What’s Holding You Back?

magnifying-glass with sherlock

Sometimes we would rather complain about how busy we are, or how bad things are, rather than make the effort to change. When it comes to change, the most important thing to know is whether or not we are ready to change. I once had a client that hated her job, and she complained about not having time to look for a new job. Although she was a good networker, she was not taking the steps to tell people about her interest to move in a new direction. What was holding her back? She was competent, she knew how to network, and she could find the time. There were many possible reasons that could have surfaced.

However, she had one underlying thought that she had to deal with.

On closer inspection, the real reason she told me she stayed was her fear of starting over, and looking incompetent in a new situation. According to Kegan & Lahey (2009) our competing thoughts provide an “immunity to change.” We may have a hidden agenda that keeps us from moving forward. In time, my client was able to see, and appreciate her accomplishments in other start-up situations. Once she was able to reflect on her underlying assumptions, and see how they were holding her back, she was able to start forming strategies. As she talked about her past successes, her eyes lit up, and the smile returned to her face. She became confident in her ability to take the leap, and start over in a new work situation. Her natural skills in networking were utilized, and she was successful in finding a new career.

The point is that no matter what techniques we try to make changes, when we get stuck, it is worth examining hidden commitments and underlying assumptions. What is your hidden agenda? Take some time to examine what assumptions keep you from moving forward.

Resource: Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. L. (2009). Immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock potential in yourself and your organization. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

© 2015, Carol-Anne Minski, PhD

Carol-Anne is known as Doctor C, the Goal Achievement Guru. She is an executive coach, and founder of CMA Leadership Consultants, an organizational and leadership development firm in Northeast Pennsylvania. For more information, please visit www.cmaleadershipconsultants.com/dev.

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