Do you have goals you would like to reach, but just can't seem to get there? Maybe the culprit is the dialog going on in your own head. There are so many things we tell ourselves about whether, when, and why or why not we should try something. We wind up spending so much time and energy on these internal conversations that there's none left for actually trying new things or going after our goals.
It's a bad habit and a tough one to get rid of. But if we don't learn to break it, we'll never stop sabotaging our own successes. The first step toward breaking any bad mental pattern is recognizing that it's there. So see if you've ever told yourself any of the following:
1. I'm not sure what I want.
Have you ever found yourself looking at one of your goals and wondering whether it would really want to get there? If you start a successful company, you won't have enough time for your family. If you get that promotion, you'll have to move to a different office. If you land that big client, you'll have to answer their every call.
This is a trap I fall into all the time. Ask me what my most important goals are, and you may get a lot of waffling. It's really fear talking--fear that I won't be able to reach my goals and so will be full of disappointment and self-recrimination. And fear that if I do reach my goals my life will change. Change is always scary.
The best way out of this trap is to set some time aside during which you will figure out what your goals are. Then commit to those goals. Write them down and hang them on the wall. Does that mean you can never change your mind? No. Re-evaluating your goals from time to time is a good thing to do. But if you decide one of your goals doesn't fit anymore, have a good reason why not. And replace it with something else equally ambitious.
2. I'm not good enough (smart enough/young enough/educated enough/good-looking enough) for that.
This is another trap I fall into all the time. I know I'm good at what I do, but I always figure that the people who are more prominently successful got that way because they're better at it than I am. I never stop to think that maybe they happened to make the right connections, hit the market with the right idea at just the right time--or just maybe spent more time going after what they wanted than worrying about whether they were good enough to get it.
It's really not your business whether you're good enough to get what you want. Your business is to go after it, give it your best shot, and see what happens. If you don't succeed, it may be because you didn't have the chops, or it could be for any number of other reasons. But it's silly to stop yourself before you even try.
3. The deck is stacked against me so it doesn't matter what I do.
This is another easy trap to fall into. No matter what you want to do, there will be someone else who has a relative in the business, or has landed a sweetheart deal or in some other way has cut ahead of you in line. It may make you feel that, since life isn't fair, you might as well just forget the whole thing.
The interesting thing is, while you're busy worrying about the unfair advantages other people have, you may not have noticed that you have some of your own. Psychological research shows that we're quick to attribute other people's success to such factors as these while we tend to attribute our own successes to hard work and intelligence.
It doesn't really matter what advantages someone else has, or what disadvantages you may have because those things are outside your control. Whether and how hard you try going after your goals is the one thing that you can control, so that's where you should focus your attention.
4. I don't have the time.
I don't know anyone who hasn't fallen into this particular trap at one time or another. Modern life is so busy--especially with our always-on work hours, and the constant press of new things to do and see--that feeling overwhelmed and out of time is pretty much the norm.
But the very fact that we're all so busy is what makes this such a good way to wriggle out of going after our biggest goals. You're not likely to ever stop being busy. Are you really willing to let an overloaded schedule stop you from chasing your dreams?
We have a limited amount of time on this planet, so how we spend that time should be something we take very seriously. It should be an expression of our deepest values and highest aspirations. So make the time to go after the things you really want. You'll be glad you did.