitlement. OK, this is a tough one to hear, but many of the people I talk with who feel stuck have a huge sense of entitlement. They are frustrated because they were passed over for the promotion, the new job, or whatever the case may be. They feel robbed of their success and ignored by the world. It is not that we are undeserving or even unqualified, but the mere fact that we keep ourselves worked up and angry about our lot in life distracts us from seeing the opportunities that others are grabbing onto. Also, let’s face it: life is just not fair. The sooner we realize that the sooner we can move on. Some people who don’t deserve success stumble into it, while others who deserve it get lost in the shuffle. This does not make it right, but it is a fact of life. We can be angry about it or we can pull ourselves up and make sure that no matter what, we are always putting our best foot forward so that we are prepared and ready to grab the next big opportunity that crosses our path.
Hanging Around the Wrong People. Misery loves company and it is interesting to me that successful people seem to have successful friends, and those who seem stuck share beers and stories of woe with others in the same lot. Negativity never breeds success and if all we are doing is spending time with people who complain and grumble about their lives, it will affect our own outlook. Success comes from finding solutions, not from pointing out problems. So, it may be time for us to find different groups of people to call friends and colleagues, people who are willing to venture past excuses and disappointments, instead of exploring the world of possibilities and new ideas.
Like I said above, these three things may oversimplify the issue of feeling stuck in life, but these are at least a few of the bigger and most common points I have observed. What other things hold you or others back?