What’s really holding you back?

Have you ever committed to a goal, set out with clear intent, and then been sidetracked so it didn’t happen? Maybe it was too hard, maybe you got too busy, maybe there were too many obstacles, or maybe it wasn’t that important to you after all.

And maybe those are the stories you tell yourself to avoid asking what’s really holding you back.

On May 24, 2017, I committed to Marcela that I would start blogging within 30 days. It was the last day of a four-day immersive consulting course (IBM ‘Bee School’), which covered topics on personal growth, leadership and client focus. Throughout the course, we wrote ‘I will…’ statements stating our intents and on the last day we each picked an important one and committed to a classmate that we would complete it.

The early excitement propelled me to buy my domain name, put up a WordPress blogging site by the end of May and make a list of topics to write about. Then work got busy in June, we took a month-long vacation in July and August was catching up from July. September spawned obstacles—I needed to define my intended audience, write a clear purpose statement, pick a decent, mobile-friendly layout, and find a good source of graphics.

Sorry, Marcela, I failed.

Does this sound familiar? What holds you back from completing your important goals?

Busy, busy, busy

Let me guess, you’re busy with work, email, texts, social media and commitments to family and friends. Get used to it, with IoT (the Internet of Things) it won’t be long before your fridge, thermostat and car will interrupt you almost as often as your smartphone does now.

And yet, you find time to stroll the mall for electronics or clothes you don’t need (aka ‘retail therapy’), you read social media posts from boring people who are also avoiding their goals, and you follow inane clickbait like the 21 worst tattoo failures (my favorite is “No Regerts”—please run a spellcheck before you indelibly ink your body).

Those activities won’t set you on the fast path to achieving your life goals.

Being busy is easy. Acting with purpose is harder because you must first answer a couple of difficult questions. What is truly important to you? And what isn’t? If you can clarify those, what can you do to maintain focus despite all the distractions vying for your attention? Sometimes that means saying no to the mall, or social media, or clickbait, or people who are important to you.

Being overly busy is just a symptom that is amplified by modern life. The underlying root cause requires you to prioritize what’s important to you. Time and energy are precious resources.

You have control of how you spend both, if you choose to exercise it. Ruthlessly prioritize.

Good, Better, Best

We all want to not only be good, but be better than most, and even recognized as the best at a few things. And we certainly don’t want to fail.

You’ll never be the best at anything significant the first time you try. How do you feel when you fail? Do you fear opening yourself up to ridicule, showing vulnerability and having your ego bruised?

If so, you’re human. But if avoiding failure means you give up, or don’t even try in the first place, there is no growth. And that guarantees you won’t succeed in the long term.

Failure is part of the fast path to growth and long-term success. (Focus and persistence are other parts.) The ridicule you fear almost never happens, being vulnerable invites others to help you and your bruised ego will heal faster than you think.

Get comfortable with failure and learn from it, you will grow from the experience. You will only ever achieve your true limits when you try to surpass them.

Over, Under, Around

Goals always encounter obstacles. You may not know how to do the next step, and you may not know who to ask. But in the information age, someone has probably done it before. Amazon has a lot of books and youtube has a lot of videos.

But be cautious, there’s always another book to read and another video to watch. Don’t let those delay ACTION.

When you were a child, how many books did you read about riding a bike? Imagine if kids learned that way: there would be a lot more 8-year-olds reading at a university level and fewer scraped knees and elbows (that heal). And there would be fewer kids who know the cool breeze of freedom stinging their cheeks as they explore new city streets and country roads and forest paths.

What can you do to overcome your obstacles? Start by imagining what it would feel like if you did, and give yourself credit for being creative and resourceful. With the end goal in mind ask yourself again: what you can do to overcome your obstacles?

You probably have the answer already. It just needs some hard work and commitment.

I’m still busy and still procrastinate too much. But I recently read a great book about writing, Everybody Writes by Ann Handey, I am setting time aside to do write, and I have recommitted to blogging regularly.

What goal will you recommit to, right here and right now? Post it in a comment along with a date and I’ll check in with you.

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