Monthly Archives: March 2011

What holds you back?

Question: What holds people back from accomplishing their dreams? From fulfilling their potential?


A guest post of mine was featured on Ongoing Conversation recently. OngoingConvo, created and curated by David Damron, features a new question every week and 2-4 writers reacting to the question and generating discussion via the comments.  To see the entire conversation, I encourage you to hop over to the site and read everyone's responses.

What holds you back? | By Sarah

Here’s the thing: we all do it. We blame obstacles, time, friends, work, … anything but ourselves. There Wasn’t Enough Time, we say, and shrug.  Oh Well, There’s Always Tomorrow – another great excuse.

You Know, I Had An Idea … But …  *SHRUG*.

We’re all talk. 99% of people will talk about what they want to do and never do anything. 1%  people actually get outside and do something, rather than talk about it.

What are these obstacles? Where do they come from? Why don’t people do what they say they want to do?

Doing things, simply doing things, is the point of your life. Be something. Do something. Say Something. Try something.  I am often reminded of those old 50’s and 60’s songs my dad used to play on his record player: “dooo bee doo bee doo”

In some ways, that’s the way that your life should read:

DO | BE | DO | BE

What are you doing? Who are you being? Right now, you’re reading. And then what? Another tab on the browser? More procrastinating via twitter and facebook?  Filling up your time with things that don’t matter, and then making excuses at the end of the day?

The thing is, you are what you do. What you are doing, RIGHT NOW. The best indicator of future action is past action. What have you done over the last week? The last year? If you’re here because you’re afraid to dream or create, I have failed as a writer. If nothing else, please ignore this post and go do something. Go be something.

There are two things that significantly hinder your ability to achieve your dreams:

First, not knowing what you want (too little knowledge).

And Second, being afraid of the outcome (too much fear) .

*** *** ***

Let’s start with not knowing what you want.

Do you know what your goals are? Sure, you might say. But I’m really asking. Today. Right now. What are your goals, your wishes and your dreams? What do YOU really want?

It’s okay at first, if you don’t know exactly what you want.  But at some point, you’re going to want to figure it out.

Not knowing what you want makes it really hard to get there, because you don’t know what “there” is. Sometimes, we don’t think too carefully about what we want – and so we don’t have a way to accomplish our goals or our dreams because we haven’t spent enough time thinking them through.

Say it out loud. Say what you want.  This year, I want to run a marathon. I also want to do my first long-distance solo swim.  But that might not be what you want. That’s okay.

Take 20 seconds and write down 20 things that you want. What are they? No judgment. They are YOURS. They are what YOU want.  Some examples? Taking professional photographs – or redesigning a website.  Starting a new book. Learning a new language. Getting a raise at work. Changing your job. Packing your lunch for work every night.

Next, pick one of those things. Just one. Not two, not three. Just one. Focus on it. Visualize what you want. Think it through. Imagine it, carefully and closely.

Ask yourself,”so what?” Why do you want this? Really dig into why you want this.

Knowing what you want is a huge step in accomplishing your goals.

*** *** ***

A second thing that holds people back is fear.

There are a few types of fear that influence how we act, what we do, and who we are.  We fear what others think (judgment by the world) and we hold within ourselves self-judgment – our own self-doubts.  We fear failing. We fear not being able to make it – not being able to live up to what we want.  (For a great read on fear and resistance by Stephen Pressfield, check out the latest issue of fear.less)

Really, our minds get in the way a whole lot. We fear what others think; what we THINK others think, and what we’ll think about ourselves.  If we don’t make it, despite giving it our best effort, we are afraid that we’ll reveal that we aren’t good enough.  Not trying gives us an excuse, an out.  We can say, “well, I haven’t tried that yet so it’s still possible.”


We have assumptions, beliefs and ideas – mostly fabricated in our minds – about outcomes, about judgments, about the reaction of the world.

Often our own most limiting factors are our own beliefs.

*** *** ***

It seems so simple when it’s written here on the page: we don’t get what we want because either we don’t know what we want, or we’re afraid of what will happen if we actually try to achieve what we want. Find out what you want. Then stop worrying about it – just do it.

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