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10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

10 Ways We Hold Ourselves Back From Getting What We Want

At one moment or another, most of us have found ourselves questioning where we are in our lives. Whether it’s our careers or our personal relationships, we wonder why we’re not where we dreamed we’d be. This sort of questioning is fundamental and crucial in directing us towards attaining what we want. Often, the answer to such a question lies in our own doing. Even though it may seem a matter of circumstance, we are to blame for failing to achieve what we desire. It is we who hold ourselves back. It is we who prevent ourselves from achieving our own fulfillment. Below are just some of the ways in which we do things that contradict what we really want.

1. We want that promotion, but we don’t shape our daily work routines around attaining it.

We won’t always go the extra mile when an opportunity presents itself. Usually, a fresh promotion or a new position equips us with a sense of momentum that drives us to work hard, day after day. However, eventually we may lose interest in what we do. Our efforts stagnate if our role has remained rather monotonous. If we settle into a comfortable position at work and fail to do more than expected, there’s no justified promotion around that corner. We must stay motivated and challenge ourselves whenever possible.

2. We want to get out and see the world, but we’re increasingly tying ourselves down.

It’s a widely common phenomenon – the desire to travel the world and take it all in. To do so effectively; however, a lot of sacrifices must be made. The most important sacrifice is our free time. The older we grow, the more we find ourselves bound to our responsibilities. We have rent or mortgage to pay every month. We have a job that cannot be put on the back-burner for longer than two weeks. Relationships and/or children can dissuade us to get out there and really see the world. The longer we wait, the more there is to keep us grounded. We are also less likely to enjoy an opportunity to its fullest potential. Furthermore, we should not regard these obligations and responsibilities as excuses to prevent us from travelling, but rather as obstacles that can be managed (with effort) and rearranged.

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3. We want to pursue our childhood dreams, but get bogged down under notions of pragmatism and practicality.

If everyone lived according to the lifestyle that they envisioned in their earlier years, we would all be driving our Ferrari’s home from a typical day at work, likely at NASA or Nascar. Our dreams gradually dissolve the more we settle for stability. Why dish out all that money for a luxury sports car, when we can get a safe and practical sedan for a fraction of the price? Mentally, this continual practice of settling for what we can afford and what’s practical can prove detrimental. It’s a departure from what we really want. Our list of dreams turns into a list of dreams never achieved. There’s no reason we should refrain from shooting for the stars.

4. We want a great social life and many friends, but we just don’t make the effort.

Oftentimes we may find ourselves sitting around with a heavy sense of isolation. We might feel left out of various social circles. Unless we’re on the wrong end of a high school popularity contest, the blame rests on us. It’s our responsibility to make an effort – to go out when invited, to not cancel plans, and to initiate conversations. Popularity and a great social circle requires sacrifice and effort. We have to give, in order to get. Sometimes it’s impractical due to family or time-consuming career/studies, so we have to prioritize and accept the outcomes of what we choose to pursue.

5. We want to express ourselves and be courageous when it counts, but we’re afraid and we shy away.

Fear is a constant barrier to so many aspects of our lives – success, self-improvement, being true to oneself. We’re often presented with moments where we can raise our voice, give our opinions, or push back. Unfortunately though, we tend to shy away in fear of embarrassment or criticism. This can ultimately result in an ever-lasting memory in which we regret the way we failed to act in a particular situation. At the end of the road, we would ideally like to look back and feel as though we stayed true to ourselves. We hope we will be satisfied with the way we handled situations. We must avoid letting fear hold us back and seize the moment whenever we can.

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6. We want to relax and be mellow, but we let stress carry us away.

Stress can take years off of our lives if we let it eat at us. Many times it’s inevitable, but sometimes it’s completely unnecessary. For instance, there’s no need for us to worry about trivial things. Why get anxious about something completely out of our control? We must limit stress to matters that are within our control. We should focus on what we can solve with our own effort. Eliminate anxiety that stems from matters that won’t improve if we worry about them. This requires a substantial amount of self-awareness and constant vigilance of our mentality, but it’s well worth the effort.

7. We want to be healthy, but we prefer convenience and pleasure.

It’s human nature to be a creature of habit, seeking the constant fulfillment of pleasure. Part of it is genetic, like a predisposition to addiction, for instance. Part of it can be laziness or time-constraint. Why spend an hour cooking a healthy meal, when we can order out? We work on our feet all day, so what’s the use in exercising after work? These types of excuses prove detrimental to our well-being. The things that are really good for us (proper diet/exercise) can only be achieved with effort. The results may not be immediate (maybe you’re cooking tastes terrible, at first) but the long term benefits must be persistently acknowledged.

8. We want happiness, but we don’t let ourselves be happy.

Happiness can be a phenomenally elusive thing. Whether we take things for granted, see the glass as always being half empty, or just fail to stop and smell the roses – happiness is all about perception. For some people it’s much easier to generate happiness than it is for others. Some people have the perfect life. but still find themselves fending off bouts of depression. Others find happiness in the most essential of life’s needs. Thankfully, there are many solutions out there, some of which may include making time for ourselves and pursuing our interests. We must try and achieve whatever goals we set for ourselves, or work towards something greater. The solutions are out there – they just need to be realized.

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9. We want the world, but we have so much that we take for granted. We seek fulfillment but never let ourselves experience it.

This is the most pervasive human characteristic, in my opinion. If we always want something more, we’ll never have enough. It’s something so common and so predominant in leaving us ultimately feeling unfulfilled. So many of us are aggressively pursuing more and more, whilst we fail to look at what we have. We fail to appreciate our accomplishments. We’re bored with our jobs. Even though these very jobs provide a stable income and put a roof over our head. We’re annoyed with familial obligation, even though our family is otherwise a bright spot in our lives, supporting us at every turn. We get mad at our friends – the very ones who provide us with so much happiness. We feel unfortunate, even if we’re living in a modern civilized society free of war and famine. We never have enough time to ourselves, even though we’re writing and reading this post right now. If we’re perpetually focused upon what we want, and not what we already have, we’ll never feel fulfilled.

10. We want to be the best that we can be, but we don’t make it a life philosophy to improve ourselves everyday.

We wonder why we’re not where we want to be. We want to be better, but we don’t put in the work. It need not even take as much work, as it takes a conscious effort to evaluate where we are and why we’re here or there. Without this conscious awareness, we let things spiral away. Time flies by and we auto-pilot our way to a destination far away from where we want to be. What are the main points to take away from all of this? There are several themes that emerge from point to point: self-awareness and effort, being the most crucial. We have to ensure that we’re strictly re-evaluating ourselves, not just when we find ourselves at a crossroad, but more frequently and more aggressively. We have to establish a structure that prompts self-evaluation every so often. This method  takes practice and effort, but is absolutely vital in giving us control over where we go and what we achieve. Furthermore, we have to make an effort in our social interactions, in attaining what we want, and in avoiding the tendency to settle for what is convenient. If you found yourself disagreeing with several of the points made in this post then consider yourself fortunate.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung

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Featured photo credit: MorgueFile via mrg.bz

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Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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