Feeling like you’re not getting what you want in life?  Learn 7 ways you might be holding yourself back from more success and happiness.




It’s always easier to play it safe and take fewer risks.   But what’s the cost? What kind of happier, more interesting, empowered, or impactful life could you lead if you just took the brakes off your dreams, energy, and talent?  

Hey Everyone, it’s Dr. Karen Kendrick, and welcome back to Mastery Now. 

I know there’s been so much written and talked about out there about goal setting, goal attainment, managing your time, and being more productive.   There’s so much science and practical wisdom in these areas, and that’s why I’ve dedicated some episodes to this topic both now and in the future.  

But I wanted to talk today about something that’s equally vital to our sense of fulfillment and not having regrets, lost dreams, or missed opportunities.   And that is the ways in which we hold ourselves back.   The ways in which we stop ourselves from taking risks, taking action, making bolder decisions, trying something new, and just living more fully.  

And we may or may not even be truly aware that we’re doing this.   In fact, it’s really easy, I think, to go about life sometimes just settling for things that we may not really be that happy with.   Or we may have stopped putting ourselves out there to get what we really want without even it being a conscious decision.  

And while for many people this can feel okay or not cause much dissatisfaction, for others, I know it can really create a lot of negative emotions.   Feelings of disappointment, frustration, anger, regret, and so on.   

So I think it’s worth taking a look at some of the more common mindsets and habits that hold people back.   You can kind of think of them as speed bumps or dream killers or passion extinguishers or whatever metaphor that you like.   But the point is that they’re all ways of being or thinking that can slow your progress, prevent you from taking risks, or stop you from getting what you want.  

So let’s take a look at the seven most common ways that we hold ourselves back that often limit our happiness and success.  

Now, the first way that we often hold ourselves back is just waiting for perfect conditions.   It’s pretty common to feel like you need more practice or information or experience before you’re ready to go forward.   You may want to wait for something to happen, or someone else to go first, or someone to do something for you before you take action.  

And there’s also that myth of “someday”, which is very seductive.   It’s where you say to yourself, “Someday I’ll be ready to do that.” Or “Someday I’ll have time for that.”  

But the reality is, for many things in life, we never have complete information or time or control.   So while we do need to do some good due diligence and maybe some planning, if it makes sense, at some point you just have to go for it.  

And so one thing you can do, one good rule of thumb, is just to use about 75% to 80% as a rule of thumb here in terms of how much you might need to know before you move ahead.   Now, it doesn’t apply in all cases depending on what you’re working on, but it is, I think, a good guideline that can kind of help you stop obsessing about having 100% of the information before you do anything.  

Now, what also helps with making the leap is just remembering that you’re going to get additional information as you go along and then you can just adapt or adjust along the way.   Another thing you can do is just to take smaller steps if needed, if that’ll get you going, and then progress to bigger steps later.  

And then a third thing that you can do is just to tap into what’s called FOMO, or fear of missing out.   You know, think about it.  Salespeople use this all the time, right?  This is a powerful motivator that you can remind yourself of by asking yourself, “How would I feel if I didn’t do anything and I missed out while everyone else got it or did it?”

So this can be really helpful sometimes to get you off the dime and get into the action.   So just don’t miss out by waiting for that imaginary perfect setup to happen before you do anything.   Or you may miss out on something that’s time sensitive or something great.  

Now, the second way in which we often hold ourselves back is just not using the power of our imagination to see better options or bigger possibilities.   Whether it’s for ourselves or for a situation or a goal or a project or whatever.  

Now, there’s a lot of different reasons why this could happen.   A lot of times we may be so grounded in practical realities that we don’t have much time to look ahead or see other options.   Or we may have just not been exposed to enough great examples of what the next level could look like.  

Or maybe we just think we don’t deserve it or could handle it.   You know, you may have heard of the phenomenon of the fear of success or the imposter syndrome.   In both these cases, people just don’t think they’re worthy of more or confident to do or be more.   And so that stops the creative imagination from kicking in and helping you see other opportunities or levels of success or possible great outcomes.  

So if you want to fix this issue, you’ve got to start with the premise that there’s more out there that’s possible and it’s just your job to go find it.   That where you are now is not where you’re going to stay.  

And then once you do that, it’s really about broadening your horizons in terms of who you interact with, and what you’re reading, and what gets your attention, rather than staying in a bubble.   And this is because your imagination and your dreams need fuel. 

The most creative and innovative people out there are reading all the time, they’re attending events, and they’re getting out in the world to see what’s out there and what’s possible.   So when you do that, that’s really going to help provide the inspiration and motivation to reach higher and go for it and not let your current situation dictate your future. 



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Another way that we hold ourselves back is just not trusting our instincts to make better decisions and leverage opportunities.   Our instincts are a powerful source of information that helps us figure out what’s right for us, or what the situation calls for, or what’s going on with someone else.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I should have trusted my instincts?” It happens a lot.   And so if you can get better at trusting and relying on this resource, you’re going to have a great ally to draw on.

Instincts are both a physical sensation and it’s also this internal knowing without full information that can help guide you about what to avoid, but also what not to miss out on.   So it’s really helpful to stop second guessing yourself and allow yourself to tune into what this important intelligence is offering you.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to be right 100% of the time.   I mean, sometimes our instincts are wrong.   But most of us don’t use this resource enough rather than overuse it.   And it really can help you not waste time, make fewer bad judgment calls, and fewer mistakes.

And it’s also equally powerful in helping you recognize something that’s great or timely or relevant.   You know, there’s tons of examples of business leaders out there that use their instincts to help them gauge the marketplace for potential products.   Now, this goes hand-in-hand with good research, but it often starts with instinct.

So how you get better at this is really just to tune into that inner voice as well as your body.   And that’s because your body gives powerful clues.    Often in your stomach or gut area, but also in the form of a headache or back ache or maybe feeling weak in the knees or something else.

Now, it differs from person to person, but the trick is just to figure out what types of signals are unique to you and then trust them.   Trust that they’re going to give you the guidance that you need to move forward.

The fourth way in which we can hold ourselves back is just not allowing others to help.   Now, people don’t ask for help or seek out resources for a lot of different reasons.  

Maybe it’s just that they have a hard time trusting or relying on other people.   Maybe it is that they just don’t like to delegate or give up control.   Maybe they don’t want to be beholden or obligated to somebody else.   Or they just find that it’s against their principles of being self-reliant.   Or maybe they just don’t think that there’s a real person or solution or resource out there that could help them, that applies in their particular situation.

But the reality is, even the most successful people get help from time to time depending on what they’re working on.   They know that they can’t be expert at everything or that there’s a faster, better, smarter way out there to do something.   And it’s all about efficiency.

They don’t view it as making themselves look weak when they ask for help.   They think of it as being strategic with their time and energy.   They’re happy to get others involved or pay somebody to do something rather than spin their wheels or stay stuck.   And that’s an incredible mindset that can empower you rather than hold you back.

Another way that we hold ourselves back is just getting bogged down in the complexities of life.   Now, complexity can come in a lot of different forms.   From lots of social obligations, tons of paperwork on your desk, having a lot of kids at home to take care of, a messy closet, maybe too many phone calls to return, and so on.

Now, complexity in and of itself may not always be bad, but it can bring on that sense of being weighed down or having little time for creative thinking or problem solving.   And it can just drain us mentally and emotionally.

And the more complicated our life gets, the harder it is to feel free to make changes or go after new goals and dreams.   And then before you know it, another year has passed and you haven’t made any progress on what you said you really wanted to do.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to go out and eliminate things that are meaningful to you that do take up a portion of your time and energy.   But it is useful to take a step back and ask if anything might be simplified.   Simplification can really be your friend here.   Whether it’s your workflow at your office, your morning routine, your social calendar, your meal prep, or whatever.  

Just don’t let the weight of your obligations be what’s holding you back from going after what you want or making time for what’s really important or just enjoying your life.

The next way we often hold ourselves back is just not wanting to fail or be disappointed.   You know, it’s always easier just to sit on the bench and not risk losing anything.   I see this all the time with people who may be avoiding dating or falling in love because they don’t want to be hurt.   Or they don’t want to try a new restaurant because they don’t know if it’s going to be as good as the one that they already know and like.   Or they won’t apply for a job because they’re afraid they won’t get it.

Now, this is such a hard and potentially destructive way of being because you may be missing out on so many great things.   Now, yes, there may be some risk, but a lot of times the perceived risks are less than the upsides if you really took a look at things.

So what’s the antidote? How do you fix this?   Well, one approach is just to force yourself to generate a list of at least three great outcomes that could come from you taking the risk so that you focus less on the downsides.

Most of the time if you’re focusing on downsides, you have those fully developed in your head, and yet you haven’t fully developed the potential upsides, which are what give you positive emotions and motivation to move forward.   So you’ve got to give those positive outcomes their due consideration to get your mind and heart in the right place to go after things.

Now, if you feel like you can’t come up with anything or you can’t see beyond all the risks, then try to find someone to talk the issue through who can be more objective and hopefully supportive to generate these different options.   Just try to challenge yourself to see the upsides and get out of your comfort zone to go for what you really want and not overweight the risks and underweight all the great potential rewards.

And that brings us to the last way that we often hold ourselves back and that is not putting ourselves in situations that help us learn and grow.   When you’re doing the same routines and have the same experiences with the same people all the time, it’s likely that your learning and growth is going to slow down.

And when your learning and growth slows down, then your sense of stagnation and potential boredom can set in.   And so what happens from there?  Well, you tend to feel less excited about life, or even more pessimistic or cynical, and you may be less likely to be flexible and adaptable as new stuff comes up.   And when that happens, it can often bring on more conflict in your relationships and can make it harder to be more resilient.

Now, I realize that everybody has a different threshold in terms of how much novelty or stimulation or challenge that they want or need.   And you may want or need more or less than others around you.   And if so, that’s fine.   There’s really no one right answer here.

But for most people, learning and growing is going to positively impact your confidence, your mood, your sense of control, and your sense of optimism.   And it could be from learning or experiencing just about anything, whether it’s a new language, a new relationship, a new travel destination, a new pet that you adopt, or whatever.

But the point is that you’re going to hold yourself back from a more interesting, stimulating, rewarding and resilient life if you’re not willing to put yourself out there to learn and grow.   And as they say, if you’re doing things that you’ve always done, you’ll get the results you’ve always gotten.

So make it a point to mix things up a bit.   Get out there.   Keep trying new things and growing.   So say no to stagnation, and say yes to a more novel, fulfilled life.

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