It can be so frustrating to be ready to change your life, and then be faced with those oh-so-familiar obstacles standing in your way.
I encountered quite a few of them on my own path to self-employment.
Although there are plenty of external obstacles to deal with these days, I discovered that the toughest ones are often the ones we create ourselves. If you want to finally be able to express yourself authentically and regain a sense of purpose, you’ll need to release the internal obstacles that are holding you back. Here are five of the obstacles I faced:
1. You’re not ready.
You’ve probably achieved a certain level of competence in your current career. The idea of starting over in something new may bring out unfamiliar feelings of inadequacy and even insecurity. And maybe you don’t feel confident without a degree in that field.
The solution is to gain knowledge. Find out all you can about the career you’re interested in. Ask people working in the field what you really need. You may find that you don’t need a degree after all. A short-term certification program may give you the training you need. And you may be pleased to find that your existing skills are transferable to the new position. But you won’t know until you find out.
2. You’re afraid.
Fear in itself is a good thing. It serves to protect you from dangerous situations. But it’s no longer your ally when the fear itself isn’t real. Then it becomes F.E.A.R., or False Evidence Appearing Real. Things like fear of failure, fear of what others might think, fear of success. These types of “fears” can hold you back from doing what you really want.
It’s important to acknowledge your fear, but then identify what it’s really telling you (the underlying reasons). Is it based on reality? What’s really true about it? If it’s not based on truth, change the beliefs and thoughts around it. Then move through it. Empower yourself by listing the things that you have accomplished despite your fears and self-doubts.
3. You want things to be certain.
What if your decision turns out to be wrong? But what if it turns out to be right? If only you could be sure…
I think the need for security is something most people have trouble with, because it involves trust. It’s hard to let go of the outcome and step into the unknown purely on faith. But if you stay where you are, do you really know what’s ahead of you right now? No matter what your situation is, you can’t predict the future. If you can’t know how things will turn out anyway, you might as well let go and begin to move on.
4. You’re not sure what you want.
Another obstacle is that you no longer know how to hear your own voice. You’ve spent so much of your life trying to please others or meet others’ expectations that you don’t know what you want.
According to Stephen Covey, your voice is your calling. It’s what you’re here to do. Finding your voice involves listening to your mind (“what are you good at?”), your heart (“what do you love doing?”), your body (“what need can you serve?”), and your spirit (“what gives your life meaning and purpose?”). Then allow yourself to express who you are freely and authentically.
5. Your inner critic keeps kicking in.
Every time you try to start something new, do those inner voices start chattering? Saying things like “you’re not good enough”, “don’t speak up – no one wants to hear what you have to say”, or “you must do it perfectly or not at all”?
Your inner critic represents old internalized messages you received from your caregivers during childhood. Most of the messages were criticisms meant to discount aspects of you that were different from theirs. These voices protected you well back then – they kept you from getting in trouble. But how are they serving you now?
The thing to do is to acknowledge your inner critic’s input, even talk with it, and then consciously replace its words with new, more positive ones. In midlife it’s time to rewrite your story, reclaim your natural gifts, and create a new narrative for your life that fits who you are now. You get to choose how you look at things.
As long as you keep growing, your path will never be free of obstacles. But in a way it’s empowering to know that some of those obstacles in your path are ones you can move yourself.
What would your life look like if you were to tap into your passion instead of your fear? If you were to give yourself permission to live fully, with no regrets and no unlived dreams?