Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’ve tried everything, that nothing works, and that we can’t figure out what we’re doing wrong, but it’s often not only the physical obstacles that get in the way of our success and happiness, but the mental ones that we may not even notice are sabotaging our efforts.
1) Resisting the Truth
"Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, resistance will unfailingly point to true North - that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing." - Steven Pressfield, Do the Work
With the obvious exception of times when we’re absolutely new to a problem, we generally know what we need to do; if we’re honest with ourselves, we know how to fix it, but we resist.
We resist because the solution seems too simple, because we want to delay dealing with or accepting the truth, because it’s easier or there’s some payoff to maintaining the status quo, because we expect it to be hard, or because we’re afraid.
While there’s always some element of risk with almost any change, by constantly settling or cowering in the face of resistance, we’re avoiding the truth -- our truth -- and are eliminating even the most remote chance of moving forward with our lives or businesses.
2) Avoiding Constraints
"Oh, give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above. Don’t fence me in." - Cole Porter
Many times, we want to “keep our options open,” so we avoid choosing one thing or another in order to avoid being fenced in. Eventually, we come to realize that NOT making a choice is, in fact, a choice, and it’s actually possible to resist labels, boxes, and fences so much that we leave ourselves open to nothing.
At some point, we just have to make the best decision possible, based on the information in front of us and on what feels like the right thing to do at the time (not the easiest or the least painful, but the one we know in our heart of hearts to be right). Then, as Maya Angelou once said, “when you know better, you do better.”
3) Avoiding Responsibility
"Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else." - Ivern Ball
It’s often much easier to blame others for our failures, setbacks, and shortcomings than to take responsibility and ownership for the results we’re achieving in our lives. Instead of holding ourselves personally accountable for the way our world looks (or at least for fixing it when things go wrong), we pass the buck and avoid the work (or the hit to our pride) that might come with owning it.
There will certainly be times when bad things happen that are outside our control or have nothing to do with the choices we’ve made for ourselves, but even in those times, we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work cleaning up the mess. It’s not always easy, pleasant, or immediately beneficial or gratifying stepping up to that job, but it’s absolutely necessary, if we ever hope to succeed at finding contentment and happiness.
There will always be challenges that present themselves as we try to succeed at climbing whatever mountain it is we need to climb, but if we can at least overcome the mental obstacles that threaten to hold us back, we stand a much better chance of making it to the other side.
What mental obstacles do you think hold us back from success and happiness?