How to Break Free From Challenges Holding You Back
What’s holding you back from the success you want in your career and life and how long have you been putting up with it?
What would it mean to you if you could move beyond it?
These questions are fitting to ask yourself on the weekend of July 4th, which is Independence Day in the U.S.
Maybe something that’s holding you back from living the life you want to lead is external, like your boss who takes credit for your ideas. Or the job you hate but have to keep doing to support yourself and your family.
Or it could be something internal. Perhaps the fear of failure (or success!) that keeps you playing small, or the tyranny of caring what others think and trying to please people.
You always have a choice
While it’s hard to imagine when you’re in the midst of a situation, the reality is that in most cases you don’t have to struggle under whatever or whoever is holding you back (even if it’s yourself!).
You can declare independence and take action – the kind of action where you don’t need anyone else’s permission.
Which means that struggle is a choice.
There is always an action or choice available to you, even if it is simply to reframe how you’re thinking about or approaching the situation.
The classic example of this is holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s insight in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ that even when every freedom is taken away, you still have the freedom to choose how you look at the situation.
In my case, my declaration of independence has been about leaving behind the parts of myself that aren’t serving me well and replacing them with what helps me move forward.
Specifically, I’ve learned to reframe the things I’m afraid of as opportunities to learn and grow. And I’ve given myself permission to do small experiments before I think I’m ready rather than wait until I’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s before moving ahead.
The key is to choose to take action and do something proactive.
Conversely, if you don’t or won’t take action, then others are likely to see you as just complaining. Worse yet, they may take advantage of this area of weakness.
Like the mean boss who knows you believe you “can’t” quit for fear of never finding another job that pays as well as the one you have. Or the rude colleague who knows you’re too “nice” to call him out on his behavior.
So, what might your Declaration of Independence look like?
Your Personal Declaration of Independence
Putting together your personal declaration of independence will empower and embolden you to move forward into the future you want.
It’s simple to create one. Even liberating!
Here are five steps to get started on your own declaration of independence.
Step 1: Choose what’s most holding you back
Choose the thing that is most holding you back in your life and career. An easy way to start is with the questions from that childhood guessing game, “is it a person, place or thing?”
Maybe that person is the proverbial mother-in-law (why do they get such a bad rap?!), a “bad boss” or a “frenemy”. And don’t forget to include yourself on the list. For decades, I’ve been my own worst enemy in the form of negative self-talk, perfectionism and procrastination.
As for “place”, it could be your office environment, your home town or somewhere else where there are aspects that keep you from being your best.
And a “thing” could be that extra glass of wine every night or the sugary “treat” you have at your daily coffee break.
Choose honestly and choose just one to start with.
Step 2: List all the grievances
List all the grievances you have with whatever, wherever or whoever you’ve chosen. Everything that makes you mad, sad or upset and that you no longer want to endure.
By the way, the Founding Fathers of America had 27 on their list. So don’t hold back!
Step 3: Envision the future you want to have
What do you want to be true? Make this an energizing and attractive future. One that you’re prepared to go to battle for (metaphorically, of course).
This is your “why”, your purpose. The clearer you are on what it looks, feels and sounds like, the more it will act as a beacon that draws you toward it and helps you make the changes you need to make to make it true.
Step 4: Identify the change you need to make
It could be how you frame the situation you’re in. Are you seeing it from the perspective of glass half empty or glass half-full? What’s a more energizing way to look at the situation you’re in?
It could be your habits. What do you do, think or say that could be getting in the way? To what extent could there be a chip on your shoulder that’s driving those thoughts and behaviors that are holding you back?
It could be the assumptions you’re making. Can you see things from the other person’s perspective and understand why there may be a disconnect?
It could also be the environment you’re in that needs to change. Sometimes it’s just time to move on, especially when you can honestly say you’ve tried everything but nothing has worked.
Step 5: Capture your thoughts in writing
Whether that’s a one-page handwritten manifesto like the Declaration of Independence from the founders of the United States, a set of bullet points saved in your smart phone or something in between.
Keep it where you can refer to it regularly so you can be reminded of your “why” and stay the course.
What’s your next move to freedom?
On this Independence Day weekend, what do you declare your independence from?
What would it take to liberate yourself by taking whatever action you can?
And what’s the next step you can take towards the future you want?
Leave me a comment below – I’d love to know.
Frenemy….a great new word.
Yes, it is – can’t remember where I learned it, but (unfortunately) I suspect most of us have experienced such a person!
Independence Day greetings May!
Thanks for another thought-provoking post!
Btw, even though I’m based in the UK, I always like to replay
the late, great Donna Summer’s “State of Independence”
on July 4th.
You’re welcome, Michael! And thanks for the Independence Day greetings.
I agree that Donna Summer was great indeed!
Thanks a lot May. I’ve been struggling in and out from my job for a while now and I haven’t decide yet which course of action I should take. But your words are empowering, always straight to the point and you do not fear to show weaknesses about yourself. It takes a lot of courage. It also shows how much you care for people and I’m grateful for that.
Take care of yourself and you’re wonderful family.
Many thanks for the good wishes, Cecile. I send the same positive wishes to you and your family.
May you find your courage too – and may you trust your instincts. Perhaps you can do some small experiments to test the waters as you consider?
Thank you, May. I appreciate your ability to “speak” in so many fields, I.e. technical areas like content as well as the personal development issues as addressed in this post.
Best wishes from New England north of Boston!
Thank you for this great compliment, Roger!
Sending positive wishes to you in New England…I’ve always enjoyed the Boston area.
Great advice May. I have been struggling with some fear of failure issues that sometimes lead to delayed actions. This must be eliminated and I’ve got to just act on instinct and let it go. Thanks, for informative work/life balance tips.
Glad this is useful to you, Reg. I appreciate your letting me know!
Speaking from experience, for those of us who share this fear of failure, the key is to take action and trust your instincts. Give yourself permission to move forward.
Whatever happens, you will learn from it and be even better in the future. As a friend of mine likes to say, “nothing great happens when you’re sitting at your desk” – you have to get out there and do/meet/speak/act.
And as my father always said to me, “Swing out! Go for it!”