15 Things Holding You Back From Chasing Your Dreams & How to Fix Them
If you’ve ever wondered what’s holding you back from chasing your dreams, achieving your goals, and finding success you’re going to learn what those reasons are today.
We’re going to explore 15 things that are stopping you from living your best life. Not only will you learn the real reasons you haven’t achieved your dreams yet, but I’m going to give you the solutions you need to change them.
Sometimes we like to think that our life circumstances determine our success because that gives us an out from taking responsibility for our actions. That’s not to say that the economic status (and other factors) you’re born into doesn’t affect how easy or hard it is to get ahead, but plenty of people who are born with nothing rise far above their circumstance and so can you.
It’s natural (and easier) to want to blame an external force, I’ve certainly done it, but blaming others is giving away your power. I don’t know about you but giving away control of my destiny sounds foolish.
Let’s explore what’s holding you back from chasing your dreams.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Using them gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.
What’s holding you back from your dreams?
1. Waiting for ‘Someday’
My mom used to tell us “are you waiting for an engraved invitation,” when we procrastinated doing something she told us to. It was really annoying but I’m going to tell you the same thing.
Someday isn’t coming. Your invitation is not in the mail. Today is all we have so make the best of it. Stop waiting for the right day to start chasing your dreams and take action asap, even if it is imperfect action.
Go back to school, start a business, learn a skill, join a club, write a book, start a blog, change your career, dump your loser boyfriend, dye your hair blue, sell your stuff and travel the world (after the Covid pandemic), just do something.
I spent many years waiting for someday and when I think about what I could have accomplished if I stopped waiting and just took action back then I could kick myself.
Even if you don’t have all the ‘right’ tools or circumstances there are still steps you can take now so that when the time comes you are more prepared than if you had just twiddled your thumbs.
Try this instead: Make a list of things you’ve been putting off until ‘someday’ and start making plans on how you’re going to take action this week. Break them down into small steps, try my big goal action planner to help you create a roadmap to success. You can do this!
2. Holding on to Pain
Pain can be a serious obstacle to our success and happiness. I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy to release pain, some wounds do take time to heal but others can be quickly mended if you set your mind to do so.
Releasing pain is like cleaning out your over stuffed closet. You can’t make room for a new wardrobe that fits your current or desired state until you get rid of the old stuff that’s worn out or doesn’t fit you anymore.
Do you need to forgive a situation to make space for something better? Forgiving doesn’t mean you let someone who hurt you back into your life, it means you release the emotional tie you have to them.
Imagine not having a emotional response when you see or think of them, what if you could just be indifferent? Imagine just forgetting that person even existed.
Try this instead: Take a look at the things you won’t let go of. Grudges, breakups, traumatic events, someone else getting what you want, etc. Try to zoom out on the situation, pretend you’re an outsider looking at the situation with no personal investment.
Is it worth the cost of the emotional turmoil you feel? Is it the end of the world? Would you rather dwell on this or make room for new things in your life? Remember that it’s taking up mental space in your head and heart that could be used for something better.
3. Perfectionism & Unrealistic Standards
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Whether you hold them for yourself or others, unrealistic standards can create a lot of disappointment in your life. It can lead to a mentality of “why should I even try, it won’t be done the right way.”
While the idea of perfectionism is glorified in society, especially in women, it can do more harm than good. It can lead to Imposters Syndrome, feeling like you’re not good enough, negative self talk, and anxiety.
Try this instead: Put greater value on the attempt and the process, not the outcome. If you did your best with the tools you have and your experience level, give yourself credit. Celebrate what you learned and the new skills the experience gave you.
4. Limiting Beliefs
Limiting beliefs are negative self-beliefs based on thoughts, feelings, and experiences you’ve had that have taught you to limit yourself in some way.
Your beliefs prompt your actions. If you feel confident you’re more likely to go for what you want, while having low confidence will make you hesitate or not try at all.
Why do we doubt ourselves? Because of limiting beliefs.
I know what it’s like to feel stuck because the voice in your head tells you “you’re not capable, you don’t have any good ideas, there aren’t any opportunities, you’re not good enough,” etc. It’s a miserable place to be. The truth was that the only limitations were in my mind. Everything I’m doing today I could have done 10 years ago. I just couldn’t see it because of my limiting beliefs
Try this instead: Notice your self-talk. Write down the negative thoughts that come up during the day, and then choose to replace them with new positive thoughts. Make your negative thoughts a trigger for positive thoughts until your brain learns to make positive thoughts automatic.
Learning to change your limiting beliefs can be difficult, this free worksheet can help get you started.
5. Your Daily Habits
You’re life is really the culmination of your daily habits, and they can help or hurt you. If you have a habit of going to the gym on your way home from work that’s helping you. On the other hand if you come home and sit on the sofa until it’s time for bed 5 nights a week that’s definitely not benefiting you in any way.
Always have a messy house? Bad habits. Are you always late? Bad habits. Feeling out of shape? Bad habits.
Like James Clear says in Atomic Habits, small daily actions accumulate over time to big results. You won’t see it today, but you will in 1 year, 5 years, or 20 years. Chances are a lack of good habits is what got you reading this post right? You’re dissatisfied with something in your life and your daily habits may have played a part.
Try this instead: For the next few days write down your daily habits as you do them. When you’ve tracked your habits for a while look at them and rank them as positive, neutral, or no harmful. Add up the tally and see where you land.
If many of your daily habits are in the neutral or harmful category start to slowly swap some out for better habits. I have a list of 55 Daily Habits that Will Improve Your Life to give you some ideas, but remember to focus on small changes that won’t overwhelm you.
6. You Make Excuses
We all have a million reasons we aren’t doing something that would benefit us. It’s so easy to come up with excuses. It doesn’t make you a bad or lazy person, it’s just what we’ve learned to do.
It’s too hard.
I don’t know how.
I don’t have the time.
I’m too tired.
I don’t have the money.
There aren’t any opportunities available to me.
I don’t have the skills.
I bet you’ve used all of these excuses and more, I know I have. The truth is you aren’t too tired, you just don’t want to do it. You could have the money for xyz, but it’s not really your priority and that’s why you haven’t been saving for it. You may not have the skills right now but there’s no reason you can’t learn them. It’s not too hard if you break it down into smaller steps or find someone with experience to help you. You do have the time, you just choose to spend it on other things.
You have to admit your excuses aren’t based on truth, and once you do that when you catch yourself making them you’re going to feel pretty silly.
Try this instead: Pull your excuses out of your head and onto paper, start to analyze and deconstruct them. Are they based in truth, or are they false stories you’ve been telling yourself? When you realize something is a lie, or completely illogical, are you going to keep acting like it’s the truth? You have to make that decision.
7. You’re Waiting for the ‘Right Idea’
Raise your hand if you’ve been waiting for the ‘right idea’ that’s going to change your life.
Babe, the harsh truth is that you’ve had a million ‘right ideas’ you just didn’t take action on them. Maybe you were excited about them for a minute and then you started making excuses. Maybe doubt crept in. Maybe you ignored them and forgot. It happens to the best of us.
In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert says that if you ignore a idea it will move on to someone else. I highly recommend that book if you want to learn more about how to access your creativity and bring your ideas to life.
What if everyone who invented something amazing decided to wait for another idea instead? What would our society be missing out on? You owe it to yourself to explore those ideas you’ve been ignoring.
Try this instead: Pick an idea, something you’ve been interested in for a while but never action on, and just go with it. Do some research. Make a five, ten, or twenty step plan (ahem, the big goal action planner is perfect for this). Just see where it goes. If it doesn’t work out so what? Learn something from it and pursue other ideas. Wash, rinse, repeat.
“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.” — Rudyard Kipling
Fear is probably the most powerful force holding you back from chasing your dreams and goals. It can be painfully crippling. The unknown can be really scary, and most of us like to know what’s coming. We like being safe and cozy right inside our comfort zones, even if objectively our current situation is not great or downright painful.
Sometimes fear protects us, but other times it holds us back from accomplishing amazing things.
How many times have you been afraid that if you tried something you’d fail, so you didn’t try at all? How many times have you not acted in fear of judgement? How many times have you been uncomfortable with something and not spoken up because you were afraid of making someone else uncomfortable?
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie
Try this instead: Challenge yourself to do something that scares you. Write it down, then write a list of the worst possible things that could happen and the BEST possible things that could happen. Objectively look at negative possibilities and ask yourself if they are rooted in reality or a crazy story your mind made up. You’ll find that it isn’t so scary after all, or that the benefits outweighs the risks.
9. You have the Wrong Priorities
Are your priorities aligned with what you truly want in life? Sometimes we’re so busy chasing what other people want, we forget to get in touch with what we want.
If you’re feeling unsatisfied, or you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right you need to check in and see if what you’re prioritizing is taking you in the right direction.
Well meaning people in our lives can sometimes pressure us to be, have, or do things that just don’t resonate with us. Maybe you parents wanted you to be a nurse, or your partner wants you do work a job that makes more money even though it makes you miserable. Maybe you’re so busy taking care of other people that you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Listen to the part of you that knows something needs to change.
Try this instead: What are your priorities? Look at your daily actions and your goals and ask if they are aligned with those priorities. If you’re not sure what you want you might find these 50 Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery helpful. Remember you can course correct at any time.
10. You Don’t Have a Plan
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s important to have big dreams and goals, but if you don’t create a plan to make it happen, well then it’s not going to happen.
No one else is going to fulfill your dreams for you, no one else is going to take your hand and walk you down the path towards the completion of your goal. People might help you, but it’s up to you to make it happen through planning and then taking action.
Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect. A plan is a starting point, and it can be adjusted a thousand times as needed.
Try this instead: Sometimes our goals seem so big that we feel intimidated, so we don’t know where to start. The trick is to break big goals into smaller steps that are easy to mentally digest and physically take action on. Depending on the size of your goal you might have some big steps, and then a series of smaller steps under those big steps. Write it all out and start on those smaller steps.
Again, you might like my big goal planner because it breaks your goal down into small steps that feel easier to achieve.
11. Your Environment is Blocking Energy Flow
Your environment is a big influence on your mental state. When you’re surrounded by trash, grime, or clutter you’re going to feel tired, uninspired, overwhelmed, anxious, and stuck.
You know how when you’re in nature and you see a beautiful open space you feel free and uplifted? You need to bring that feeling into the places you spend the most time like your home and office if you have one.
You don’t need to move or get new furniture, though you can certainly do that if you have the funds. Just make your space the best it can be. Clear out the clutter, clean up the grime, and make things tidy. I promise you that having a beautiful clean home will make space for new ideas, motivation, and energy.
Now if you live with other people you can’t always control what messes they make, so focus on your own space. Even if you just have one small area that’s yours, make it beautiful and clean, make that a sacred space.
Try this: Look around and identify any areas that look dirty or cluttered. Make a list and take as much time as you can to clean those places and up level your environment. The easiest way I’ve found to immediately make your space look better is to make your bed and vacuum. When your bed and floor is clean it just feels like half the work is done.
12. Lack of Focus
It’s hard to achieve your goals when your attention is bouncing around like a pinball machine. Maybe you’ve got a lot going on and if so it’s ok to focus on that as needed, or maybe you just keep getting distracted by things that don’t really matter.
It’s far too easy to get swept up in the daily drama of life and lose site of the bigger picture. Take a pause and zoom out on your life. Where is your attention going now and where do you need to redirect it to? How should you be spending your time?
Who or what is the greatest source of distraction?
Is your friend taking 4 hours of your precious time on the phone everyday venting about the same old drama?
Are you spending hours watching Netflix while doing nothing else? There’s nothing wrong with having it on the background while you do other things but if you’re just sitting there accomplishing nothing all day maybe it’s time to rethink your use of that time.
Try this instead: If you’re distracted by Netflix or Instagram uninstall the app for a few days and take a break. Clear off some events from your social calendar so you can focus on your own projects. Tell your partner or kids that you can’t be bothered during certain hours unless the house is burning down.
Set a timer for 30 minutes and don’t let yourself do anything else for that time. Get noise blocking headphones and put on chill background music so your household isn’t distracting you.
13. You’re Thinking Too Small
Are you playing it safe in life? Are you downsizing your dreams because they’re “too big” or they feel unobtainable? Maybe someone told you your dream was crazy or impossible and you believed them. Maybe you doubt your abilities or self-worth.
Darling, it’s time to let that old way of thinking go, follow your dreams, and live your best life.
Forget what anyone else says about your dreams. The only opinion that matters about your life is yours! You are the only person living your life, you are allowed to chase any dream or goal that you can think of. Don’t let the bitter backseat drivers bring you down.
Try this instead: Tune out the noise from other people and your inner critic and go for what you really want. Change your limiting beliefs, develop a growth mindset, and work on improving your self-esteem. When you feel worthy it’s so much easier to go after your dreams.
14. You aren’t Inspired or Motivated
Feeling inspired leads to action, so not feeling inspired can feel really put a dent in the progress of your goals.
If you’re chasing goals or dreams that don’t truly resonate with you and inspire you of course you aren’t going to feel motivated to pursue them.
But what if your dream is authentically important to you but you just can’t find the drive? It’s so frustrating when you know what you want but you just feel stuck and unable to take action, or you don’t know what actions to take.
10 Things to do When You Feel Stuck in Life
Try this instead: Remember your ‘why.’ Why did you have this goal or dream in the first place? Close your eyes and visualize how amazing it will feel when you get to the finish line. Make it real in your mind and really take a moment to draw up those feelings. When your inspiration wavers come back to that vision.
15. You’re Giving Up too Soon
“There is no such thing as failure, there’s just giving up too soon.” — Jonas Salk
Achieving a goal doesn’t happen overnight. We’re so used to instant gratification that when we don’t see results quickly we give up.
The best meals are the ones that take time and care to make. No microwave meal is going to taste as good as something you made with patience and practice. So it goes with our big dreams and goals.
Chasing your dreams takes time, that’s why it’s called chasing. You have to get up and move. You have to plan, strategize, take action, access your results, and repeat the process as many times as it takes.
Try this instead: Sometimes we need to take a break and that’s ok! Shift your focus onto something else for a while, and when you’re ready some back rested and ready to conquer. Remember you only fail when you quit trying.
I hope you’ve gained some insight about what’s holding you back from chasing your dreams and the tools you need to start moving forward and achieving your goals.
If a lot of these are resonating with you take it one at a time. Trying to take on too much can be overwhelming, so take it slow.