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The 4 Biggest Things Holding You Back In Life

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Wondering why you keep failing to achieve your goals, find success, and create the kind of life you dream of? These 4 things are holding you back in life and here is exactly how you can overcome them so that they don’t impact your ability to reach your full potential.


I am amazed by how similar you and I are.

A year and a half into my personal growth coaching practice, after 5 years in business, and I continue to be amazed by how similar we all are.

We may go through life noticing what separates and differentiates us from our friends, family, and community, but when you look at it from a high level, we’re all human, and much of the way we function remains the same across genders, age brackets, race, and income brackets.

It’s amazing! Psychologists and researchers have spent decades studying human behavior — a field that absolutely blows my mind. They have uncovered what drives people and what holds them back. It’s fascinating to me that most of the things apply to every single one of us!

Related post: What Is Personal Development?

People have so much potential.

It continues to astound me what people can achieve when they have the determination and the direction to reach their potential

ANA MCRAE

From building their own successful businesses, to losing 190 pounds, to creating exceptional relationships, to defying societal norms and choosing to live simply and slowly, to travelling the entire world, to competing in triathlons… people on a mission can do it all!

Related post: Are You Working On The Right Goals?

And then there are those of us who don’t… or those of us who take a little longer to get to that same place. To live the kind of life we want to live. To shatter the box society has built around us. To create our own version of an amazing life. To shake off the shackles and reach for more, whatever that looks like.

Related post: Building A Meaningful Life

In my experience as a life coach, I’ve noticed that many of the obstacles that hold us back are the same time and time again, We may think we’re special and we face unique challenges, but in reality someone has been in your situation thousands of times before, and at least one person figured out a way through it… so you can too.

Today I want to share with you the 4 most common reasons people don’t reach their full potential so that you can course correct and build an exceptional life exploding with joy.

obstacles holding you back, the 4 things keeping you from success, why you keep failing, how to overcome limiting beliefs, why you aren't where you want to be, how to achieve success, how to build your dream life

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Your beliefs about whether you deserve success or not

One day I was driving to head office to lead a corporate meeting that I was not excited about. It had been pushed out in the calendar numerous times which made me feel like it was not important… which made me feel like what I do is not important… which made me feel like I am not important. Ever been in this position? It sucks.

So, very quickly, “we must delay this meeting for logical reasons” (the Christmas holidays, conflicting schedules, and a few emergencies) turned into “we will avoid this meeting because Ana sucks at her job.”

The story I was telling myself was that they didn’t value my work, nobody cared about this initiative as much as I did, and I was providing no value.

The stories we tell ourselves shape our reality

ANA MCRAE

Had I continued to perpetuate the narrative that I suck and my work doesn’t matter on the entire 1.5 hour drive to head office, the day would have gone horribly.

If I believed that the meeting didn’t matter, that nobody cared, and that I wasn’t providing any value, then I would have acted in ways that made that a reality.

I would have been in a negative mood and that negative energy would have spread to everyone else at the table. I wouldn’t have taken initiative to get things rolling, so the project would have stalled even further, and eventually become even less important because nobody was championing it. I would not have spoken up as much, because I didn’t think my opinion or expertise mattered, which in turn would have led to performance issues down the line if I wasn’t bringing my best self.

I had to do some very conscious thought work and self coaching on the drive up in order to work through those limiting beliefs and visualize a successful outcome. And guess what? The meeting was absolutely amazing. We were all aligned, everybody agreed on the importance of the initiative, and we made so much progress in one day… because the problem never existed in the first place…

Related post: Impostor Syndrome: 4 Tips To Overcome It

It never had anything to do with the importance of the initiative, the quality of my work, or my value as a person. It was just a scheduling conflict.

All that to say, we get so wrapped up in our heads sometimes that we entirely warp reality and distort it into a story that lines up with some deeply rooted beliefs about ourselves and our abilities.

As humans, we look for evidence to support our beliefs, whether they’re factual or not

ANA MCRAE

The number one thing that has held me back, and every single one of my clients, in the past is that we didn’t believe this thing, this dream, this goal, this success could be ours.

Mind you, that’s not how the first coaching session ever starts. No one jumps on the call and says “I want to start my own business but I have a belief that I don’t deserve to be successful and it’s limiting my potential.” Ha.

We are blind to our own limiting beliefs. If we knew they were limiting us, they wouldn’t be our beliefs. But we don’t. So we live with them. And they often mask themselves as little insecurities like

  • I don’t know enough about it so…
  • Last time I tried it didn’t work out so…
  • I don’t have the time so…
  • My friends and family would think it was weird so…
  • I don’t have the qualifications so…
  • It costs too much money so…

Excuse after excuse after excuse for why we can’t GO ALL IN and reach for that crazy goal.

But every single one of the hundreds of excuses I hear comes down to: I don’t believe I deserve this.

So how can you identify and overcome the limiting belief that you don’t deserve success?

Thought work, self coaching, and rewiring your brain to believe things that serve you is challenging and never ending work.

If you’re new to this, it is so important that you find an experienced life coach to help you through this. If you’ve been in a quality coaching program before and have built the foundation for mindset work, here are a few tips to get you back to a more resourceful frame of mind.

Create a bragging list

Write down every single thing you’ve done in your life that you are proud of (big and small).

Every. Single. Thing.

You don’t need to show it to anybody, but you need to see it yourself.

You have ALREADY achieved amazing things in the past, and you ALREADY have everything you need to continue to achieve even more wonderful things in the future.

Give yourself some credit! You deserve success!

Notice every time you use an excuse to get out of chasing your goal

When you catch yourself weaseling out of commitments you’d previously made, thank your primitive brain for trying to keep you safe, and let it know you don’t need the help. You’re going to be great.

Grab your journal, and write down “right now my inner critic is telling me…(whatever excuse you just came up with)” and spend 10-20 minutes free form writing where that stems from. Get really honest with yourself.

Eventually you’ll come down to the fact that you don’t think you deserve the success.

Naming the excuse and all the underlying fears helps tame them, so that you can work through them and move on.

Journaling is an incredibly powerful self coaching tool.

Related post: How To Start A Gratitude Journal

Create a story that serves you

After you’ve caught yourself making excuses, and worked through to the deeply rooted beliefs underneath them, it’s time to redefine what you believe.

Write an affirmation that is more resourceful than the stories you’ve been telling yourself. Instead of “I’ll never be successful” say “I’ve got the grit to accomplish this; I’ve done hard things before and I have what it takes to do hard things again; I am capable of this and more.”

It won’t feel natural at first, but after replacing your old excuses with this narrative every single time you catch yourself holding back, you’ll rewire your brain to believe you got this.

Which you do. You really do.

Our stories are so incredibly powerful.

There are many intricacies in our stories and they can be told from very different angles. Losses can be reframed as opportunities. Inadequacies can be reframed as areas for growth. Mistakes can be reframed as lessons learned.

You get to choose how you tell your story

ANA MCRAE

Is it one of loss, inadequacy, and messing up? Or is it one of learning, growing, and creating opportunity?

The stories we tell ourselves shape our lives. You literally have the power to create a life based on the words you choose to describe it.

Choose wisely!

PS – If you’re finding this advice valuable, there’s lots more where that came from in our Move Your Mountains email community! Every week I deposit gems of practical advice and inspirational tips to help you power through to your goal!

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Waiting to have it all figured out before you take action

I love learning. I love planning. And I love getting it perfect the first time.

All of these things combined put me in the position where I would spend hours/days/weeks/months researching a new idea or goal, hours/days/weeks/months planning it, and then do absolutely nothing with the information and the plan because I was too afraid it wouldn’t turn out perfectly.

This led to many years of cycling through the same 5 goals over and over again, never achieving the results I wanted, and always ending up back where I started.

January/February were always about getting extremely healthy. I’d research the latest meal plans, buy all the cookbooks, find new exercise programs, buy a new whiteboard to custom create my workout calendar… and then move on because I got bored.

March/April were always minimalism. I would spend hours on Pinterest reading about decluttering strategies, books about people transforming their lives through minimalism, watch every Marie Kondo episode on Netflix, and completely tear apart the house.. but leave it in disarray because I got bored and moved on to the next thing.

Related post: 10 Ways To Organize Your Entire Life

May/June were always about quitting my job and travelling the world. So much research on the best credit cards for travel points, how to start your own business and work remotely, and homeschooling. So many itineraries of places I’d like to go. Not a single change.

July/August I tried to revolutionize my parenting skills. Read all the books. Had the same parenting challenges a few months later.

You get the gist.

Related post:
Too Many Goals: When To Stop Chasing Goals, How To Do It, And Why You Need To

There were key things that mattered to me in my life:

  • Health
  • Simplicity
  • Travel
  • Family

And instead of making a breakthrough in any one area, I just cycled between them, always feeling like I was working so dang hard on improving but never actually seeing the results.

Success isn’t that difficult; it merely involves taking twenty steps in a singular direction. Most people take one step in twenty directions.

BENJAMIN HARDY

My natural tendencies (researching and planning) were working against me when they were combined with perfectionism and fear of success (yes, that is a real thing).

After a few years on my personal growth journey, I’ve learned which habits serve me and which ones hold me back. Perfectionism and procrastination definitely hold me back, and I see that time and time again with my clients too.

Related post: 17 ways to change your life

They’re always looking for the latest online course, reading the latest book, following the latest Instagram influencer, and downloading the latest freebie, all under the guise of making progress on their goals but actually because they feel like they don’t know enough to take action.

Related post: 5 Personal Development Books To Change Your Life

And that’s what kills success.

The crazy successful people we look up to? They did it before they were ready.

If you want to achieve the crazy dream your heart is set on, you need to take big leaps before you’re ready

ANA MCRAE

Your brain is hard wired to protect the status quo, and if you rely too much on logic to determine when you should shake things up, you’ll never get there.

So how can you take action before you’re ready?

If you are stalling your progress by planning and planning, then try these things to help catapult you in the direction of success.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect

If you grew up a perfectionist like me, you may have hit your mid twenties before you had to do something you weren’t ready for. And it would have been terrifying! After years of having everything perfectly planned before I took action, I remember the day I found out I was pregnant. Talk about the Universe helping me explode out of my comfort zone!

I published my first article on this website in October of 2018. I had postponed writing it for weeks (!) because I wanted it to be perfect. Of course, that was overwhelming, and so I never took action. And when I didn’t take action, I couldn’t learn. And when I couldn’t learn, I couldn’t get better. And when I couldn’t get better, I could never write that perfect article I was picturing.

When I came to this realization I took 30 minutes, wrote the worst article you’ve ever read, and threw it into the void that is the Internet.

And then the amazing thing happened… The world didn’t explode. My life was still the same. I was still me.

Except something had shifted… I no longer needed the world to like and approve of me. I could do things because I wanted to do them, and figure it out as I went along.

That first article sucked. A lot. But it led to the next one and the next one and then it led me here. And here is where I wanted to be when I was way back there.

Tiny, imperfect steps in the direction of your dreams

ANA MCRAE

That’s all it takes.

Make a habit of it

Doing things before you’re ready seems impossible when you’re unaccustomed to doing so.

But the more often you force yourself out of your comfort zone, the more familiar you will be with the exhilaration of doing new things and the realization that it is all fine in the end.

There’s actually a wonderful Ted Talk on Rejection Therapy that helped me shift my mindset on this topic and make a habit of doing things I wasn’t ready for.

Take it one day at a time. Try to push yourself to make small changes and become familiar with uncharted territory.

Change your mantra

We strive to be perfect when we think of imperfection as a reflection of who we are.

It’s not.

Your book, your website, your home, your relationship does not have to be perfect in order for you to be good enough.

You are good enough just as you are.

If you can change your deeply rooted beliefs that imperfection is a result of your incompetency as a human, and instead reframe imperfection as a reflection of your boldness, you’ll be better off.

You’ll stop tying your mistakes to your identity and instead use them as fuel for growth.

I used to define failure as things not being perfect. That held me back A LOT.

Now I define failure as not trying. It pushes me forward.

obstacles holding you back, the 4 things keeping you from success, why you keep failing, how to overcome limiting beliefs, why you aren't where you want to be, how to achieve success, how to build your dream life

Worrying about what other people think of your goal

If you’re a perfectionist, you’re most likely also a people-pleaser. And when you live your life striving to keep everyone around you happy, you settle. You compromise. You give up on dreams. You take care of everyone except yourself. You grow resentful. You grow tired. And you get to mid life, or to your death bed, and wonder what happened to all of those years?

Related post: Finding Balance In Life: Achievement vs Enjoyment

I waited months before I admitted to myself that I wanted to build my own business and escape the 9-5 slog. I waited many more months before I admitted it to my friends and family. And I waited many more months after that before I talked openly about it in public.

Those months of caring what other people would think of my ambitions, my desires and my version of success HELD ME BACK. And guess what? Not a single person, upon discovering my dreams, told me they were stupid.

It was all in my head.

Related post: Overcoming Fear To Achieve Success

The fears you have about the world’s reaction to your goals are often unfounded. And in the minority of instances when your fear comes to life, and somebody says your goal is dumb, it matters way less than you thought it would.

It feels so good to actively pursue the things that light my heart on fire.

Regardless of what anybody else thinks of my choices, of my abilities, of the likelihood of success, of the risks, and whether they’d do it themselves or not.

It. Feels. Good.

As soon as you step out of the mindset that the world is watching your every move, waiting for you to fail, and waiting to laugh at your attempts, you are free to be who you want to be.

You are free to be who you want to be.

Right now. Without any restraints, except the ones in your own head.

So, how do I stop caring about what people think of me?

Clarify your values

Get really honest with yourself about what you stand for.

My biggest value is learning & growth. I can’t GROW if I’m too afraid to make a move because of other people’s opinions. Getting crystal clear on the fact that caring what people think is interfering with my ability to live in alignment with my values helped me prioritize what was more important. I also value courage & authenticity. I can’t build up my courage muscle and show up authentically if I’m holding back because of what others might think.

Related post: Finding Your Purpose With 10 Questions

What are your biggest values? Take some time to reflect on how you are and aren’t able to SHOW UP if you’re busy wondering what the world thinks.

Find your tribe

We become who we surround ourselves with. If you’re on a personal growth journey, but no one in your close circle of friends prioritizes self improvement, you will find it challenging to do the hard things necessary to live at a different level.

In other words, if everybody is busy spending their time, money, and energy on making other people like them, you will also fall into that trap.

Spend more time with people who share your values. Remove all sources of negativity from your life. And remember, what people think of you has more to do with them than it does with you.

Related post: How To Do A Social Media Cleanse

Get some perspective

You have one life to live. 10 years down the line, is it really going to matter that Sally from 8th grade thought you were a weirdo for quitting your job, or deciding to travel full time, or building a tiny home to pay off your debt, or wearing the same shirt every day to minimize decision fatigue?

You literally will not remember who cared and who didn’t a year from now, not to mention 10 years. Run, in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. This is your one and only life.

Play out the worst case scenario

So often our brains get caught in this negative feedback loop and we spend so much time worrying “what if…?”

I highly recommend that you take a piece of pen and paper and play out your “what if” scenarios to the very end.

I emphasize the importance of pen and paper because in our heads we tend to loop our thoughts, but on paper you can lay it all out logically.

Playing out our “what ifs” to the very end will help you realize that the ‘worst case scenario‘ is not the end of the world! When you’re caught up in your head it might feel like you’ll die, but by writing it out you will realize you’re being a little dramatic. And with the knowledge that you can survive whatever is thrown your way, “what if my friends think I’m weird?” becomes much less debilitating.

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Being unclear on what the next step is

Most of us only get so far in life, because we only know how to get so far.

There are a limited number of hours in a day and an infinite number of ways to spend them.

If you are unclear on what the next right step is for you in your journey toward your dream, you will distract yourself with a myriad of other things including but not limited to Netflix, cleaning, making lists, tending to other people’s needs, scrolling through social media, tinkering away at things that make you look/feel productive but have no real impact, and snacking.

Related post: How To Simplify Your To Do List To The Essentials

At least I did.

Clarity is the biggest motivator to keep you working toward your goal

ANA MCRAE

If you know your next move you can make it. If you don’t, you won’t.

You need to Build Your Roadmap so that you know exactly how to get from A to B. Your dream must be broken down into manageable chunks, and those manageable chunks must be broken down into achievable actions that you can go and do right now.

Related post: The Ultimate Guide To Setting Goals And Achieving Personal Growth

You don’t need to know everything, but you need to know the NEXT thing.

So how do you figure out your next step?

We can create a custom road map specific to your goals through one on one coaching. This is the fastest path to gaining clarity and achieving results. But you can get a head start by:

Learning how to prioritize

Having a system for saying NO to the things that will only move you only an inch closer and saying HELL YES to the ones that will move you a mile is the way you get to your goal.

I use the 9 square prioritization matrix to prioritize everything from what vacation to go on, to what needs to happen first on my to do list.

Without a system for prioritizing, you will mistake ‘urgent’ for ‘important’ and they are not the same.

Filling your days with ‘urgent’ is how you fuel overwhelm. Filling your days with ‘important’ is how you create progress and fulfillment.

Here’s an article detailing exactly how to prioritize effectively.

Sticking with the original plan

If you love planning as much as I do, you might love it a little too much. You see, planning is fun, and doing the work is hard, so I used to (subconsciously) procrastinate by planning, adjusting the plan, reworking the plan, creating a brand new plan, and never actually following through on the plan…

Yes, it can be hard to trust that you know what you’re doing, but stick with your plan long enough to see if it works!

You know the next step! You just have to build the habit of doing it, instead of questioning it.

Asking yourself this question

What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

GARY KELLER

It can be daunting to realize how many steps there are between where you are and where you want to be. The key to keeping the momentum going is focusing on the ONE thing you can do to make an impact today.

Don’t stress yourself out with the number of tasks to accomplish. Instead, learn to enjoy the journey, and make progress one day at a time, ONE THING at a time.

obstacles holding you back, the 4 things keeping you from success, why you keep failing, how to overcome limiting beliefs, why you aren't where you want to be, how to achieve success, how to build your dream life

You were born to live the amazing life you’re dreaming of.

It is calling your name, day after day, because you have got what it takes to make it happen.

You just need to get past your deeply rooted beliefs that you don’t deserve success, your all consuming worries about what other people will think, your fear of taking imperfect action, and your overwhelm at the number of things that need to be done.

Luckily, you are not the only one struggling with these problems.

They have affected each and every single person who has ever chased a giant goal before.

And guess what? There are easy ways to overcome these challenges.

You got a taste of a few tactics in this post, and I hope they help you in your journey. If you want to go a level deeper and make sure these things don’t keep you from living your best life, I can coach you through it. And guess what? Your first introductory session is completely free!

Now, get out there, and crush those goals of yours!


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What patterns of behavior do you keep repeating that are holding you back? Let me know in the comments below!

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