Have you ever experienced a time in your life when everything seemed to stall? You were once making strides in improvements, now you are stuck and every attempt to improve seems like walking through knee-high mud. Maybe this was a time in the recent past. Maybe this is happening right now.
You have probably noticed that your happiest moments are the ones that shortly follow the largest amount of growth. Reaching new plateaus of achievement comes with a big boost in happiness and self-esteem. Each small victory creates the momentum to fulfill a new one.
Unfortunately, most the people I have met in this life are often stalled in this process. Maybe they are trying to improve and nothing seems to be happening. Maybe they are just tired and frustrated in the absence of this wonderful experience. Perhaps it has been so long since they have had any personal improvements that they now live as an empty shell, accepting of their stagnation.
The worst part is most of these people aren’t even aware of why they are stuck. While you can easily tell the problem when your car get’s stuck in the mud, it can be much more difficult to find the precise problem when it comes to your growth. So what are these obstacles?
1) Not Enough Why
The biggest obstacle to your own growth is going to come not from a lack of resources or ability but from a lack of motivation. I’m not talking about the pop-psychology, emotional definition of motivation, either. I’m referring to a more basic definition that of motivation being the reason why.
If you don’t have any reasons why you need to grow and improve in an area, it won’t occur. A few small reasons aren’t enough, either. You need some big reasons that are strong enough to compel you to action. Without this intrinsic motivation, you won’t grow.
Coming up with your why’s in precise clarity is your first step. If you want to improve in an area of your life, be it financial, social, relationships, health or spiritual you need to know exactly why you must improve right now. If your why’s aren’t compelling enough that you can barely finish writing them before getting started, then you simply don’t have enough motivation.
So if you are currently stalled, you know where to start. Get out a piece of paper and write down your why’s until you feel absolutely compelled to move forward. Any vagueness or mixed-emotions need to be cleared up right now.
2) Insoluble Problem Theory
Having enough why’s can often not be enough. Although motivation is important, the rest of these obstacles will stall you up just as badly and here is one of the worst, the ‘insoluble problem theory’.
Insoluble problem theory is when people pick out a specific excuse (valid or not) and create it as the fundamental reason for why they cannot succeed or grow. Instead of working past this obstacle you sit and build more and more anger, resentment and frustration towards the problem. This leaves you miserable, stagnant and stressed.
I’ve fallen into this trap more than once as I’m sure just about every human being has. Whether your insoluble problem is that you are too fat, too ugly, too skinny, had a bad upbringing, didn’t get the right genes, have a disability, were born the ‘wrong’ race, were abused or lack the talent, the result is the same: misery.
In order to overcome this problem I’m going to tell you something you don’t want to hear. You have to stop feeling sorry for yourself, immediately. Whenever you start feeling sorry for yourself, you need to do something to distract yourself and think a different mental stream. Thinking about your insoluble problem is the most dangerous thing you can do and here’s why.
Self-pity is addictive. Although logically it sounds painful to cry and whine about your problem (whether it is completely imaginary or completely legitimate) the exact opposite is true. Self-pity feels soothing and comforting. Like a drug it courses through your body and explains away all the ailments. Unfortunately like most drugs it comes with a huge aftershock of pain and misery in the form of depression and misery.
I don’t care whether or not your self-pity is completely justified. You are the only person responsible for your own happiness, and taking the self-pity drug will kill any chance at that. You need to take control over your mind and whenever thoughts of self-pity come up, use your willpower to think of something positive, or simply distract it. Breaking this addictive cycle is incredibly difficult, but the rewards are immense and powerful.
3) No Connection Between Dreams and Action
One of the problems with dreaming is that it can be difficult to tie those faraway goals to daily action. When dreams stretch into the distant future, any link they have with the present wears thin. Without a connection however, no growth can occur.
Once you have your goals written out you need to create a plan for achieving them starting immediately. One of the biggest reasons people fail to grow is because they have dreams but simply don’t do anything about them. Luckily an organized plan and some careful thinking can overcome this problem.
Similar to losing a connection between dreams and action is the idea that you can put off your growth and improvement to a future point when it will be easier. Chances are you’ve come up with a bunch of logical reasons for why now isn’t the best time to start pursuing your goal or dreams. So you procrastinate and delay until you realize that tomorrow will never come.
You need to do something towards your dreams at all times. Even if you can’t start a major phase of your goal right now, you need to be doing something. When you aren’t growing at all you can’t be happy, so don’t procrastinate your own happiness. If you can’t start a business right now because you aren’t in a financial situation to do so, then set a goal to put yourself in a financial situation to do so.
5) Low Self-Esteem
When you believe you can’t grow, you won’t. A lack of self-esteem is a primary reason why people stall in their efforts to improve. For those of you that read my article, The Confidence Myth, this may seem like a turn around in thinking. What I was really trying to get across in the article is simply that aiming for artificial confidence is disastrous and foolhardy. Those who read carefully may have discovered that within the article I outlined the exact steps to get authentic confidence.
The beginning of self-esteem really has to come from a fundamental belief that no matter where you are or who you are, so long as you have a conscious mind, you have the power of choice. From this power of choice you can slowly sculpt anything you want. So if you don’t feel deserving or capable, you can become deserving and capable. Where there is a will, there is a way.
6) The Wrong Desire
Have you ever tried working hard at a goal, came up with your reasons why, set your plan but you seemed to sabotage your every effort to make an improvement? In many cases your efforts are met with negative resistance in that things actually get worse instead of better. You are astonished and frustrated, but can’t find anything wrong with your procedure forward.
To explain the problem of having the wrong desire, I want you to imagine that your desires are like giant magnets lost in a forest. You are naturally drawn to the magnets and by clearing a path towards them, you can accelerate their force upon you and experience growth.
What can happen, however, is that you will clear a path to a smaller magnet while a giant hidden magnet compels you even more. While this big magnet exists it will drain your energies on reaching the lesser magnet as it’s hidden power drains your attention towards it. Basically you are working towards a goal you want less than an extremely important one.
I had a recent experience of this obstacle in August. During my summer I worked very hard to improve the status of this blog. I set lofty goals, made my plan, created my why’s and did everything I thought was right. Unfortunately I couldn’t improve the website. I wrote more articles in August than in any other month and I still failed to increase traffic. What was happening?
Well there was a deeper and more powerful magnet drawing me in. In the last year of highschool I felt my social relationships and connections lacked the depth of interaction I desired. My social life was hitting a funk and I knew it deep, down. My efforts to improve this website failed simply because I had set the wrong goal. My goal to improve this site was overshadowed by my growing unrest with my social life.
When I reached University and was given a new opportunity to form relationships I immediately rebounded and experienced major growth. Astonishingly my website grew more in revenue and traffic in September and October than it did in August even though I hadn’t been giving it a top priority. When you go for your top desires first, it becomes easier to fulfill all the rest.
7) Fear of Failure
What will happen if you fail? This fear of risk and uncertainty is another huge roadblock to your own growth. Fear of failure can include many fears and I’ve already written about how to overcome fear.
If you feel that a fear of failure may be slowing you down you need to really start assessing your options. Often a fear of failure stems from the animalistic desire to protect what you already have. Unfortunately if you are unhappy where you currently are then you are only protecting dust. Happiness comes from growth, not an arbitrary position.
8 ) Fear of Success
Most people logically understand that a fear of failure is reasonable. But a fear of success?! At first I didn’t believe that this could exist. I mean, how could you fear being successful, isn’t that what you want? I figured it must only be some masochistic nut who experiences this fear. That is until I experienced it for myself.
Recently, as some of you may know, my focus has been towards social and relationship success. Although I have experienced massive growth in this area, I noticed myself stalling or apparently sabotaging my own efforts. Why would this be? The answer, as I found out, was a fear of success.
What would happen if I was successful? The answer would certainly be massive change. I would suddenly be confronted with a whole new realm of relationships and interactions that I wasn’t prepared for. By failing I got to stay in my comfort zone. Success would merely thrust me into a whole new world of expectations and unknowns.
Overcoming fear of success is very similar to overcoming your fear of failure, but it has to come by seeing it clearly. If you fear success in an area you need to determine exactly what about the success scares you. Maybe that promotion will mean more hours. Maybe going to the gym will mean you can’t indulge in self-pity about your health. Maybe asking that woman out will mean getting a divorce, having to raise six kids, with mortgage payments, debt, lost freedom, commitment and ahhhh!?!
Whatever your fear of success entails, once you see it clearly it will be much easier to conquer. Although you may still feel the emotional reaction, when you can stare it up and down it will be much easier to push through. Don’t fear your own success but embrace it’s possibilities.
9) Social Influence
You become who you invest time with. If there is one fact I’ve noticed in myself it is the ability for the people around you to subtly shape your behavior. This can work for the good and the bad. When you associate with positive people who encourage your success (think Toastmasters) then you are far more likely to succeed.
Unfortunately the opposite is true as well. When you associate with people that cast doubt on your goals, are overly negative or encourage behaviors that are not conductive to your goals you can be held back.
Although the ideal solution in these poisonous situations is to leave your current group and form a new one, this can be very difficult for most people. An easier method is to start making new friends with the people who will encourage your growth. Devote a portion of your time to attending social functions where you can possibly meet these individuals. A slow transition in social groups is far easier than an abrupt one.
10) Inability to Accept Pain
All growth is paid for in pain. Pain is the currency of your growth and improvement. Although pain can be intense and fleeting, the truly enlightened individual will appreciate the pain and allow it to strengthen them. If you cannot accept any pain or you shy away from it you cannot grow.
When you start to grow and you feel pain I want you to see the pain as being something separate and distinct from yourself. Imagine this pain, whether it is social, emotional or physical pain, imagine it as a fire. Feel the intensity of the fire but stand strong against it. Although the fire may appear to burn, it is only the process to sculpting your future happiness.
I’ve experienced the fire of growth in every area of my life, whether it is the fire that burns in your lungs and legs after running hard for miles, whether it is the fire that burns in your heart when you get rejected or the fire that burns in your mind after working it harder than it has ever worked before. The fire is uncomfortable and that is why so few people overcome it.
Above all the other reasons I have illustrate here, the one obstacle you will face in your growth is facing that fire. Be it the fires of fear, effort or attachment, facing through these fires will always result in your own growth. Create your why’s, avoid pity, connect dreams with action, act now, improve your confidence, overcome your fears, create the right social influence and embrace that fire and experience the joys of growth that come with it.