So much about feeling stuck and trapped stems from assumptions that we make. We construct models of what it ‘should’ be like, about what I ‘can’t’ do, about what I ‘should have done’ or about what ‘won’t work’. 

None of these are a reality, we trap ourselves in the constructs and models of society and expectations and how we think things are supposed to be. A lot of times, these models and constructs can be helpful. Sometimes they are less helpful, and lead us to assumptions that ultimately hold us back from doing something differently, from making change happen.

As Srikumar Rao, the happiness guru of the business world puts it: “The problem isn’t that we have models—models are wonderful, time-saving things that we use. The problem is that we don’t recognize that we have models. We think, “This is the way the world works.” But this is not the way the world works; that’s our model of the way the world works, and the more we believe in the model, the more evidence we get that this, in fact, is the way the world works. And very soon, we put ourselves in a silo which we constructed ourselves.”

If we were to really question the strong views we have, views in the world of ‘should’ and ‘won’t’ and the ‘can’t’, would they stack up to be absolute, or would they fall down and show us that reality is what we choose to make it, not what we believe it to be.

Working in coaching, you get to hear first hand what might be holding people back from working things out. It’s a complex set of challenges that are faced.

There are two recurring barriers that come up that I wanted to provide a perspective on here.

Barrier 1: Making a big change will have other big undesired impacts.

Barrier 2: The unknown of what will happen if….

These barriers are really significant, because they are holding you back from change by putting your eye onto the wrong ball. With both of these barriers you are focused on reasons not to make change, rather than accepting there are reasons and adjusting your approach to minimise the risk. This is the dichotomy of process versus outcome. 

When we focus on the outcome (even an assumed outcome) we are forgetting that we have control on the process and how we get to the outcome, that will inevitably affect the real outcome. 


Here’s my perspective on these two barriers.


Barrier 1: Making a big change will have other big undesired impacts.

Reframe: You don’t have to make a wholesale change.

There can be undesired outcomes from big change, and sometimes they are temporary, but sometimes they are not, and it’s scary to take a leap of faith from the comfort of stability, financial security and structure towards the unknown. We can go straight into scenario planning of what the consequences will be, what we can live with and what will stop us.

When you’re not sure, you don’t have to make a big wholesale change. 

This is where a 10% test can be an approach to think about. How can you do what you are thinking of doing, but do 10% of it rather than a big change when you’re not certain. 

This can work in so many ways, if you are thinking of a different career, how can you try it at 10% – shadowing, talking to people in that career, taking a small taster qualification. If you want to use a different skillset, how can you do some voluntary or part time work using it, applying it and expanding those skills. If you want to start a business, how can you start a side hustle at a smaller scale to see if there is demand for what you want to do, and that you can enjoy it.

The 10% test takes pressure off in many ways, and can be a really representative way to get access to some sense of reality, so you can understand more about what bigger change might really look like, and experience what that feels like.


Barrier 2: The unknown of what will happen if….

Reframe: Detach from the outcome, attach to the process.

This can be harder, it’s a mindset shift, but it’s critical to move away from determining what you do and don’t do now based on assumptions and a world of make believe. There could be very good reasons for why these assumptions are there – but let them be something that causes you to pause and reflect and adjust, rather than to stop you entirely.

If you want to try something, or explore something, it’s true, you don’t know if it will be the right thing, you don’t know if you’ll enjoy it, you don’t know if it will lead you to uncover your hidden desire and talent and on and on and this is where many will stop, because the outcome isn’t clear, and there is no sense of ‘it will be worth it’. 

This is where the reframe is needed, because even you realise it’s not for you, that is a good outcome. This is how you start to find clarity, not just by knowing what you do want but also what you don’t want, and that my friends, starts with exploration and the focus on the process, and not the outcome.

If you don’t know – that’s OK, you really don’t need to know. If you knew, you wouldn’t be feeling stuck. Trust the process and attach to it with an open mind and with gusto!


Photo by Jorge Gonzalez on Unsplash