Don’t be the one to get in your own way

“Life throws enough obstacles your way – don’t be the one to get in your own way.” These are the wise words that came from my mouth today when I was presenting a workshop for first-year college students seeking support selecting a college major.

It is good advice. In both my personal life and my professional experience I see this over and over again. Life is challenging, and significant obstacles will come our way regardless of the steps we put in place to control for them. Illness finds you, a car accident happens, or someone you love dies unexpectedly. Everything is shaken.

What surprises me – and maybe it shouldn’t – is how often we are the ones to get in our own way. We are on track to apply to graduate school until we suddenly decide we can’t hack it and we never submit our finished application. We worry that studying abroad will be too expensive and so we never explore the option (my biggest regret from college!).

Or sometimes it isn’t a big thing that blocks us from our own happiness. Sometimes little thoughts here and there add up to have a collective impact on our mindset in big ways. I’m not good enough, smart enough – who am I to think I could do that anyway?? And then we quit or, potentially worse, feel really shameful about ourselves for a long time.

(For more on shame – check out the brilliant Brene Brown, who writes and speaks beautifully on this topic. To me – shame is the “nasty ick” feeling that lingers and makes me want to shrivel into myself… but you may have other ways of describing how shame shows up in your life).

So, here it is… New Years time.

My resolutions this year are something like:

1. Try to take to heart my mother’s sage wisdom: “be gentle to yourself” and my 99 year-old grandmother’s frequent wisdom: “be cheerful, be kind.”

2. Don’t be the thing that gets in my own way.

I like to think #1 sets the backdrop for #2, which will be really tough. Good news though! I’ve already been working on it personally, and am practicing more mindful attention to this phenomenon when this comes up for my clients. Each time a client is struggling under their own self-created barriers it can be a chance for me to not only help them see things differently, but it can also be a good reminder to me that I am on that same journey right alongside them.

The first step is in noticing what is going on. Clearly seeing the self-talk or story you are creating for yourself that is detrimental to your goals. So often we aren’t even aware we are putting up our own walls and challenges for ourselves.

In my experience I have seen how incredibly hard it is for us to stop our little minds from thinking pesky thoughts. Thoughts like, “I’ll never be able to succeed in that career anyway – how could I have been so dumb to consider the possibility anyway? I’m such a failure.” These thoughts come our way even when we set resolutions to “not get in our own way”!

The practice for this New Year, is to lean into the pesky thought more deeply. Hold it and really feel how yucky it feels. That’s no fun, but I promise, it is important. Then, push back with a little affirming self-talk: Yes, I know I may feel afraid to try, and I may doubt myself, but I am a good person and a hard worker and if this is a career I really want I need to find a way to keep moving forward even though I feel scared right now

You aren’t somehow magically “not afraid”. You don’t wake up one day this year feeling like the dynamo you always hoped you would be. But each time your self-doubt or self-sabotaging behaviors rear their ugly heads in your world, you pause to acknowledge them, lean into them, and then just do your very best to detach yourself from them – remembering that at your core you are gifted and have contributions our world needs very much and we have to parse out that pesky thinking to get along with the life you are meant to live.

As I said in the beginning of this post – “Life throws enough obstacles your way – don’t be the one to get in your own way.”  While I’m wise enough to know this is a wise statement, along with so many of you this year, I am hoping to spend this New Year taking this wisdom to heart so I can get out of my own way just a little bit more.

Wishing you all bright things for the New Year!


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