We all want to be successful. We all have these grand plans we want to accomplish. But for some reason we find ways to stop moving forward. We become immobile. Sound familiar?
Typically, this immobility is driven by fear. Fear that it won’t turn out the way we envision. Fear that we will let people down. Fear of being seen as a failure. Fear of change. Because change is hard and scary.
We say that the thoughts in our heads are there to protect us. They are there to ensure we are being reasonable and that we’ve thought everything through. There is something to be said about being thoughtful in how you approach anything. It’s something different when the thoughts cause inaction.
So, how can you tell the difference between due diligence and just being in your own way. I have two simple signs to look for.
1. If you are listening to a lot of negative self-talk
There is very little you can do about the existence of self-talk. You know what I mean by self-talk. Those discussions that take place in your head. Most of the time when you evaluate those discussions, you will find a lot of noise. Noise that confuses us and makes us doubt ourselves. And while you can’t do much to stop self-talk, you can control how you respond to those internal conversations.
Self-talk can be healthy. When you find yourself in a “what if” conversation in your head and you immediately shift to a positive outcome instead of focusing on a negative outcome, then you are in a healthy state of mind and ready to take action.
However, if you get stuck on the “what ifs” and can’t move on from there then you are in your own way. Getting stuck in the “what ifs” is a safe place to be because getting stuck will keep you from taking action. And if you don’t take action, then none of the “what ifs” can come true.
The next time you get stuck in the “what if” cycle and find it impossible to focus on positive outcomes, ask yourself two questions. (1) What’s the worst that can happen if this “what if” comes true? (2) Can I live with that? If you can live with the worst thing that can happen, then pull the trigger and get it done.
2. If you are making assumptions for other people
You’ve heard the saying, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” In other words, if you really want something you can make it happen. And if you aren’t making it happen, then you are just making excuses. One of the easiest places to spot these excuses is when you begin to assume how others will answer questions before you have even asked.
I see this a lot with my clients. I’ll hear things like, “I can’t apply for that position, they will think I’m under/over qualified.” “I can’t ask that person to mentor me, I’m sure they are way too busy.” “I would love to know how XYZ company determines their pricing but there is no way they would ever answer that question for me.”
Making assumptions about how people will respond to you completely gives your power away and turns your questions into excuses. How do you know how anyone will respond if you don’t put yourself out there? As a matter of fact, you are actually doing them a disservice by not allowing them to answer the question for themselves. Maybe that person you would love to have mentor you is really busy but the one thing that really fulfills them from a career perspective is to provide mentorship and guidance to up and comers. By not asking them the question, you are denying them the opportunity to help if they want to. And, what’s the worst that can happen? They say, “no”? Maybe they say “no” but then they refer you to someone who does want to do it and ends up being a better fit for you. Maybe they can’t mentor you but they are able to provide access to resources that make a difference in your career. You will never know, if you answer the question for them.
It’s true that we can be our own worst enemies. We think we are being practical and logical but what we are really doing is giving ourselves permission to stay stagnant. A lot of times we don’t even see that we are standing in our own way. That is where good, honest friends or a good coach can be helpful. They can ask you the tough questions to help you see that only you are keeping you from greatness. If you don’t have access to friends willing to ask the hard questions or a coach that can help, looking for these signs can help shed light on what is really holding you back.
What are some additional warning signs that you are in your own way and how do you self-correct? I would love to hear your tips below.