Ever work hard for some goal only to find yourself repeatedly stymied? If not, congratulations. If so, then don't feel lonely as you have a lot of company. Maybe you've read your fill of things successful people do but you don't seem to be getting anywhere.

Focusing on what you can do to get closer to your goals is great and useful. But you also have to stop the things holding you back. One of them may be the sad little song you hum to yourself. Stained with self-pity, it's the excuse of why things don't work out. An amazing example from Tuft researchers is that white people often see racism as a zero-sum game. Perceived decreases in biases toward blacks are matched to the surety that racial bias towards whites is increasing. Many have come to see anti-white bias as being a bigger social problem than anti-black bias.

On the surface, it's an absurd assumption. White people as a class still control industry, wealth, income, politics, education, and most social structures. But the conviction that anti-white bias is out of control is their sad little song that helps explain their frustrations and fears and excuses why they don't have what they want.

Beyond a shared sand song, we all have our own verses. Maybe it's the ex who was the total reason why a relationship failed and why you fear another. It could be the boss who threated you badly and didn't give you a chance or the overly critical parent. Your song might even focus on something internal, like a fear or weakness or shortcoming. Whatever the case, the song holds you back as it undermines whatever you attempt. Here are seven steps to stop the song and make some progress instead.

Catch yourself in mid-verse

You can't deal with something undermining you if you don't know what it is. You can't theorize about this or assume something from pop psychology. Rather, catch it as it happens. Successfully capturing the voice can take some significant time. At first you might get a funny sense that something is going on when you're thinking about problems. Then you might begin to catch glimpses, like out of the corner of your eye. Keep watching and eventually you'll see it full-blown.

Deconstruct the message

You've given too much of yourself to the song already so you need to make some distance. As you're hearing it more, begin to deconstruct the lyrics. This is like emotional sentence diagramming (if you're of an age to remember that task from grade school). Take the song apart without judgment and without trying to soften the blow.

Identify the subject of your blame

In every sad little song, there is blame. You're lamenting your condition and keening over the reason it exists. Whether that teacher, parent, boss, bully, ex-lover, social condition, poor luck, or personal foible, something is at fault. It may be multiple things, as well. (Every good song has one chorus but multiple lyrics.)

Bring in context

Now you really step out of the circle of the song and begin to disagree with it. Look at all the context around you and your condition. Are you the only one who has suffered? Has no one had a more difficult time and yet gone on to achieve whatever it is you want? How have you contributed to your own state? It may be that you enjoy feeling sorry for yourself or really don't want to do what would be necessary to succeed.

Admit what you could do

Consider all the actions you might take that could influence things for the better. Perhaps you could interact different with others, learn a critical lesson, apply more effort, asked for and received help, or otherwise advanced things.

Identify the change you want

By now you've looked at what is actually going on, recognizing real hurdles but also personal culpability. So what you do really want? Once you know, you can identify the changes you need to make--or admit that you're not really interested, which can have its own galvanizing action over time.

Substitute lyrics

Lyrics are just words. Choose ones that support what you will do and, when the sad little song comes around again on the music player, actively do what the new lyrics suggest.