Part of taking responsibility for our own lives involves figuring out where and how we get in the way of our own progress. Seeing ourselves objectively, however, is something most of us find extremely difficult. We can go on about all the missteps of those around us—how a sister drinks too much, a friend is too easy on his kids, and a boss spends too much time micromanaging to capitalize on company potential. But if someone hands us a criticism, we typically react with surprise, anger, and indignation.
Me? I certainly don’t do that!
I’m a firm believer in capitalizing on one’s strengths, and I think most of us are too hard on ourselves most of the time. But it does help once in awhile to take a good look at exactly what we’re doing to move ourselves forward, and what we may be doing to hold ourselves back.
Below are five common ways we can get in our own way, slowing our progress toward our dreams. There are many more, as individual as our personalities. To raise your chances of success, find some time to objectively look at your habits and routines to see where you might benefit from some changes.
1. Putting things off. Procrastination comes in many forms. Sometimes we convince ourselves we “have” to do other projects before those that mean the most to us. Sometimes—often because of overwork or little sleep—we’re too tired to take on the extra tasks necessary to make progress. Sometimes we’re afraid we won’t be “good enough,” so we avoid doing what we most want to do. Whatever the disguise, procrastination is an evil vampire that will suck the blood out of your beloved enterprise. If you suspect it’s derailing your progress, take a stake to the heart of the matter by scheduling time for your project, and sticking to it, no matter what.
2. Falling in love with the idea, not the real thing. How many people do you know who say they want to be writers? Or musicians? Or business owners? Seems there are more today than ever. How many people do you know, however, who actually write every day? Or practice an instrument every day? Or have written a real business plan? Far fewer. If you’re considering a new direction in your life, be sure that you love the every-day part as well as the end-result part. Who wouldn’t want to be a bestselling novelist? But how many of those actually want to face a blank screen every day?
3. All talk, little action. We all like to dream. It’s even more fun to talk to other people about our dreams. “When I get my business going,” we like to say, “boy won’t life be great then!” Nothing wrong with this, except that most of the time, when we’re doing a lot of talking, we’re not doing much doing. If you’re serious about taking a new direction, put your energy into real action.
4. Giving into self-doubt. Nothing pulls us up faster than self doubt. Just remember—very few people are absolutely sure of success when they start a new venture. Everyone has self doubt. The only solution is to take action, again and again and again. Only by doing and making mistakes will you learn and move forward—and feel more confident in yourself.
5. Failing to make important changes. Most people understand that if you keep doing the same thing, you’re going to keep getting the same result. Yet it can be extremely difficult to make significant changes in our lives, especially when we have families, mortgages, jobs, and bills. Even if we’re not joyful in our current lives, many of us are comfortable, even content. If something is gnawing at you to change, however, it’s worth it to review your life in its entirety to see what changes are necessary for your new direction. Maybe you need to downsize your lifestyle, cut back on your hours at work, or get some help with the kids. Whatever it is, if your inner voice is insistent enough, listen to it and try something new. Even something small is likely to get you enthused about the other changes you need to make.