What is stopping you?

What is stopping you from planning that trip filled with discovery visits?  From making that call?  From making that donor visit?  From sending those thank-you notes?  From doing any of the other important relationship-building items on your to-do list?

In answering the “what is stopping you?” question, you might respond in one of the following ways:

  • “I don’t have the case statement materials I need to go on those visits,” or;
  • “I’m waiting on the donor profile before I make the call,” or, simply;
  • “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I have no time.”

Each of these responses (and just about any others you might think up), could very well be describing why the timing is not perfect to complete the task or why completing the task might be extremely difficult for you.  But none of the responses really answers the question of what is stopping you?  Why are you not doing it.

In watching professionals of all skill levels and capabilities work over the years, I have come to learn that the real answer to what stops us has very little to do with external roadblocks that may be in our way (or perceived to be in our way).  We overcome external roadblocks all the time in life. . . when we decide to.  As an example:  You might say, “I have a full-time job but I want to further my education.  I’ll make it work by attending classes online or at night and on the weekends.”  We regularly figure our way past external obstacles.

No, what stops us really, are the lies we tell ourselves and the fears we take counsel in. “I might fail and that will make me look incompetent.”  “I may get rejected and that will make me feel horrible.”  “I might not hit my goals and I might be held accountable.”  “I don’t know if I’m good enough and I have to be secure in what I’m doing.”  “I’m not sure I am ready to make an ask that large and I can’t fail.”  “It has to be perfect, or I can’t send it.”  “I might be asked a question to which I don’t know the answer and I’ll look like I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

It is these types of self-mantras that stop us more often than not.  And, this self-talk can be so insidious, you don’t even know you are doing it.  But if you think about why you really aren’t doing the things you say you want to do, you often will find a self-recording of negativity and doubt playing in the background of you mind.

I have a physician friend who is now in his upper 70s.  He spent a number of years as the president of one of the world’s largest medical associations.  Although he has always done a nice job with public speaking, he struggled mightily with this task, thinking of himself as a poor public speaker.  I asked him once, “How did you get up before thousands of your peers at conferences and address them?  How did you address the U.S. Congress?  How did you do so many things as president of this association, when you view yourself as a poor public speaker?”  His response was enlightening for me.

“I never had confidence in my public speaking skills.  I was concerned that I’d look unqualified to be president of the association.  I am just a farm boy at heart.  So, I decided I would play the role of association president.  I became an actor,” he said.  “It wasn’t me up at the podium risking looking foolish, it was me acting a part.  I prepared myself fully to play a role.  That’s how I did it.”

He figured out how to combat his negative self-made mantra about being a poor public speaker.  He just played the part.

The real reasons we are stopped have little to do with what is happening to us and much more to do with what we are saying to ourselves.


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