Most of us grow up being admonished that we should “learn to be satisfied!” I think this is terrible advice. After completing the many years of training required to become a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon and many years studying personal development, I feel confident suggesting that you should never be satisfied! You should always be happy — but not satisfied — there’s a big difference. I’m here to encourage you to go after the life, and the lifestyle, you really want! Never be satisfied. Aspire to be happy along the way but keep aiming for something better. Better is such a beautiful word.

Here are the top five impediments which may be holding you back from the life you desire, and ways to overcome them:

1)    Fear of failure

No one likes to fail, but failure is an incontrovertible component of achievement and success. No one has ever ridden a bicycle successfully on their first attempt, or blown a bubble with chewing gum, or tied their shoes, or whistled, or snapped their fingers. If such mundane and simple tasks require practice, dedication, training and persistence, what makes you think that becoming a successful entrepreneur or influential salesperson should be without its disappointments and defeats? My advice here is simple — fall off your bicycle and hit your chin on the pavement a few times, if that’s what it takes to learn to ride. It won’t kill you. Wear a helmet if you like, but be prepared to put it to good use. No one succeeds at anything of any importance without coming up short a few times first. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.

2)    Fear of success

This is a funny one. It’s difficult to imagine why anyone would be afraid to succeed, but they are. There are a couple of main reasons for this. The first is that with success comes responsibility. Not everyone is up to the challenge. The other reason is that many of us have been programmed since childhood to believe that success is somehow bad and therefore one might expect to be punished in some way for being successful. Most of us are familiar with aphorisms like, “Money is the root of all evil,” or “The rich are greedy, corrupt thieves.” Therefore, many people reason that if they were to achieve success, especially financial success, they would be bad or have some bad circumstances visit upon them as a consequence. Don’t fear success — be prepared for it. If you are properly prepared, you will be able to capably manage all the responsibilities success creates.

3)    Fear of criticism

Many of us carry into to adulthood the fears of childhood. Thoughts like, “What if I make a mistake at the blackboard solving an arithmetic problem in front of the entire class,” or, “What if I sing off-key when given a solo opportunity in the school choral performance?” These fears follow us through life and grow with us as we grow. These fears of being criticized by “the crowd” or “our peers” continue to affect us when we consider changing professions, going back to school for an advanced degree, or investing our life savings in a new business venture. Too often we decide it would be better never to sing in public than fall victim to the ridicule that might ensue. I encourage you to let your voice be heard. Put less value on the importance of other people’s opinions. Don’t allow the fear of the mob silence you or dissuade you from living your dreams. Like the oak tree, nature created you for expansion and expression — be bold.

4)    The “crab phenomenon”

This concept is one of the most powerful in all of personal development. It is said that when fisherman trap crabs and hold them in large buckets of sea water, it is unnecessary to put a lid on the bucket. The explanation for this is simple — if one crab tries to crawl out, the other crabs invariably grab him with their powerful claws and drag him back in. The crabs cycle from the bottom of the bucket to the top, but no one ever gets out. No one ever makes any real progress.

In life, the other crabs tend to be the people with who you are the closest — your family, your friends and your co-workers. They do everything in their power to keep you with them in the same neighborhood, job, social circle, and financial stratus. They say they do this out of love and caring and say “they don’t want to see you get hurt.” In reality, they do it out of fear. They are afraid that they will lose you and that they will be left behind. Be aware of the crab mentality — it’s everywhere. Have the strength to fight off the claws of those who wish to keep you going nowhere forever. Break free and grow.

5)    You

The most powerful thing standing in your way of greater success is you. My advice is to get out of the way. Let things happen. Have courage. Take chances. Take risks. Be willing to fail. Be willing to be embarrassed. Be willing to go it alone. Don’t let your current self-image — one of safety and mediocrity keep you from experiencing greatness. No one ever won a race by finishing in the middle of the pack. That said, many individuals have won races starting dead last; but it requires that you pass a lot of people to break free of the peloton and get out in front. Think carefully and honestly about the role you have played in creating false barriers to your own personal development and growth. These typically take the form of excuses and alibis. Look inward for answers here. Identify things you are doing to stand in your own way and make a conscious effort to eliminate these “barriers” from your life.

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