Do you feel stuck? At rock bottom? Not sure you’ll get around to that New Year’s resolution from 2004 after all?
Well, you’re not alone. Many people with big goals end up feeling stuck because they just can’t seem to figure out how to make their dreams come true.
As if that weren’t hard enough, we are constantly bombarded with messages about our gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and spirituality, to name a few, that all manage to communicate the same poisonous lie:
You’re not good enough.
After enough iterations of this lie, regardless of how confident we are, it’s easy to start believing that maybe, just maybe, we’re not good enough.
Guess what? There’s hope. The truth is you and I are more than enough. Plus, we are beyond capable of accomplishing our goals and achieving our dreams.
I want to offer you 6 empowering strategies for overcoming obstacles, facing your fears and moving on to a fuller, freer, more satisfying life.
Want to know the best part? This advice was inspired by formerly incarcerated women’s success stories. I have worked with these women and seen firsthand how they’ve climbed out of their ruts, overcome both social and personal challenges, and built meaningful lives after prison.
And if they can do it, so can you.
So, here goes…
1. Identify and Address What Scares You From Moving Forward
If you’re feeling stuck in your life, chances are you’re afraid and have decided to let that fear stop you in your tracks.
Before you can accomplish something great, you will come face to face with something that terrifies you. For some it is a fear of failure. For others it is a fear of criticism.
Regardless of what scares you, you should know that your fear is normal. Not only that, fear is one of those uncomfortable feelings that is often misunderstood.
Usually we fear things that put us in danger, like wild angry bears or the “watch instantly” menu on Netflix.
But more often than not, we are frozen by irrational fear rooted in insecurity not any real danger. We often fear that we won’t be able to handle the outcome.
Maybe it didn’t go well the last time (see #3 for this), maybe we’ve never done it before, or maybe we’ve heard horror stories from other people who have given up.
This kind of fear cuts us off from what lies just on the other side of our fear — our dreams, our happiness, and our peace of mind.
But what if you changed your perspective and embraced this new situation as an opportunity for growth instead?
You probably won’t get what you want instantly, but don’t give up! Your success could be just around the corner.
2. Embrace Your Potential for Awesomeness (Even Though It’s Really Scary)
Sometimes our fears arise because they are signaling to us that there is something awesome on the other side of that fear.
Why do we fear such awesomeness, you ask? Simple. Our minds are creatures of habit.
Accomplishing something huge means your life is forever changed. We are used to the way things are and the way they have been.
We are terrified of what could be because we fear the unknown.
In short, your mind is scared because it can’t compute the awesomeness that hasn’t yet happened.
Your job is to override your pesky thoughts with affirmations reminding you of the awesomeness on the horizon, just over that scary little hill.
3. Transform Your Debilitating Memories Into Empowering Ones
Sometimes the fears that prevent us from moving forward come from a moment or an experience that happened weeks, months, or even years ago.
We’ve been traumatized. While we often associate trauma with things like violence or accidents, trauma can also happen when we are laughed at in front of a class or when someone you admired called you stupid.
Memories like these haunt us for many reasons, but the simplest and most common reason is that they hurt like hell.
And since we don’t want to repeat any hurts, we stay away from the things that could lead to more disappointment and pain – even if that means we miss out on achieving our goals.
Unfortunately, unless you get a prescription, there is no simple way to dull the pain of past trauma.
So what can you do? Well, for starters, you can decide to edit the memory. I’m not talking about denial.
You can’t change that it happened, but you can change how you choose to remember it.
For example, you can either call yourself a high school dropout or you can say that you completed 11 years of education. Both are equally true.
The former focuses on failure while the latter focuses on accomplishment. You can be a victim or a survivor.
Take a closer look at the way you’re remembering key moments in your life. Is your glass half empty or half full?
Some minor memory editing can leave you feeling empowered and ready to take on any challenge.
4. Get Support – It’s Good For You!
Are you feeling overwhelmed because you can’t see how you are going to make it on your own? Well, there’s your problem.
Somewhere along the way you believed the myth that you can succeed all by yourself.
Impossible. No one can do it alone. We need help. And lots of it.
Needing help is not a sign of weakness — it is what makes us human. We can learn so much from each other. The sooner you learn to lean on the folks who want to support you, the sooner you will accomplish your goals.
And the best way to ensure that someone will be there for you when you need them is to be the kind of person who is always there to lend a helping hand.
Offer help. Ask for help. And let the givers give.
5. Take Baby Steps
“But my dreams are just too big!” Ever get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task before you?
Who wouldn’t? You’re trying to make a positive dent in this world before your time is up.
If this sounds like you, then chances are you suffer from Big Picture Syndrome (BPS). Patients diagnosed with BPS report feeling frozen in time, unable to move forward with their gigantic goals because they can’t figure out where to begin.
If you struggle with BPS, there is a treatment that is right for you. Ask your doctor about baby steps.
Turns out there is a wealth of wisdom in the way babies live their lives. At the beginning of any task, taking itty bitty steps is the best kind of pace.
Break yo’ big ol’ dream down into easy, manageable baby steps. Side effects include diminished anxiety about the bigness of your dream and actual strides toward making that dream a reality.
6. Get Perspective And Acknowledge Your Privilege
Think you got it bad? Well, you very well might.
But guess what? It could be worse. Take a stroll through a refugee camp, domestic violence shelter, or federal prison, if you don’t believe me.
Sometimes it helps to hear from others about how they manage to survive struggles that seem greater than ours.
Realizing all that could go wrong (but hasn’t) can sometimes remind us of the things that are actually going right in our lives.
Supporting and advocating for others in need is a great way to distract ourselves from wallowing in our own personal burdens.
Who knows, you may walk away feeling grateful for your challenges and uplifting someone else in the process.
Without a doubt, creating change in your life is tough. But it’s not impossible – especially when you tap into a supportive community and know down to your bones just how fabulous, capable, and resilient you are.
If you’re interested in getting some more structured support, check out Empower U, the first online school for applied feminism, which Everyday Feminism is launching in early 2013.
Well, there you have it. Here’s wishing you every success in building the life you’ve always wanted.
Sarah Vitorino, Ph.D. (“Dr. V”) is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism and a motivational speaker in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. V works primarily with women transitioning out of prison and drug rehabilitation programs. She also facilitates workshops, holds seminars and individual coaching sessions that empower everyday people to live happier, more authentic lives. Learn more about her work here and follow her on Twitter @dr_sarah_v.
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