For many of us, a new year brings a renewed energy to pursue opportunities, set goals, and create positive change in our lives. We start the year with excitement and drive as we take initial steps toward pursuing these resolutions. All too often, beyond these initial steps lies fear, frustration, or discouragement because stage two of change is always a lot harder than we thought it would be. Inevitably, life quickly pulls our attention and energy back into the problems of daily existence, leaving less time and energy to keep moving our new initiatives forward. As we lose momentum, old fears and thinking patterns can cast doubt on everything we were so clear on before.
If you recognize this pattern in your own efforts to create change, the most important thing to know is that this second, agonizingly slow phase that comes after your initial excitement is a normal part of any change process. Fortunately, while getting through it can feel daunting at times, for most of us the effort is well worth it.
Here are five common forces that can drain our momentum, along with tips and strategies to stay the course.
The Pressure to Make the Right Decisions
- What it Feels Like: Somewhat wistful dreaming as you think about what you’d like to change. There might be some moments of excitement as you get clear ideas of what you want or how you might start, but these are quickly quelled by confusion, self-doubt, panic and procrastination.
- What You’re Thinking: I don’t know how to make the right decision; I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decision.
- Why We Experience This Obstacle: We believe that making the right decision is important. Most successful entrepreneurs fail at two out of three business ventures, not because of poor decision-making, but because what works in one situation usually doesn’t work twice. Our world moves fast with constant change and a multitude of variables impacting every decision you make.
- Your Mantra for Change: It’s impossible to make the right decision, but I can make my decision right.
- Your Motivating Strategy: The true key to success is to make the best decision you can given everything you know, and then learn from what happens and pivot accordingly. The path of success is rarely a straight line – it twists and turns and rises and falls. Nevertheless, if you continue to take actions with your ultimate goal in mind, you are likely to get closer to what you want than where you are now.
- What it Feels Like: Frustration and drain as you try to stay on top of everything you need to do each day.
- What You’re Thinking: If I can just get this done or wrap these things up, maybe I can make time next week or next month to finally work on this.
- Why We Experience This Obstacle: You believe that you will, eventually, get more time. Most busy people are always busy, no matter what their situation. If your busy-ness is the thing you want to change, doing some deeper work on your relationship with time and productivity can start you on that path. If you have a different goal, the only way to move forward is to find strategies that work despite your busy-ness.
- Your Mantra for Change: Nobody has more time than I do. My choice is how to use it.
- Your Motivating Strategy: The best way to make progress on a new goal is to break it down into steps so small that you can work them into your existing routine. One example of this is to make a list each evening of 3-5 small steps (10 minutes each) that you could realistically do the next day. Then, try to work a few of those steps into your morning routine when you have the mental energy to handle something new. You may even find that you can accomplish things that require deeper thought, like research, writing or figuring out how to do something new, within a block of just 30 minutes when your head is clear. While these baby steps may seem small in themselves, they add up when done daily, and before you know it, you’ll gather momentum.
- What it Feels Like: Resentment and hopelessness as you watch others succeed and you see nothing but closed doors everywhere you turn.
- What You’re Thinking: If only I won the lottery (or some other financial windfall) I could make this change. Or I can’t leave my current situation because then I’d lose the little bit I have, so I’m stuck.
- Why We Experience This Obstacle: We believe that money makes a difference. We all need money to survive, so we can’t pretend that money is not important, but money can get in the way of the creativity and innovation needed to make significant changes. It can also cover up the real issues that are holding you back. Most people who win lotteries manage to go through all their money in a few years. I’ve also worked with many people who invested heavily in a graduate degree hoping to change their career path, only to find that nothing changed since graduating. Having enough money to survive is important but having lots of money to invest in change isn’t necessarily going to change anything.
- Your Mantra for Change: How can I make this happen without money?
- Your Motivating Strategy: No matter what change you make, it’s your consistent effort and action that generally opens opportunities, and usually after lots of failure. That means you don’t want to quit your “day job.” The goal is to have some form of income that meets your basic survival needs and requires as little time and energy as possible, as well as a daily plan of action that advances your learning. Expect it to take some time, but if you are taking action consistently, some doors will open, and those doors will lead to other doors.
Pressure to Appear Successful
- What it Feels Like: Humiliation and embarrassment at the thought of failing or looking stupid as you are trying to make a change. Often called Imposter Syndrome.
- What You’re Thinking: Who am I to be doing this? People are going to think I have an overblown ego. I don’t want to tell anyone. But I want to prove that I can.
- Why We Experience This Obstacle: A belief that people will only be impressed or value you if you succeed. We all know we aren’t supposed to care what others think, but most of us still do, and that’s normal. However, if you really look at what causes people to value you or think highly of you, it’s usually not just about accomplishments. A good example is to think of someone you admire and imagine them in a situation where they have utterly failed. Does your opinion of them change? Our opinions of other people have more to do with what we think about their character than about their outer trappings of success, and nothing shows positive character more than our grace and calm in the face of challenge and failure.
- Your Mantra for Change: I can grow from every failure.
- Your Motivating Strategy: If you can build confidence from wins and also by recovering from and learning from failure, there is no reason not to act. The trick is to gather evidence of this through practice. Every time you have a negative experience, see if you can find an opportunity to learn something or improve yourself because of that experience. Once you’ve taken enough steps and grown through enough failures, you’ll find your confidence naturally building and transforming you. Your inside world and daily experience changes for the better, and your outer world slowly changes as well to reflect it.
Pressure to Do it Yourself
- What it Feels Like: A sense of overwhelm and loneliness as you try to prioritize, make decisions, and hold onto momentum.
- What You’re Thinking: I don’t know what to do, I don’t know who to call, I need a break but if I take one everything will fall apart, and I’ll have to start over.
- Why We Experience This Obstacle: A belief that you should be able to do this yourself. Change is hard and study after study has shown that people have between three and five times the success rate when they have a support group. This can range from a mastermind group to an accountability buddy to a class or program to a team. But without other people, it’s very hard to maintain enough energy to keep moving through all the phases of change.
- Your Mantra for Change: Interdependence is stronger than Independence
- Motivational Strategy: Think about what kind of support would most serve you and develop a support system that gives you far more help than you ever think you’ll need. In business, you can hire fractional executives who have tons of experience and will work with you just a few hours per month, or virtual assistants who can help you a few hours per week. For personal changes, it always helps to find a friend to be your partner in crime. Or you can take a class or join a network or special interest community. Hire a coach or join a facilitated mastermind group. It may take a while to find the perfect fit, but sometimes just giving yourself permission to not have to go it alone can start the process.
As you proactively seek positive change and growth in your personal and professional life, it’s likely that these five obstacles will all surface at some point in your journey. Some will be easier to overcome than others. If you find yourself stuck or consistently challenged in one of these areas, we encourage you to reach out. Our coaching, mentoring and training programs, along with our facilitated support groups might be a great fit for fueling change and success in your life.