There are many ways in which we hold ourselves back without realising. Here are a couple that are incredibly common yet generally fly under the radar.
Black and White Thinking
When setting a goal, stretching and pushing yourself in order to attempt to achieve a certain outcome can be helpful. Issuing yourself an ultimatum (e.g. “I must get this job”) is not. Ultimatums and directives like this are black and white (fear-based) thinking, and that kind of thinking skips over the nuance and context present in any situation. The outcome always relies on more than just you, so setting an impossible task for yourself is unfair to yourself, and I would even go so far as to say that it’s mean. Fears (and the resulting directives and ultimatums) usually stem from the expectations (many unspoken) of authority figures in our childhood. We internalise their critical voices and as we grow up we attempt to live by their rules without actively recognising them and questioning them.
Reflection point: Have you explored and listed all of the ways in which the outcome of your goal is reliant on more than just your actions? Where are you making demands of yourself that exceed your actual resources?
The externalised version of black and white thinking is magical thinking. This kind of narrative is used a lot in marketing. The message is that the power to change lies outside of you, and is held by the product (magic wand) or the guru (genie). The idea that something or someone else can change things for us with no need for us to “do the work” is like a spell that taps into the fantasy of childhood freedoms. With the stressful, complex lives we lead today, who wouldn’t want to be adored, held, and asked nothing of? But falling under this spell leads to us wasting our focus and attention and energy, and puts us into a state of reactivity where we make impulsive and reflexive decisions and are ultimately therefore disempowered.
Reflection point: Where are you waiting on a magic wand or a genie? What might you do instead that would mean you could lead yourself in the direction of the outcome you want?
Like pretty much everything else, we can change these ways of thinking and avoid falling into them through practice. How is that done?
Step one is being able to recognize the trap and the situation it puts you into.
Step two is to pause and use the reflection points above to step back and assess the situation.
Step three is making an informed choice to take different action that moves you in the direction of your desired outcome.
I read every email I receive and would love to hear how you get on with these questions, and indeed if there is anything else it would be useful for me to write about.
Thank you for reading!
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