As a therapist and career counselor, I help people who desire to grow and make changes in their personal and professional lives. While every situation is different, sometimes we get stuck and unable to move forward. This article is about the blocks we all experience from time to time that keep us from growing and actualizing.
Following are 7 common obstacles to change – whether you’re seeking a new career, better work-life balance, a new relationship, or growing a business.
1. Lack of self- awareness. In today’s busy world, people are constantly preoccupied and rushing to meet deadlines and multiple demands at work and home. They are frustrated and unhappy. Do you know what would bring more meaning to your life? Most of you want to add something new or eliminate something from your life. In what areas are you running on full while others on empty?
Set some time aside for reflection and discovery: tune in, assess your situation, and clarify your values and priorities. What do you believe in? What do you want to do?
2. Fear of uncertainty or fear of the unknown. Some people do all the exercises, exploring, and brainstorming but when it comes to action, they feel paralyzed to move. Why is that? They are afraid of the unknown and uncertainty ahead.
Explore this fear further: have you been in other periods when you did not know? What helped you then to transition to something new? What resources were most helpful to you?
To be successful, we all need a support network of mentors, colleagues, and others that provide information and insights. Reframing uncertainty as a new experience is part of growing, and will take you to the next opportunity.
As Brenee Brown says: “Choose courage instead of fear! Not that we are not afraid but we’re brave enough to move forward despite the uncertainty.”
3. Lack of confidence to make a change. Some people think they don’t have what it takes to make a change. Their self-esteem is low, and they may be overly self-critical or pessimistic. Are you one of them?
Become aware of the dialogue running in your head. Do you know what you’re really good at, and what makes you unique? Try to remember a time when you felt good about accomplishing a certain goal and what enabled your success. Do you need to update your skills or further your education?
Do you need coaching or a support group to help you to solve a puzzle or break through an obstacle? Having a positive sense of self and belief in your own abilities are necessary as you seek change.
4. Self-esteem and self-image issues. Many people struggle with their bodies and outside appearance. Some are concerned with their weight, others about getting older, and whether there is a place for them. They worry how they would be seen or perceived by others.
First of all, know that you’re important and you have so much to offer. People of different ages feel insecure about different things.
Instead of being overly critical, focus on who you are, what you have done, and what you have to offer. If you’re concerned you look too young or too old for a promotion or a new relationship, don’t let your appearance stop you. Find a counselor or a good role model that can help you gain more confidence.
5. Lack of support network, professional contacts and mentors. Feeling connected to others is much better than trying to figure out everything on your own. When people feel connected to each other or to a supportive community, their sense of resilience increases.
Professional contacts are necessary to stay up-to-date with opportunities, sharing industry trends and information. Who is on your team to provide personal support, professional mentoring or coaching?
6. Afraid to leave your comfort zone or afraid of failure. We all like stability and certainty but feeling afraid to expand your comfort zone is another roadblock to your growth. If you’re feeling bored, and you are no longer growing and learning, it is time to make a change.
Is your need for certainty preventing your growth? Are you afraid of failure?
Try completing the following sentence: “Risks I would like to take include . . . ”
Taking risks could be especially challenging after experiencing a setback or some loss to self-esteem, such as a job loss or receiving an unfavorable review at work. Being resilient is important as is your ability to tolerate ups and downs, difficulties, and mistakes.
Embrace more positive associations about failure such as if you fail, you’re one step closer to success. Successful people don’t give up despite the challenges – they keep going forward until they make it work.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison
7. Pressure to fit into someone else’s world. Women are especially vulnerable – as they try to meet their partner’s or family’s expectations so they can fit in. Many people have powerful voices in their heads telling them what to do or not to do but you have the risk of living someone else’s life. There are so many stereotypes, categories, and myths of how life should be lived.
Navigate your path using your own values and preferences –> your own compass. Live in alignment with your own values. You don’t want to sacrifice your integrity based on someone else’s values.
There are many ways to live and work. Slow down and pay attention – What makes your life valuable?
As you evaluate what keep you stuck to living your ideal life, cultivate mindfulness, and increase your self-awareness. There are multiple great paths or designs to your life. First, you have to be open to change and envision new possibilities for yourself that that will open new doors in the future. Taking some small steps will help you move forward. It is all incremental.