Most of us are nowhere as happy or successful as we might be. Something is holding us back from achieving what we want in terms of relationships, life style, spirituality, professional growth, or a number of other things we might be seeking. You probably have guessed by now, but much of what I write about is my own struggles and imperfections. While these might seem personal to me, they are not mine alone, and my hope is that some of the solutions I found will work for you too.
Before I go on and on about how to identify and eradicate some of the things that are holding you back, I need to mention the following:
There will be no change in your life until you change. You are 100% responsible for yourself. Stop blaming your circumstances on outside events. Much of the fucked up things that have occurred in your life were based on shitty decisions or habits. Of course there are terrible things that have happened to you that were out of control, but they only account for a small percentage of the shit you have endured. I know this is tough love, but most of the pain you have in your life has been self inflicted.
Let’s look at some of the behaviors that are holding you back:
- Unhealthy Habits: I put this as the first item in this list as it has such a huge impact on how you feel and think. This might include smoking, drinking (sorry this fucks up a lot of people), drugs, lack of exercise, and in the United States an unhealthy diet. All of these shitty habits alter the mind and the body and will not only slow progress, but may destroy your life.
- Laziness: Yes you dream about doing stuff, but when it comes down to taking action you make up some lame excuse such as I’m tired or it’s just too much effort to learn that new language, or study for a certification, or apply for a new job. You can make up all the excuses in the world and settle for your current reality, but underneath it all your just too fucking lazy to do anything about your situation. I’m going to be brutally honest here, because I am as guilty as the next person in this regard. If you are too lazy to do what is required to advance your life, then stop complaining or wishing for a different outcome. Don’t say it is too hard or I don’t understand what to do, just accept you are fucking lazy and move on.
- Attitude: I know this is hard to believe, but you might just have a somewhat negative attitude towards life and people in general. You may be harboring a huge ego, envying other people’s success, or have anger issues. If you think your smarter than everyone else you’re immediately going to compare your level of happiness or achievement to others. All the bullshit you see on the news is negative for the most part, and my advice is quit watching that shit. Your attitude will improve, but only if you address the rest of the stuff on this list. Drop the comparison with other people, the envy, the overblown ego, and the way you react negatively to every little stupid thing that happens.
- Bored: You are bored to death, because you do the same thing everyday. You make all kinds of excuses like well I live in this boring town and my job is boring. No one not even Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa could tolerate the boring life you have created for yourself. You settle for this boring existence because it has become a habit. This boredom with your life, relationships, career, or whatever has a huge impact on your motivation and ability to move forward. It’s like some bad movie that repeats itself day after day. Nothing materially changes, you are just repeating the same behavior and the only thing you have to look forward to is stagnation.
- Living in the Future: Are you someone who is constantly planning and trying to figure out what will happen one, two, three, or ten years from now? How is that working out for you? It’s not that a little planning is bad, but when it comes at the cost of not living in the present, then it is just an obsession. People that live in the future on a consistent basis, are thinking that the future will be better than the present. You see it all the time. When I retire I will be happy and carefree, or when I get that new job, or start my own business my life will be fulfilling. Take it from someone who plans the future for a living (Project Manager), it is no way to live your life. If you can’t be happy now, then do something about it, but you can rest assured that the future will be just as challenging as the present.
- I’ll Do It Later: I’ll do it later is the mantra for many of us. Take it step further, and doing it later can totally mess up your life. We apply this “do it later shit” to everything. I’ll quit drinking after my vacation, or take that class in the Fall, and you can go on and on deferring things that would help you grow as a person because you think that the future is guaranteed, which of course it is not. Time is guaranteed to no one, and the do it later thing is often due to a lack of priority or thinking you need to fill your life with a wide array of activities. If you know you need to do something that will propel your life forward then make it a priority, otherwise it’s just another goal that you are likely to never achieve.
- Risk Aversion: Most of us live our life as safely as possible. We are risk adverse and it’s that very attitude that is holding us back. Risk makes us uncomfortable, it conjures up fears of failure and pain. It’s so much easier to just stay the course then it is to leave your comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many people I know that hate their jobs, but won’t go look for something else, or how many people that want to start a business, but feel the risk is just too high for them. In your mind you know that only by taking risks will you be rewarded, but our propensity for safety and the known, wins out most of the time. There is a huge correlation between risk and reward, and being risk adverse is just holding you back.
- Focused on Money: Viewing the world through a financial lens, while a motivator for some can become an addiction for others. The typical millionaire compares themselves to billionaires and is never happy with how much wealth they have acquired. We constantly trade time for money, happiness for money, even morality for money. What if you have 3 million dollars, but fear starting that business or retiring because there may be a lull in adding money to your account balance. Do you see where I’m going with this? You sacrifice starting that business or taking some time off because of this obsession with money. This kind of feeds into the risk aversion equation and you might be actually limiting the possible financial gains. In any case, one must ask themselves how much is enough?
- Lack of Execution: You are a great dreamer and have created a meticulous plan laying out all your goals. That’s wonderful, but there is something lacking here and that is execution. Instead you flip flop and change your mind just when it is time to start working on that goal. You took so much time in the planning phase that you talked yourself out of doing the actual work to achieve the goal. Sound familiar?
- Priorities: I saved this one for last because it probably kills more dreams than most of the others combined. You have 24 hours in a day, some of that time is spent sleeping, eating, working, relaxing, or doing something else. At the end of the day you look back and say, shit I didn’t get that one thing done that was important to me. I did a bunch of other useless crap that someone else wanted done, but what I needed to get done in support of my goals was left undone. You are stuck in the urgent for someone else versus what is the highest priority paradigm. You are really living on the opposite end of the spectrum from “The Living in the Future” problem. You just field issues, react, and end up getting 20 things done, and everyone thinks your so productive. In this case you are not really planning your day, week, months, but instead let everyone else highjack your agenda. In fact you become so busy with all the meetings, chaos, and unscheduled work that you don’t even have time to think.
So those 10 things stated above are likely holding you back and if you think really hard about it you may have even more to add to this list. There is no easy answer to eliminating these obstacles that are preventing you from making progress in your life. Why do you think so few people are successful? I’m not talking about how big a pile of money they have, but more about what they have accomplished in their life and more importantly their level of contentment. Whatever way you measure success, those people that have achieved a lot of it systematically removed impediments, took chances, planned and executed, ruthlessly prioritized their days, and spent the majority of their time getting things done versus sitting on the couch.
There is a big difference between being intentional and taking responsibility for your life, versus just letting life happen to you. Listen, I’m not Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jeff Bezos, the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk, and worse yet I have experienced or am currently experiencing all the impediments above, but here is the thing at least I am aware of it. I’m not kidding myself and realize there is lots of room for improvement. You might be thinking that you don’t have the capacity to change or eliminate all of these impediments. Stop bullshitting yourself; you know dam well that you can change and if you look real hard you have lots of examples of things you have overcome in the past. That’s the first step in the process, that you must begin believing again in your ability to change.
Now the second thing to start believing is that you have understood that nothing will improve for you by staying the current course. You must truly understand that only by making changes in your life will you begin getting traction towards your goals. If you don’t believe that change is necessary, well then you are fucked. Go ahead keep on your current path, but leave your expectations at the door.
Sometimes the things that are holding you back are related. I would first look at unhealthy habits as they often contribute to laziness, attitude, doing things later, or even lack of execution. You can’t tear down the whole thing at once, but if you start chipping away at one or two of these things that are holding you back, great things begin happening. Sometimes your ability to change is correlated with the amount of disgust with your current situation. We humans can tolerate a lot of shit and it often takes some kind of seminal moment to get us off our ass and do something about it. If you are still reading this it would be my guess that seminal moment has already happened and you want something better for yourself.
Remember with each passing day another opportunity will have come and gone. Failure to act and address these things that are holding you back will keep you exactly where you are. Don’t wait for tomorrow to start implementing change in your life. I wish I could give you some magic formula for success, but all I know is that it requires you to change. Most of the time making a change in your life is because you just can’t stand the status quo anymore. Use that to inspire you to begin building a better future for youself.
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