Originally published 3/5/2016
As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve come to articulate my life’s mission as eliminating barriers people face to reaching their potential. Before this revelation, I knew I was passionate about inspiring people to check-in to their lives and strive to reach their potential, but I also had seemingly unrelated passions such as fighting for equal rights and eliminating bias in the workplace. I realized that all of these passions fall under the overarching umbrella of obstacles people face in their personal and professional lives to becoming the best they can be. After having this realization, I sat down to think about all the barriers that might keep someone from chasing their wildest dreams. The photo I chose for this post is one of a dementor from the Harry Potter series. In the books, dementors can essentially suck your happiness and soul out of you. I immediately thought of this image when coming up with what I’ve now deemed the Dangerous Demotivators (perhaps the dementors inspired the alliteration). These are the things that can serve as the voice in your head convincing you not to go after something, or forces beyond your control that create closed doors to your development and growth. Here are the eight I’ve identified so far:
- Lack of information – This is an obstacle I have faced many times in my journey. Without even knowing about all the opportunities out there, how was I supposed to pick the right major in college or the right job after? In today’s world, there are so many options out there, and it can feel daunting and often overwhelming if you don’t know where to start, so you end up wandering aimlessly, jumping from one thing to another, or staying stuck in one place.
- Lack of resources – Sometimes you may know what you’re passionate about or what you aspire to do, but you may lack the money, time, or resources to get there. This can often be one of the most frustrating barriers because you feel stuck but not in control of your situation.
- Bias against a particular group – This barrier is the one that can get me fired up very quickly. We unfortunately still live in a world where many, either consciously or unconsciously, favor a particular group of people over another for no good reason. Often people tend to favor others who look, talk, or act like they do, or they were brought up with a particular worldview that encouraged this sort of bias. Whatever the reason, it is critical to overcome these biases and create a world where we are truly able to hire the best and most qualified people for the job.
- Lack of desire – To me, this is the most ambiguous and hardest to overcome. Conveying the benefits of living an intentional life can prove difficult when people are comfortable where they are. I deem this the “ignorance is bliss” barrier. It is impossible to flip the switch for someone who isn’t willing to flip it themselves.
- Fear of change – I absolutely love this graphic that shows that magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Change can be scary, especially when you are venturing into the unknown. I think you can find small ways to make changes, though, that over time add up to big changes. I love the quote that is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”
- Fear of failure – You must be willing to be extremely vulnerable to say, “This is what I want more than anything in the world,” and then go out there and try to get it, because if you fail, you risk devastation. After several big “failures” in my life, I realized that if I could learn from the experience and make better decisions in the future, it didn’t feel like a failure at all, but rather a learning experience. We won’t get everything right on the first try, and nobody expects that of you. For this particular barrier, Brené Brown‘s work on shame, vulnerability, and rising strong can be literally life changing.
- Lack of support – We all need people to encourage us, bounce ideas off of, and help pick us back up when we fall. Finding a tribe of supportive people is critical to succeeding on this journey. I’d encourage you to take a look at the people you spend the most time with. Do they build you up or tear you down? The importance of a support system cannot be underestimated. Read more about this one in my HuffPost blog.
- Fixed mindset – Carol Dweck has done fascinating research on the fixed vs. growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you assume your intelligence and skills are essentially fixed, so there is no point in trying to build skills in new or challenging areas. If you think you are bad a math, for instance, you don’t bother studying or spending time on a problem, and each setback you encounter reinforces this view of your inability to do math. With a growth mindset, however, you are able to recognize that nobody is good at anything when they first begin. As you learned to walk, you stumbled and fell after a couple steps, but through practice, you became better. People with a growth mindset recognize they can build their intelligence and skills through deliberate practice and exposure to new ideas.
They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. With some introspection, can you identify a barrier that is keeping you from blazing a trail toward your dreams? It is only after identifying the barriers that you can hope to take any action toward overcoming them. I may not have all the answers to overcoming each of these challenges, but I’m working on it. I’d love to hear from you on this one. Do any of these resonate with you? Are there other barriers I haven’t identified?