We waste so much time believing we have no control.
No control over our careers, our relationships and, ultimately, our happiness. We feel powerless against outside forces, playing the victim when life deals a blow.
I don’t mean to downplay hardship. Certainly there are moments when life seems to beat us up a little more than others, and we’re lucky just to emerge unscarred.
But when clients come to me, I often talk with them about the idea of real versus perceived barriers to happiness. Essentially, I ask them to consider: Is this challenge—this obstacle blocking your joy—something that you’re putting in place yourself, or is this something you truly can’t control?
I’ve been thinking about one of my clients, a business owner who wanted to shift to a new platform but found herself paralyzed to pursue her goals. She was afraid of what people, namely her clients and friends, would think if she switched gears, so she found herself immobile.
Perceived barriers often have this element of outside opinions to them. When we feel fear, it’s usually based off of the data we’ve collected from other people. We wonder: What will they say, think, or do if I make a certain change?
For the business owner, I suggested walking through a tool called the Immunity to Change model. Here’s how it works:
- Grab a pen and paper, and create four columns. In column one, consider the actions you need to take in order to achieve your goal. Maybe that means identifying time in your day to pursue new leads or signing up for a class that’ll teach you a new skill.
- In column two, identify the behaviors that work against that goal. For my client, this was the moment she realized how much of her time was filled with client work instead of drafting a new business plan.
- Column three is all about recognizing competing commitments. Ask yourself: How would I feel if I did the opposite of column two? My client admitted she’d feel freer and more energized if she did less of her current work and started pursuing new plans.
- Column four is where we get real. Write down the big assumptions you’re making about pursuing that goal. What are you telling yourself that is preventing you from moving forward? My client was concerned that if she started making changes, she’d upset the people around her.
Dan Baker, an author I often recommend to clients, writes this in his book What Happy People Know: “Choice is the father of freedom and the voice of the heart.”
I really believe that anyone can choose the course of their own lives—but only happy people do it. We can choose to act based on a fear of outside opinions or we can go with our gut, show up for ourselves, and blow through that perceived barrier. The secret is in knowing you have a choice, and you can choose happiness.
My client did just that. She made the shift in her business. She’s working fewer hours. She’s making a ton of money. And she’s blissfully happy.
Have you run into real or perceived barriers and need help navigating them? I’m an executive coach who works with clients nationwide. You can reach me at email@example.com.