Get Out of Your Own Damn Way
I have the pleasure of working with a professional/personal development coach. Our process often focuses on identifying a habitual challenge, getting to the root of said challenge, and then exploring different methodologies to overcome the it (i.e. replacing bad habits with good ones).
Having repeatedly gone through this process: challenge -> root cause -> solutions, I’ve identified a very clear pattern.
I, myself, am the root cause of most of my issues. It’s not external factors, someone else, something else… it’s me. Now that I see it in myself, I also see it in the people all around me.
This is both highly frustrating, but equally incredibly empowering. Let’s explore.
The Frustration of Self-Inflicted Roadblocks
Every time I identify my own behaviours as the root cause of my issues, my immediate reaction is frustration.
As someone who prides themselves on self-awareness, I’m caught off-guard by the learnings of my reflection. How is it that I am consistently my own worst enemy? Why would I want to prevent myself from being successful? Why do I allow self-sabotaging behaviour? Or worse, why do I often not even see it?!
I’m too smart for that! Ugh.
The Why Behind Our Roadblocks
It’s not about being smart. It’s about being human.
As humans, we are complex, emotional beings. It’s in our nature. It’s our complex, emotional side that often steers us to make short-sighted choices. And it’s short-sightedness that sees us acting on the immediate, emotional response, instead of using logic and looking at the bigger picture. That’s a roadblock!
For me, the root of this behaviour is fear.
Now, I’m not talking big, scary, shaking in your boots kind of fear. I’m talking about small fear… the fear of missing out, the fear of the unknown, the fear of not being liked, the fear of seeming foolish, the fear of making mistakes. It’s the small fears, deep in my subconcious, that drive my behaviours, and lead to the worst of my self-sabotaging actions.
As an example, I’ve recently been wrestling with delegation. I have too much on my plate at work, and I’m clearly not doing my best work. Our company is growing, and I’m not able to keep pace because of volume. The answer — I need to delegate more. I need to maximize the capable resources I’m surrounded by, allowing them to flourish, and creating capacity for me to do quality work. I’m aware of all of this… but I’m not acting on it. Self-sabotage! By not effectively delegating, I’m getting in my own way.
So what’s my problem? Why not just delegate? What am I afraid of?
I’m afraid of a lot of things…
- I’m fearful of the team making mistakes — so I involve myself in everything to help cover all the bases. Maybe I’ll catch something they might have missed!
- I’m fearful of missing out on information — so I sit in on way too many meetings, I inject myself into way too many projects, I play an active role in way too many day-to-day tasks. All because I want to make sure I have absolute context, and don’t miss out on any important details.
- I’m fearful of not having all the answers — by missing out on information, I risk not having all the answers immediately. So I operate from a place of “if I know everything, all the time, I will have the best chance of having all the answers.”
All of the above is exhausting! This is a tremendous amount of unnecessary weight to carry. I’m letting fear hold me back; and worse, I’m letting fear hold my team back.
Does the team really benefit from my involvement in everything? Or am I actually holding them back? What’s the worst mistake that could be made? How am I giving them an opportunity to learn? If I don’t have all the answers right away, does it mean that I can’t find them?
My fear is leading to personal inefficiency, where I’m not creating capacity to do valuable work by standing in my own damn way; equally, my fear is leading to a stunted team that cannot grow past the limitations I’m inadvertently putting on them. I’m getting in everyone’s way!
The Empowerment of Controlling the Change
It’s not all bad. Counter to the frustration, should be a feeling of tremendous encouragement.
Unlike influencing change that is dependent on external factors (i.e. market conditions, clients, peers, etc.), which can be an uphill battle, we have total control of our own actions. If you are the root cause of the issue, you are the key to the solution. We are in control of ourselves, our actions and our choices. The problem lies in you, but so does the solution.
So rather than allowing a feeling of hopelessness or facing impossibilities —we should be excited by a sense of control! We can do something about these roadblocks; we can do something right away.
I’ve found that the power in knowing I can be the change, outweighs the fear causing the challenge. By leaning into the power, I can take small steps towards the change I want to see. I don’t have to worry about anyone else, I just need to focus on me. In doing so, it’s amazing how fast we can get out of our own way, and see positive impact.
Words of Encouragement
This article is meant to be words of encouragement.
Be encouraged in your normalcy — we all do this, we all get in our own damn way.
Be encouraged through your frustration — it’s ok to feel frustrated, it means you’ve identified something valuable. But don’t stay in the place of frustration.
Be encouraged in your power — you can make a change. Awareness leads to understanding, and understanding leads to action. Trust yourself, lean into yourself. Be the change you want to see.
Questions for Reflection
- Identify an area where you are roadblocked. Ask yourself — what am I doing to perpetuate the situation?
- Challenge yourself to see the role you play in holding yourself back. What are you afriad of? And where is this fear causing you to misstep?
- Challenge your fears by asking — what’s the worst that could happen? If you made a change to how you behave, if you moved past your fear to a place of action (even if it’s uncomfortable), what’s the worst possible outcome? Is it enough to keep holding you back? I doubt it!
- What small steps can you take to overcome your fear? It’s not about drastic changes, it’s about taking one step at a time in a positive direction. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by a total personal overhaul. Start with one thing, and one step. That’s it.