Anytime you set an ambitious goal, it’s inevitable that you’ll run into roadblocks. Some roadblocks are rooted in realistically insurmountable external challenges (perhaps you want to be a forward for the San Antonio Spurs but happen to be a five feet tall, female who’s pushing 50), but most roadblocks stem from internal challenges rooted in fear, limiting beliefs, and an inability to be spontaneous and creative.
The standard advice is to meet the challenge head on – to climb over it, go around it, move it out of the way or blow it up. Unfortunately, real-life roadblocks don’t go away so easily. You usually have to a good deal of introspection and soul-searching to get past them.
When you hit a roadblock, the first step is to determine the source. Is the challenge you face really an insurmountable external challenge, or is it just a story you’ve been telling yourself? And if it is really an insurmountable external challenge, is it something that you might be able to overcome or do you need to revisit the drive behind the goal? For example, given the fact that I am just over 5 feet tall, female and almost 50, unless the world changes dramatically overnight, there’s no chance that I’ll ever play for NBA. The reality is that I can’t very well change the world. In order to move through the roadblock, I have to accept reality as it is without giving up. This means that I have to ask myself, “What’s my motivation to play for the Spurs?” Maybe it’s the fact that the San Antonio Spurs are my mother’s favorite basketball team and I imagine that she’d be proud of me if she saw me shooting hoops with her boys. Maybe I really love basketball and just want to be able to play. Or maybe I think that being a professional basketball player would be a great way to make a lot of money. When I figure out my drive to play for the Spurs, I can find a different way to meet the deeper goal. I might be able to find a way to make my mother proud of me, or find a way to play basketball a lot, or make a lot of money.
It’s a little more tricky when the roadblocks are internal. These roadblocks often lie in deeply rooted fears and unconscious beliefs. When you come up against one of these roadblocks, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” For example, maybe you set a goal to change careers. Perhaps every time you ponder quitting your job to become a freelance writer, you fall into a pit of despair because some part of you is certain that you’ll never be able to make a living as a writer.
You can start dismantling your roadblocks by sorting out the beliefs you have about your ability to accomplish your goals. Give yourself a few moments and write down every negative belief you have about your ability to accomplish that particular goal. Leave some space at the end of the page so that you can come back and add beliefs that pop up later. Once you have a decent list of negative beliefs, go through them and write down the source of that belief. For example, if your dream is to write for a living, you might find the following negative beliefs on your list: 1) I’m not a good enough writer; 2) Many are called but few are chosen (very few people actually make a living as a professional writer) ; 3) No one cares about the things I want to write about; etc. If you go back to the list, you might realize that you got the message that you weren’t a good enough writer from a third grade teacher who didn’t like the short story you wrote about Halloween, or from your brother who told you that you’d never be able to do anything right. You might actually hear your father saying, “Many are called but few are chosen.” You might believe that no one cares about the things you want to talk about because the popular people in high school convinced you that you were a total geek and that your thoughts are irrelevant. The beauty is that you don’t have to hold on to other people’s negative beliefs about yourself. You can give them back or let them go.
After you have located the source of the negative beliefs, challenge them. Is it really true that you aren’t a good enough writer? No really, have you read some of the crap that gets published out there? And is “you’re not good enough” terminal or can you work with a teacher, tutor or coach to improve your writing? Is it really true that very few people make a living as a professional writer or are you just setting the “make a living” bar to the level of income Stephen King and J. K. Rowling make? Have you really looked at the statistical data on this? Are you willing to spend a few hours in the library to find out how many professional writers there are and how you can join their ranks? Is it really true that no one cares about what you want to write about? If so, can you expand your topic area to be more inclusive. For example, there may not be a huge market for articles about female pirates off the coast of North Carolina in the 1800’s, but there may be a huge market about adventurous women who defied the cultural norms of their day.
Next, what are you afraid might happen? Are you afraid you’ll fail? Are you afraid that people will be disappointed? Are you afraid of the consequences of success? Once you’ve laid out all your fears, scrutinize them. If you’re afraid you’ll fail, what do you think will happen? Are you afraid you’ll end up homeless? If you fail, so what? What’s the worst thing that can happen? Will people laugh at you? Will people reject you? Will you die? No really, will you die if you fail and people laugh at you or reject you? If you’re afraid of losing everything, is there something you can do to make this less of possibility? Can you work with an accountant or a coach to help you build a safety net? Do you have to leave your job immediately and start a writing career or can you build your writing career gradually, on the side until you are able to sustain yourself? What would happen if you took baby steps towards your goals?
The good news is that you don’t have to face your roadblocks on your own. You can work through them with a friend, or work with a coach or counselor to overcome them.