What obstacles prevent you from being successful in your life? I have observed two related barriers that result in misalignment between people’s abilities and their desired outcomes; both are self-imposed. Could one or both of these be holding you back?
Obstacle #1 comes in the form of conscious or unconscious beliefs that limit our expectations about what we can or cannot do. In addition to the boundaries that others impose on us, we often create our own artificial barriers to pursuing our dreams. For example, when I was in my late 20s I convinced myself that I could never achieve my dream of going to law school because I would be 30 years old by the time I finished. My belief that 30 was much too old to be starting a new career caused me to discard this “impossible” goal.
Obstacle #2 occurs when we accept others’ untested assumptions about our abilities. For example, as a university professor I continuously met people of all ages who had no idea that they could succeed – however they defined success – simply because no one had ever set high expectations for them or told them they were capable of much more than they suspected.
The misalignment that results from these two obstacles blocks our path to success and results in high personal costs. By settling for less, we short-change ourselves and others. Here are two suggestions for removing these obstacles to personal success:
Suggestion #1: Identify one self-imposed barrier, something that is holding you back from achieving a desired outcome that seems beyond your reach, such as writing a poem, running or walking a marathon, or putting your needs ahead of your family’s needs. Test the limits of this boundary – e.g., write a poem for yourself, sign up to train for a marathon, skip a family gathering in favor of doing something for yourself. See what happens. I would be willing to bet that you find you are able to go a lot further than you had imagined – i.e., there is a lot more “stretch” to that boundary than you had thought!
Suggestion #2: Test others’ assumptions of your abilities. Give others the gift of seeing their abilities through your eyes. When you run across someone who appears to be held back by erroneous beliefs about his/her abilities, encourage that person to test those limits. Help others raise their expectations by challenging them to identify higher level outcomes than they had imagined possible. The reward is likely to be a richer, more joy-filled life.
What will you do today to ensure you are not standing in the way of your dreams?
© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.