7 Ways That You Might Be Holding Yourself Back in Life
Everyone has asked, "What have I been doing wrong in my life?" at one point in time. It's often hard to see the mistakes that you might be making since you are in the moment. While it's hard to give general advice that's universally applicable, there are several common self-limiting activities that, based on probability, you’ll likely be partaking in:
- You’re avoiding growth-enabling experience because you’re overestimating the risk of a negative outcome – Everyone sees things that they want to be, do, or have at some time in their lives where they compare it to the social norm and think, “What will people think of me if I do this?” While you always have to weigh the benefits and risks of any decision, if the only negative reaction is others’ judgment and pursuing this life passion would make you happy, you’re probably making the wrong decision by suppressing your desire to appease others.
- You’re suppressing your desire too much to appease others – There’s a difference between compromise (i.e., a decision that gives everyone a little bit of what they want) and one-sided concession (i.e., one person is always sacrificing for the others’ benefit). There are times and places when you should sacrifice, but you should always look for win-win first. It’s only “selfish” if you benefit at someone else’s expense; don’t let people tell you that you’re selfish for looking for the win-win option instead of the they win-you sacrifice option. Ironically, they are the ones being selfish.
- You let negative beliefs hold you back from success – In my opinion, this is the most difficult one. There will always be a balance between believing in what is real (i.e., “knowledge”) and believing in what is possible (i.e., “faith”). No matter what anyone says on the science/atheist or religion/theist debate, every single human being on this planet balances their knowledge of what is and their imagination of what is possible. In extreme examples, no atheist is arguing that they can’t go skydiving just because they’ve never done it before (i.e., they use others’ experience to predict the likelihood of them being able to do it, but they’ve never done it before), and no person with belief in a religion is flapping their arms in the hope that they’ll be able to fly one day (i.e., they accept reality and find proven ways to fly, such as boarding a plane). But where you draw the line between knowledge and faith or belief and reality will strongly affect your life. Theoretically, the optimal posture in this balance is to believe that anything that has been done by humans is possible plus a little more that no one has done yet. There are so many beliefs that hold you back when the outcome is very possible. Just because no one has done it before doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. Just because you have certain limitations doesn’t mean that you can’t find another way to do it. And just because it’s not true now does not mean that you can’t make it true in the future. Use priming and self-fulfilling prophecy to your advantage: your beliefs affect how long you will work through adversity toward an outcome, so sustain it any way you have to if it’s what you really want (and, of course, you don’t risk bodily harm or other negative consequences beyond where you’re comfortable).
- You let your feelings dictate your next steps or hold them too long instead of accepting the feedback and letting them go – This is another tough one. Your emotions were meant to give you instantaneous feedback that led to an action in the wilderness to keep you alive. Once the crisis is over, you’re supposed to go back to normal (you can see that many animals generally don’t hold their emotions for too long for example). However, in modern society, we face two huge issues: our emotions are still giving us the right indicator but no longer preparing us for the right response, and we end up suppressing or holding our emotions for a long time, affecting us for hours, days, weeks, months, or years after the event. While it is not easy to control and get over them, you need to practice this. When you feel an emotion in a situation where you need to remain calm, learn to accept it without action, process why you’re feeling it, determine the best response, respond, then let go of the emotion now that the situation is over. If you can master this, you can stop wasting time on irrational responses or obsessing over the past, which is a major thing that you could be doing wrong in your life.
- You aren’t consistent with how you treat yourself and others – No one likes hypocrisy, but it’s so difficult to be consistent since everyone has a clear bias for themselves but also might treat themselves worse than others if they are hard on themselves. There’s no magic formula to getting this one right; you just have to keep monitoring yourself for consistency, fairness, and accurate reciprocity. If you ask others for things but never give back, you’re probably taking advantage of others. If you forgive others but never forgive yourself, you need to stop the self-blame and shift toward self-acceptance. If you put someone on a “kill list” every time they wrong you like Arya Stark, maybe you need to tone down the “punishment” to fit the “crime”. But it can worth both ways—if someone is taking advantage of you and you let it slide, you might have to stand up for yourself. So find areas where you are inconsistent and try to address them. If I had just one recommendation for you to judge accurately, imagine your worst critic trying to make your actions seem as evil as possible. How would they articulate what you’re doing, and how accurately would that portrayal represent your behavior? If many would agree that it was unfair given the same information and logic, you probably need to adjust your actions to be more fair or consistent.
- You’re afraid to ask for help – This is a difficult one because no one likes to seem weak or be rejected. But, if you are in need, you need to ask for help. Yes, people are busy and self-centered (meaning they need to take care of themselves first—no negative connotation intended), but they are also willing to help people that they care about or people who helped them. If they’re not, then that’s a good indicator that they’re either really too busy…or they don’t care about you or appreciate the help you gave them. That’s why people become nervous to ask, but here’s the thing: your success can be exponentially greater with support, so if you don’t get it…you’re limiting your potential. No entrepreneur build a billion-dollar business by himself or herself; they all had help. Yes, you might need to offer something in exchange or propose a win-win solution, but getting others’ help when you need it (or want it) can help you achieve your goals and, if it is win-win, will benefit the other person, too.
- You think that something is not within your control that is – In life, you want to do everything that you can to move toward your goals (while keeping sane and not sacrificing your health and well-being, that is). However, you also have to accept what you can’t control while focusing on what you can. The problem is, it’s difficult to see what you can and can’t control. When you think about it, there are few things outside your control. You can’t control the weather, but you could move to another city where the climate is more desirable for you. You can’t control the number of hours in a day, but you can prioritize and schedule your activities to get the most out of what you have or even delegate tasks, which can feel like you’re “freeing up“ or getting more time. So, there are many things you can do to control things that achieve the same goal that you were going for when you wished to control uncontrollable things. Now, there are two mistakes humans can make: they can believe that they can control the uncontrollable (e.g., they have a superstition), and they can believe that something is uncontrollable when it is controllable (e.g., they have “learned helplessness”). While there is danger in each, most superstitions, such as wearing the same socks that you won in past competitions or knocking on wood, are harmless. However, not controlling something that you think is uncontrollable could be very detrimental to your life. So, if you have to err on one side or the other, it’s usually better for you to believe you can control something that’s more likely to be uncontrollable. That’s counterintuitive, as so many people talk about how silly superstitions are, but imagine the person who lived their whole lives missing out on success because they didn’t take an action that seemed out of their control that wasn’t. The easiest approach to this is to be open to possibilities first before you place limitations. Then, see if there are ways to get around those limitations. It’s the limitations that you don’t try to get around that end up becoming your “learned helplessness blind spots” (i.e., things you could influence that you stop trying to).
Many people are susceptible to the above growth inhibitors, so you should be aware of them and see if they do, indeed, apply to your life as things you’re doing that, if you weren’t, you’d be better off.