10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

By Michael Woronko

At one moment or another, most of us have found ourselves questioning where we are in our lives. Whether it’s our careers or our personal relationships, we wonder why we’re not where we dreamed we’d be. This sort of questioning is fundamental and crucial in directing us towards attaining what we want. Often, the answer to such a question lies in our own doing. Even though it may seem a matter of circumstance, we are to blame for failing to achieve what we desire. It is we who hold ourselves back. It is we who prevent ourselves from achieving our own fulfillment. Below are just some of the ways in which we do things that contradict what we really want.

1. We want that promotion, but we don’t shape our daily work routines around attaining it.

We won’t always go the extra mile when an opportunity presents itself. Usually, a fresh promotion or a new position equips us with a sense of momentum that drives us to work hard, day after day. However, eventually we may lose interest in what we do. Our efforts stagnate if our role has remained rather monotonous. If we settle into a comfortable position at work and fail to do more than expected, there’s no justified promotion around that corner. We must stay motivated and challenge ourselves whenever possible.

2. We want to get out and see the world, but we’re increasingly tying ourselves down.

It’s a widely common phenomenon – the desire to travel the world and take it all in. To do so effectively; however, a lot of sacrifices must be made. The most important sacrifice is our free time. The older we grow, the more we find ourselves bound to our responsibilities. We have rent or mortgage to pay every month. We have a job that cannot be put on the back-burner for longer than two weeks. Relationships and/or children can dissuade us to get out there and really see the world. The longer we wait, the more there is to keep us grounded. We are also less likely to enjoy an opportunity to its fullest potential. Furthermore, we should not regard these obligations and responsibilities as excuses to prevent us from travelling, but rather as obstacles that can be managed (with effort) and rearranged.

3. We want to pursue our childhood dreams, but get bogged down under notions of pragmatism and practicality.

If everyone lived according to the lifestyle that they envisioned in their earlier years, we would all be driving our Ferrari’s home from a typical day at work, likely at NASA or Nascar. Our dreams gradually dissolve the more we settle for stability. Why dish out all that money for a luxury sports car, when we can get a safe and practical sedan for a fraction of the price? Mentally, this continual practice of settling for what we can afford and what’s practical can prove detrimental. It’s a departure from what we really want. Our list of dreams turns into a list of dreams never achieved. There’s no reason we should refrain from shooting for the stars.

4. We want a great social life and many friends, but we just don’t make the effort.

Oftentimes we may find ourselves sitting around with a heavy sense of isolation. We might feel left out of various social circles. Unless we’re on the wrong end of a high school popularity contest, the blame rests on us. It’s our responsibility to make an effort – to go out when invited, to not cancel plans, and to initiate conversations. Popularity and a great social circle requires sacrifice and effort. We have to give, in order to get. Sometimes it’s impractical due to family or time-consuming career/studies, so we have to prioritize and accept the outcomes of what we choose to pursue.

5. We want to express ourselves and be courageous when it counts, but we’re afraid and we shy away.

Fear is a constant barrier to so many aspects of our lives – success, self-improvement, being true to oneself. We’re often presented with moments where we can raise our voice, give our opinions, or push back. Unfortunately though, we tend to shy away in fear of embarrassment or criticism. This can ultimately result in an ever-lasting memory in which we regret the way we failed to act in a particular situation. At the end of the road, we would ideally like to look back and feel as though we stayed true to ourselves. We hope we will be satisfied with the way we handled situations. We must avoid letting fear hold us back and seize the moment whenever we can.

6. We want to relax and be mellow, but we let stress carry us away.

Stress can take years off of our lives if we let it eat at us. Many times it’s inevitable, but sometimes it’s completely unnecessary. For instance, there’s no need for us to worry about trivial things. Why get anxious about something completely out of our control? We must limit stress to matters that are within our control. We should focus on what we can solve with our own effort. Eliminate anxiety that stems from matters that won’t improve if we worry about them. This requires a substantial amount of self-awareness and constant vigilance of our mentality, but it’s well worth the effort.

7. We want to be healthy, but we prefer convenience and pleasure.

It’s human nature to be a creature of habit, seeking the constant fulfillment of pleasure. Part of it is genetic, like a predisposition to addiction, for instance. Part of it can be laziness or time-constraint. Why spend an hour cooking a healthy meal, when we can order out? We work on our feet all day, so what’s the use in exercising after work? These types of excuses prove detrimental to our well-being. The things that are really good for us (proper diet/exercise) can only be achieved with effort. The results may not be immediate (maybe you’re cooking tastes terrible, at first) but the long term benefits must be persistently acknowledged.

8. We want happiness, but we don’t let ourselves be happy.

Happiness can be a phenomenally elusive thing. Whether we take things for granted, see the glass as always being half empty, or just fail to stop and smell the roses – happiness is all about perception. For some people it’s much easier to generate happiness than it is for others. Some people have the perfect life. but still find themselves fending off bouts of depression. Others find happiness in the most essential of life’s needs. Thankfully, there are many solutions out there, some of which may include making time for ourselves and pursuing our interests. We must try and achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves, or work towards something greater. The solutions are out there – they just need to be realized.

9. We want the world, but we have so much that we take for granted. We seek fulfillment but never let ourselves experience it.

This is the most pervasive human characteristic, in my opinion. If we always want something more, we’ll never have enough. It’s something so common and so predominant in leaving us ultimately feeling unfulfilled. So many of us are aggressively pursuing more and more, whilst we fail to look at what we have. We fail to appreciate our accomplishments. We’re bored with our jobs. Even though these very jobs provide a stable income and put a roof over our head. We’re annoyed with familial obligation, even though our family is otherwise a bright spot in our lives, supporting us at every turn. We get mad at our friends – the very ones who provide us with so much happiness. We feel unfortunate, even if we’re living in a modern civilized society free of war and famine. We never have enough time to ourselves, even though we’re writing and reading this post right now. If we’re perpetually focused upon what we want, and not what we already have, we’ll never feel fulfilled.

10. We want to be the best that we can be, but we don’t make it a life philosophy to improve ourselves everyday.

We wonder why we’re not where we want to be. We want to be better, but we don’t put in the work. It need not even take as much work, as it takes a conscious effort to evaluate where we are and why we’re here or there. Without this conscious awareness, we let things spiral away. Time flies by and we auto-pilot our way to a destination far away from where we want to be. What are the main points to take away from all of this? There are several themes that emerge from point to point: self-awareness and effort, being the most crucial. We have to ensure that we’re strictly re-evaluating ourselves, not just when we find ourselves at a crossroad, but more frequently and more aggressively. We have to establish a structure that prompts self-evaluation every so often. This method  takes practice and effort, but is absolutely vital in giving us control over where we go and what we achieve. Furthermore, we have to make an effort in our social interactions, in attaining what we want, and in avoiding the tendency to settle for what is convenient. If you found yourself disagreeing with several of the points made in this post then consider yourself fortunate.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung

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