Sometimes, when you’re attempting something new in your professional life, it might seem that you’re starting below everyone else. When you look around at other people climbing the mountain, it might look like they were born halfway up or at least starting at ground level. But if you feel like you’re starting underground because you can’t even dig yourself out of the hole you’re in, take heart.
There can be plenty of reasons why you’re at a disadvantage. But whatever the reason is, feeling like change is impossible might lead you to believe that you’re not as good as everyone else, and this fear creates more of a problem than the original obstacle that stands between you and success. Pretty soon you’re convinced that you can’t do anything.
Here are some things that might stand in your way:
- A previous failure (or a few of them): If you’ve ever believed in a dream, gotten really excited about it, and then watched it bomb, you might think you are doomed to failure. This is especially true if you’ve failed multiple times. You’re scared to invest time, money and emotional energy into something that you worry won’t work.
- A lack of experience: It’s the classic Catch-22. You can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job. Every job that catches your eye seems perfect, until you realize they require about 10 years more experience than you have.
- A lack of knowledge: Maybe you didn’t get your degree. Or maybe you just don’t know much about the field you want to pursue. You didn’t learn the skills in the real world, or the ones you have are rusty. Doing what you want might mean doing things you’ve never done before.
- No connections or network or references: When you’ve been away from the working world for a while or tucked away in a cubicle with little chance for interaction, you might feel isolated. You’re not sure if anyone can help you, and if you spend your days talking to little people, you might even wonder if you have any social skills left.
- A lack of money: If you’re considering starting a business , taking a pay cut, or going back to school, you might not have any idea how to finance your dream. When you have a family to support, the idea of taking a risk might be even scarier since people are depending on you for food, shelter, and other necessities.
- A lack of support: It’s hard to make changes in your life when it seems like no one’s in your corner. When the people who love you doubt your abilities or don’t want to deal with upheaval in their lives (after all, who’s going to make their after-school snacks?), it’s so much easier to stay stuck in your status quo.
Any one of these problems can leave you feeling like success is impossible.
For me, the biggest obstacle was never the problem itself but the fear it created. I worried that things would stay the same despite my efforts. It wasn’t that I was afraid of failure—it was that I thought previous failures meant that I would never succeed. It wasn’t just a lack of experience or knowledge holding me back—it was a fear that I could never learn the things I needed to know, at least not well enough that someone would pay me for my skills.
These fears seem ridiculous even to me. But that’s why the word can’t is so insidious. It’s easy to be discouraged when so many things stand in your way, and it distorts your perception of reality.
But the good news is that if you’re feeling this way, lots of other people have felt the same. And they succeeded anyway. Every one of these obstacles can be overcome.
Even if you decide that you need to wait before you can make your dreams come true, you can start preparing now. Maybe you’ve decided to wait to go back to work full-time until your kids are all in school, for example. You’ll be better off in the future if you start networking now. It will take you a couple of years to raise funds for your business? Talk to other successful people in your industry to find out their business strategies.
While it might be true that some dreams have to be shelved temporarily, you won’t do yourself any favors by telling yourself that they’re impossible. All that will do is stop you from moving forward–the word can’t is the primary cause of procrastination.
The only way to find out if an obstacle is impenetrable is to move toward it–and then try to get through it. It might stop you in your tracks, but on the other hand, it just might fall at your feet.
This guest blog has been provided by Kaylie Astin, founder of Family Friendly Work, for the Women’s Business Center.