If we can overcome the seven blocks to success, along with our tendency to find other ways to sabotage ourselves, we can create new neural networks for doing things in a new way, but it won't be easy. As we have seen throughout these pages, the brain is an intricate web of networks, embedded in networks, embedded in networks, and so on. So, it will take a few weeks of discipline and repetition.
In other words, you will have to expend conscious energy on a regular basis everyday for several weeks in order to lay down a new neural pathway. Concentrating or focusing our conscious awareness takes energy. The brain creates its own energy from glucose and sugar. It is very conservative and efficient in its use of this energy. This is why changing habits and unwanted behaviors can be difficult – It’s simply easier to do it they way we are subconsciously programmed to do it.
The good news is that after a few weeks of dedication and repetition, new behavior “drops into” our subconscious programming as the neural networks are built to store the data. If it didn’t work this way we would have to re-learn the alphabet every time we wanted to read a new book.
Once the new neural pathways have been laid down, the new behaviors become automatic and energy is freed up for new learning. The bad news is that there are frequently other neural networks that seem to sabotage our efforts at change. There are seven psychological Blocks to change.
Even after creating a vision and an action plan, one of the greatest roadblocks to success remains the lack of sustained, concerted effort. Being human, we are motivated more by pleasure than pain – work leans toward the painful end of the scale. Our natural tendency is to avoid stress and dedication. We would rather do what is fun, easy, interesting, and immediate.
The most difficult thing to do is to discipline oneself to focus and concentrate, especially when a more immediately gratifying activity beckons. A sure sign of maturity is the ability to delay gratification in order to achieve a goal. However, it is also important to take time out to relax and have some fun. Balance is important because work depletes energy while rest and play restores it.
A variation on the “It’s Too Difficult” block is the “It’s Taking Too Long” theme. This is probably the number one reason people don’t stick to their goals. The payoff simply is not coming quickly enough. If you look back over your life you will notice that the things that are most important and valuable to you took a considerable amount of time and effort to achieve. But even the most stubborn habit can be changed with 90 days of disciplined effort -- and the reward is certainly worth the effort!
Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, stresses that we should always begin with the end in mind when setting out to accomplish a goal. We need to have a clear picture of what it is we are working for and keep it out in front of us at all times, especially when we wonder why we are spending all this time and energy. Throughout this program we do just that – create mental images of our values, goals, and dreams.
Self-esteem is an integral part of achieving ones goals in life. One can only pursue and keep what one thinks they deserve. Consequently, low self-esteem will unconsciously sabotage attempts at success.
When one lacks good self-esteem, an internalized critic (in TA it is called the Critical Parent Ego State) will attempt to cancel one’s ambition through self-doubt and disbelief. Changing this inner dialog will be a necessary component of the work we are doing here.
Lifestyle changes can greatly increase self-esteem. So doing this work will pay high dividends in self-esteem if you but complete it. Listen to the CD’s included with this program in order to begin feeding your self-esteem. Even if you already have good self-esteem a little more never hurts!
Many people with self-esteem issues experience a “sense of impending doom” when “things are going too well”. This is also a manifestation of the “I don’t deserve it” block and it is a signal that there may be some deeply rooted toxic shame.
Find out more about shame and abandonment issues in my book, The Iceberg – Discovering your True Self. (Call or email me for a free copy.) Soon, through this program, you will collect a whole toolbox full of methods to help increase your motivation and self-esteem. So keep going!
Many of us find it easier to make excuses for “not being able” to achieve our goals that center on not having certain resources or advantages. While it is true that some people are born with certain advantages, in Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams, Steven Scott insists that people who achieve “impossible dreams” are generally not very different in resources or advantages than the average person.
We don’t have to look very far for evidence that this is true. Sam Walton almost single-handedly built Wal-Mart from the ground up. He did it by being average. Even after he had built several stores he could walk into almost any of them and call each employee by name, spend time chatting about their family, and did so quite frequently. His usual attire was a flannel shirt and pair of blue jeans.
Ray Croc was diabetic and over 50 years old when he sank almost every bit of what little he had into opening his first McDonalds. Col. Sanders slept in his car as he traveled around making Kentucky Fired Chicken a reality.
These people didn’t have higher IQ’s, they do not have a better education, and they do not have better backgrounds and connections than you. They simply learned and utilized some specific skills and techniques that enabled them to ‘dream big’ and then achieve those dreams. YOU can too!
Another huge block to success is having multiple goals in conflict. One must discover and reconcile these conflicting goals in order to move forward. One such conflict is having so many goals that it becomes impossible to know where to start. This can cause one to become overwhelmed which leads to inaction and sometimes to depression, since pursuing one goal feels like abandoning the others.
Another goal-conflict is the result of two goals that oppose each other. For example, perhaps one starts a new business but also wants to take more time to relax and have fun. Or the person who wants career success in a highly competitive field but also has a high priority to avoid rejection at all costs.
Clarification of values, prioritization of goals, learning to delegate, and knowing when to set aside a less pressing goal, will all help resolve such conflicts. We explore these and other techniques for resolving goal-conflicts throughout this program.
A well known theory to explain internal blocks is Seligman’s theory of Learned Helplessness: The theory that people develop feelings of helplessness when they perceive that the consequences of their behavior occur independently of their action and are thus beyond their control. This leads the person to lose ambition and motivation to the extent that their sense of helplessness becomes their general condition. This condition depends upon the person believing that they are inherently flawed and incompetent.
More common than the general sense of overall helplessness is the sense of helplessness in specific areas. Incompetence and helplessness are not exactly the same; incompetence is temporary, helplessness is forever.
I can’t play the piano – yet. But I can learn if I want to put in the time to do so. If what we are considering is important to our values and our goals then we need to change our self talk from “I can’t do it” to “I am learning to do it” or “I am getting better able to do it”.
A hypersensitivity to the role of others in one’s pursuit of a goal tends to impede motivation. It gives one the sense that these others control one’s situation and that as a result one’s effort is contingent upon their participation, encouragement, and approval.
Moreover, it can be tempting to blame others for one’s own lack of motivation, claiming the other person(s) will be jealous, angry, or overly needy if one succeeds. While this may help one escape responsibility for the own lack of action, it costs them their autonomy in the process – if others are to blame for one’s failures, then these same others are also responsible for one’s successes.
The best way to resist sabotage by others is to develop a sense of autonomy. Either walk away from negative people or “teach them how to treat you”. Some people don’t know how to be supportive. They need you to tell them what does and what does not work for you.
If they still don’t respect your autonomy, then you must firm up the boundaries by reinforcing them with consequences. If you have trouble doing this you may need to work with a life coach or counselor on assertiveness training. The book, You’re Perfect Right, by Alberti and Emmons is the standard text for learning assertive communication.
When others who want to be supportive exude tremendous pressure on you to achieve a particular goal they may have very good intentions. However, pressure frequently creates resistance. For some people, the more pressure one is under to do something, the more difficult it becomes. Other people seem to thrive on stress and pressure (even though their bodies do not appreciate it as much).
Most people fear the unknown. Most fears that inhibit motivation stem from low self-esteem. In this regard, the fear of failure and the fear of success are integrally connected. Atkinson’s “Michigan Studies of Fear and Failure” (1987) states that the tendency to avoid failure seems to dampen the effort to perform well. Consequently, the fear of failure is counter-productive since it essentially furthers the likelihood of failure.
For some, the fear of failure is so great that it seems safer to not attempt anything at all. Often such people have experienced a failure that felt devastating and they haven’t work through it yet.
Like the fear of failure, the fear of criticism and the fear of change can lead to inaction. Whenever one has been subjected to a constant barrage of criticism, especially children, they tend to internalize it and hear the critical voices over and over in their mind. Change may be experienced as a potential loss of aspects or parts of our self, causing unconscious resistance to change.
Fear of success occurs when a person has so much self-doubt that success itself can trigger overwhelming anxiety – a sense that the success is not deserved or that it cannot last (low self-esteem). Often in such cases, the person will consciously or unconsciously destroy the success so as to destroy the anxiety, resulting in self-sabotage. How often do we read about those who rose to the top so rapidly only to blow it with alcohol, drugs, or some other self-defeating behavior?
Fears of failure and success are blocks that can generally be removed, unless they are part of a larger problem related to emotional health, in which case they should be treated by a professional.
They all lead to inaction. Strong evidence (Gilovich 1993) found that when elderly people are asked what their greatest lifetime regrets is, 63 percent of them say they regret their lack of action in various ways.