A typical situation I regularly encounter in my work at LifeMatters is with people who want to change their lives, but can’t see the way to get it done. Sometimes, it’s because of not knowing which road to choose, but at other times, it’s because there doesn’t seem to be an available road. That’s when they really seem stuck, and they feel frustrated and powerless, pretty convinced that an insurmountable chasm lies between themselves and their goal.
As an example, let’s talk about a single mother who works full-time in a job with limited possibilities for advancement. She wants to better things for herself and her children by becoming a nurse, but money is tight and her children and their needs claim all her time. How can a college education fit into an already crowded schedule? And what of her limited resources? In this predicament, she’s tempted to see only the obstacles and prone to give up on her dream.
Should she? I certainly don’t think so, but I understand how daunting those obstacles may seem. She’s not being unrealistic because the hurdles she has to get over are genuine.
This is when I would ask her if she is facing a roadblock or a speed bump. A roadblock will stop her and prevent her progress, while a speed bump can only slow down her momentum. If she sees a roadblock, her dream is likely done. But, if it’s a speed bump, the way is open to eventually discovering just how she can make her ambition a reality.
Often, the first step to changing is realizing that what seems like a roadblock is, in reality, just a speed bump – intimidating and frustrating, to be sure, but not a dead end. Lots of people don’t get to their goals simply because they concluded that they couldn’t, and don’t realize that their conviction followed a conscious choice and, often, a premature conclusion.
No doubt you’ve heard people talking about thinking “outside of the box”, of getting beyond one’s narrow awareness and tunnel vision. When I’m in this position, what’s most important is seeing this as a temporary state, knowing that it is subject to change with better information. A second step to change is telling yourself, “I can’t see an answer from where I stand right now, but I will find it.”
And then you can take a third step. You just start digging up information, asking questions, and seeking help from others who might know of a way. For instance, if I were the single mother above, I would start by going to the local college and talking to an admissions officer. I would tell them what I want and the obstacles in the way, and ask them how they might make things happen for me.
The idea behind this is that the solutions take time to find, but with work, they usually are discovered. One never finds them without stepping outside of his or her mental box and shaking things up, but this is often the biggest of roadblocks holding people back from their goals.