How to Overcome Your Biggest Obstacle, You
The same old story keeps running through my mind. It's a story about how hard it is to follow our dreams. It's about how we get caught in the trap of playing small and why we shouldn't be surprised to find ourselves here. I think about how our lack of motivation and our tendency to procrastinate is related to playing small. And how the system of work isn't designed to support human fulfillment and happiness because it's designed for efficiency and productivity.
But I'm tired of that old story. It's like having an annoying little jingle stuck in my head. What makes it so hard to step out of this old story and start something new?
Swimming in the Small Sea
The simple answer is that it's just too easy. I get pulled into that story because I still feel the pain and frustration of spending so many years doing work that took more than it gave. Sometimes I get angry for not recognizing the trap I was in sooner. And I wish I could turn back time and start my business earlier.
Other times it feels good to swirl around in that sea of small ideas because they justify how I got here. I re-examine my decisions and what made them feel right at the moment so I can feel better about the choices I made. I rehash it all so I can discover how to break through the obstacles that are holding me back.
But the fact that it's so easy should be a big red flag. I know better than to think that the easy path is going to get me where I want to go. And I know what this trap feels like because I've been here before. It's me playing small.
The Answer Isn't Back There
When we look back at our past, we like to think we're searching for answers. But this is only true for a short while before it becomes a search for justification. What starts as a journey to uncover something new about ourselves becomes a way to affirm our same old stories. Examining our past turns into a clever way to hide from our future. It's a way to avoid the fact that maybe, just maybe, we've done enough, learned enough, and are enough to start the next chapter.
And there it is. The thing we've been looking for. The obstacle that keeps getting in our way is us. It's us wondering if we are enough. I know because I'm doing it right now, wondering if I'm enough for what I want to do next. I'm examining my past to see if the answer is there when I know that it's not because the only way for me to answer the question of whether I am enough is to start something new.
All That Matters is New
That old story you keep telling yourself isn't helping you. That decision you regret doesn't define you. The mistakes you make don't inhibit you. It's what you do next that matters.
You get to choose what comes next. I know it doesn't always feel this way. But when you tell yourself you have no choice, it's because you decided to avoid the challenging or unfamiliar path.
The truth is, there will always be obstacles. Life is full of an endless list of problems to solve. But that doesn't have to be a bad thing. You get to choose how you feel about them and what you do with them.
This means that the biggest obstacle, and, arguably, the only obstacle you need to face, is you. It's the thoughts in your head that are holding you back. And taking action is the only thing that will move you forward. You can't think your way out of this spot. The only way to break free is by starting something new.
How to Start Something New
Starting something new is my theme for September and I didn't realize how significant it would be until now. At the time, it just sounded like a good idea and a little bit of fun. But now that I'm in it and trying to do it, I can see how important it is for all of us to stop thinking and start doing. Because if we don't, we're destined to stay right where we are.
I know it's scary. I'm feeling it this very moment, and it's making me second-guess my decision about a new direction for my business. But what choice do I have? The answer is all of them. I have all the choices I want.
So I'm going to choose the one that sounds and feels right. Not because it's easy, not because it's what people expect me to do, and not because it'll make me look good, but because it's all I want to do.
I know this is easier said than done, so I've been looking at how I move forward and start something new. It's not the first time I've been through this, and while it doesn't necessarily get easier or less scary, at least I've learned some steps to take. So, here's my advice on how to start something new.
Keep in mind that just because it worked for me doesn't guarantee it'll work for you, but there's a good chance it will, and you have nothing to lose by trying. As with all things, I encourage you to experiment with this and find the right steps for you.
Step 1: Acknowledge that you're a broken record.
Recognize when you keep rehashing and retelling the same story of you over and over. Ask yourself if this story is helping you move forward or if it's just making it easier to stay where you are. Does it inform you of what to do next, or does it make you feel like you aren't enough?
Step 2: Know what you want the next chapter in your story to be.
What do you want to change? How do you want things to be different? Maybe it's something big, like start your own business or grow your current one in significant ways. Or, it could be something more internal like feel more fulfilled, have new experiences, or build new relationships. Don't overthink this part and ask yourself, "what one thing do I want to add to my story next that would bring me joy?"
Step 3: Start writing your story by starting small.
Pick one small thing that helps you start writing that story and then start. If the change you want is big, keep that big dream but start taking action by breaking it down into the smallest thing you can imagine doing. Then, do that first.
Stop Ruminating and Start Doing
When we get in our own way, it's often because we make such a big deal out of doing something new. This is another way to hide from taking those next steps. If we make it big and scary enough, we can justify why we're not doing it. This also fuels the idea that we're not enough to do that big scary thing. These thoughts are a trap and you can't think your way out.
So, get rid of these obstacles in your head by keeping your dreams and ideas big and grand while making your steps toward them small. Define what easy feels like for your first step into something new. Then, do it. Then do another, and another, until your new story starts to come into view.