Five Main Reasons People Get Stuck
REASON #1: WE STOP LEARNING.
after we finish school and get a job, most people stop deliberately trying to learn. It could be because of burnout from the education system, or it could simply be because committing to a life of never-ending learning is hard. There are a lot of easier and more immediately rewarding things to do with our time after we get off work, like watching TV, scrolling on social media, or hanging out with friends. Unless you’re forced to learn things at work in order to keep your job, most people don’t commit to a life of continued education.
REASON #2: WE DON’T SET GOALS.
According to the latest research, less than 3 percent of Americans have written goals, and less than 1 percent review and rewrite their goals on a daily basis.
We live in a world of instant gratification. With almost everything at our fingertips, we expect personal growth to be the same. As they say, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” In order to see continued growth over time, it is much like the investment game. Accrued interest over time can amount to a lot of money, but you have to be patient.
REASON #3: WHEN WE DO SET GOALS, WE SUCK AT IT.
Why? Because most of us just don’t know how. Brian Tracy, self-development author and goal-setting expert, says, “One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive fifteen to eighteen years of education in our schools and never once receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.”
REASON #4: WE ARE TOO ONE-TRACK-MINDED ABOUT GROWTH.
Most people think growth is linear, assuming you can only grow in one way at one time. Then they get stuck on it. For example, if you’re trying to get a promotion, you dial into the lifestyle it takes to get that promotion and forsake everything else. Or if you’re trying to lose weight, you do a mediocre job at work, maybe hang with your friends when it’s convenient, but give your fitness goals 100 percent of your attention.
The problem with this is that we stay there, and even once we’ve reached our goal, we don’t think to diversify until we’ve sunk into the depressive state of being stuck again.
REASON #5: GROWTH CAN BE PAINFUL.
Personal growth can be much like that. Both the work required and the change that comes with the results can be painful at times, and some people aren’t cut out for that level of discomfort. Once you accept that pain is a part of growth, you will also be able to enjoy the fruits of it later on and live a life of constant, positive change.
Now that we’re fully committed to the growth journey, and we’ve accepted that in the past we may have given up, stopped learning, or at least set goals the wrong way, it’s time to change that—with one of the best ways I know how: building your confidence
Self-confidence can be defined as a belief in one’s abilities and maintaining a sense of competence. On the other hand, low self-confidence can be defined as a lack of faith in one’s abilities and competence.
TIP #1: CHANGE YOUR SELF-TALK.
The echoes of your negative self-talk, or “inner critic,” may sound a lot like a critical parent, a not-so-great friend, or a crazy ex that you dated for too long—from your past. It can follow the path of typical cognitive distortions, which is simply when your mind convinces you of something that isn’t true. Basically, negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities to reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes you and your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in your ability to do so. Because of this, negative self-talk can not only be stressful, but can really stunt your leadership potential.
TIP #2: GROOM YOURSELF.
This may seem like a given, but when people struggle with confidence, sometimes they fail to recognize the obvious. Start with the basics, like hygiene, then move on to things like your outfits and hair.
TIP #3: SET SMALL GOALS—AND MAKE SURE TO ACCOMPLISH THEM.
Set SMART goals
- Specific—Your goal is direct, detailed, and meaningful. Not vague and irrelevant.
- Measurable—Your goal is quantifiable to track progress along the way or success.
- Attainable—Your goal is realistic, and you have the tools or the resources in order to accomplish it.
- Relevant—Your goal aligns with your vision of your future for your life and your personal values.
- Time-based—Your goal has a deadline. It can’t just happen whenever.
Apply this technique and set a few small goals that can be reached on a daily or weekly basis.
TIP #4: SMILE MORE
This is simple and effective, especially if you have put into practice all the preceding steps. When you smile at another person, the physical action releases endorphins in your brain. Endorphins are nature’s “happy drug.” They make you feel happy and raise your self-esteem. When you smile, you feel and act in a more personable way to everyone around you and you give off confidence.
TIP #5: TAKE A STEP FORWARD.
You have to flex your risk-taking muscle in order to increase your confidence. Yes, you will fail more—that is the inevitable result of trying harder. But the most confident people you know are the ones who set their pride aside and simply try harder, and more often. So ask the girl (or guy) out, send that resume in and make the phone call to follow up, or sign up for that half marathon. Whatever it is, start going for it more often!
Sometimes…the best way to stretch yourself when you’re feeling stuck is to expand your connections.
- When was the last time you met someone new?
- Who is a connection you made that, without your realizing it, has massively changed your life? How did you meet this person?
- What goals do you have right now that would be easier if you had help from a new connection that you don’t have now?
TIP #1: JOIN A GROUP, OR EVEN A NETWORKING GATHERING RELEVANT TO YOUR CAREER.
When you take inventory and realize that you might be at a connection deficit, then it’s time to do the work. This can be much easier than you think. All you have to do is take a few minutes on the internet and look up the following
- Local BNI groups
- Local rotary clubs
- Church community groups
- Eventbrite events
- Download the “meetup” app
- Facebook groups
TIP #2: LEVERAGE SOCIAL MEDIA TO TALK MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO.
The positive result behind this is that like-minded people will begin to gravitate toward your page and, ultimately, to you. If you take advantage of these opportunities, you can expand your network in a life-changing way. Some of my best friends and mentors came from social media connections.
TIP #3: MAKE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT TO MEET MORE PEOPLE
Here are four tips for places that introverts can meet people more easily, and how to go about doing so without being super awkward:
- Go to the gym
- Join a group training gym
- The coffee shop
- The dog park
TIP #4: SERVE/VOLUNTEER.
Regardless of your ambitions, regularly committing to serving, in some capacity, is just good human practice and it’s good for your soul. Altruistic motives aside, it can be an additional way to meet some great new people. I’m sure if you Googled “local volunteer opportunities,” you would find plenty.
TIP #5: HANG OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS, WHEN THEY’RE NOT HANGING OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
Abraham Lincoln was well known for putting people in his cabinet who thought quite differently from him. While many would find this threatening, he realized he had blind spots in his own thinking and needed people who were strong in the areas that he was weak in. This helped him form a strong multifaceted team that was seldom caught off guard because they had not thought of all aspects of an issue.
What you know can be measured and, therefore, can be acted upon. People always say, “Knowledge is power,” but that’s only a part of it. It’s what we do with our knowledge that counts, and if you are struggling to reach your goals in life, this is a great place to start.
TIP #1: LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS.
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be a better listener. Becoming an active and empathetic listener is about developing completely new habits, which means you’ll have to get rid of old habits, and old habits are hard to break. If your listening skills are anywhere near as bad as mine, then you’ll need to do a lot of work over time to make this change.
TIP #2: READ MORE.
It’s been said time and time again that “leaders are readers.” Reading is our way of learning things the easy way, getting to know people, or exploring the world without ever leaving our seat.
TIP #3: BE MORE THOROUGH WITH EXISTING PROJECTS.
People can often rush through projects for one of two reasons: either you have done this plenty of times and have grown comfortable, or it’s something new that you aren’t very interested in. Whatever the case, often by slowing down, whether it’s something we want to do or not, we can learn and grow a lot more by being thorough and attentive. Only you will know what this really means for you.
TIP #4: LEARN TO ASK BETTER QUESTIONS.
How do we ask better questions? Before asking anyone else, ask yourself these questions:
- “Do I already know the answer to this?”
- “Can I easily find the answer to this on Google?”
- “Can I find the answer to this in a previous email, text message, or any existing material around me?”
If the answer is “no” to all of those, then it’s time to construct a well-outlined, concise question. Don’t be short, and don’t be vague. But also, don’t be too elaborate or abstract. People who get asked questions want to genuinely answer them, but if that is too much of a challenge, then both of you will feel like a failure.
TIP #5: TAKE AN ONLINE COURSE.
This is one of the more practical solutions to stretching your competency level, and there are so many avenues you can go in. The benefits of continued education are clear, but most people just don’t know how easy it is to find affordable and convenient avenues to continue learning after high school or college.
Most people say that it’s the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” —Albert Einstein
“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.” —Bruce Lee
“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” —Thomas B. Macaulay
This one is so important that it deserved multiple quotes. Honestly, this might be the most important one. You can be the smartest, most confident person in the room, but if you have a desperately flawed character, those things won’t get you very far
TIP #1: PRACTICE MORE HONESTY AND INTEGRITY
This isn’t to say that you aren’t already an honest person with some level of integrity, but everyone can grow in this area. Some people think of honesty as simply not lying, but it’s more than that. Honesty and integrity are also:
- Being more sincere in your feedback
- Telling people how you feel
- Doing what you say you will do and communicating or apologizing when you can’t.
- Recognizing that “white lies” are still lies
TIP #2: LEARN EMPATHY.
Empathy” means the ability to understand and share the feelings and experiences of another. In other words, empathy is imagining yourself in someone else’s skin: feeling what they feel and seeing yourself and the world from their point of view.
Empathy is one of the most important character traits you can acquire in your lifetime, but it is also the hardest—since it is virtually impossible to put ourselves in other people’s shoes without actually experiencing what they have.
TIP #3: EXPRESS GRATITUDE
Being grateful for others is great, but if no one knows, what real good does it do?
Tell others that you are thankful for them, show them with your actions, and do it consistently. And if it’s a stranger, like the barista or the guy who just changed your tires, always make sure to express an honest level of gratitude.
TIP #4: BECOME MORE SELF-AWARE.
Most people think that they know themselves pretty well but have never really spent the time alone to view themselves from a third-person point of view or tried to understand why they do the things they do. Self-awareness is a key component to emotional intelligence and growing in your character. Understanding this allows you to better understand your personal strengths, weaknesses, values, and habits. Here are a few ways to increase in self-awareness:
- Begin to look at yourself more objectively by journaling regularly.
- Take personality tests.
- Begin practicing meditation or prayer.
- Establish daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.
TIP #5: ASK FOR FEEDBACK.
We will never really know what people think of us unless we ask. We have to listen to the feedback of our friends, family, and coworkers so we can let them play a role in helping us grow. Tell your friends when you are looking for open, honest, critical, and objective perspectives. Allow your friends to feel safe while they are giving you an informal yet honest view. Keep in mind, this process requires humility.
We live in what’s being called the Digital Transformation Era. With almost everything available at the touch of our fingers, and so much stimulation all around us, it is easy to get and stay distracted. Most of us are distracted in our lives right now but have grown so comfortable with this new normal that we don’t even realize it. One of the best ways to stretch yourself is by intentionally gaining clarity, and here are a few ways.
TIP #1: CONSISTENTLY COMMUNICATE.
Some of the most famous leaders in our history became known as such primarily through their ability to communicate. People like Winston Churchill, Billy Graham, Abraham Lincoln…the list goes on.
Unfortunately, in school we are taught all sorts of subjects, from math to writing to science, but no curriculum or practical teaching is developed around the importance of communication. Whether you’re a leader, pastor, manager, advertiser, salesperson, or even just a spouse, the inability to communicate well will cripple your potential.
TIP #2: FAST.
If you practice organized religion, you’ll be familiar with this concept in a slightly different context. But for the same reasons why religious people fast in order to gain clarity and become closer to their creator, fasting from distractions can help you clear your mind and gain more control of your thoughts in order to grow. Whatever distracts you might be different than what distracts the next person, but it could be anything from social media to Netflix to binge eating. For example, try to take a day or two a week off of social media or television, and see how much more productive and clear your days can be.
TIP #3: ELIMINATE (OR CREATE A TO-DON’T LIST).
Over time, we accumulate roles, responsibilities, and habits that we simply don’t need to be doing anymore. Also, it’s possible that there are hobbies, habits, and friendships that may not be conducive to the future you’ve envisioned for yourself. At the end of each month or beginning of each new month, take one to two hours to sit, reflect, and document the things that have added up in your day-to-day. Once you’ve established a few, add them to your to-don’t list. For those things that are holding you back from becoming the leader you were born to be, they need to be eliminated, and only you know what or who they are.
TIP #4: EAT BETTER.
Countless studies have shown how eating excess amounts of processed foods, saturated fats, and simple sugars can negatively affect our cognition and ability to focus. By eating a diet rich in whole foods, vitamins, and minerals, you are empowering your brain and body to grow and, in turn, become smarter and stronger. Oftentimes, our grogginess could have much more to do with our diet than needing another coffee. Here are a few basic tips to begin your healthier eating journey:
- Remember balance is key. Try the 70/30 principle.
- Track your calories with apps like MyFitness Pal.
- Commit to eating fast food less.
- Try a meal-prep company.
- Get an accountability partner to join you.
TIP #5: LEARN TO SAY NO.
Some of us waste too much time and energy doing things we don’t enjoy or things that don’t add value simply because we don’t know how to politely decline our friends, family, and coworkers when they invite us to things or ask us to do things. In turn, it becomes difficult to maintain a relative level of clarity in life. Your vision for your future gets skewed, and you become too “busy” to really make any progress.
TIP #6: GET ALONE
Whether it’s taking a two-day trip by yourself to the woods, the mountains, the beach, or even a nearby staycation, or something as simple as going on a long walk with no music, getting alone consistently will stretch your ability to gain clarity in your life and grow as a leader.
Greater clarity in life will strengthen your relationships with others and yourself, while allowing your brain the space to be proactive in its thinking, which leads to less stress and a higher quality of life.