5 secrets to success and happiness

Common roadblocks preventing you from reaching your full potential

Humans are strange animals, and one of the few capable of self-destruction.

Dave Lakhani, a business consultant and author who inspired this month’s column, wrote an interesting description of roadblocks that tend to get in the way of your personal and professional success. Fair warning: Lakhani, who wrote Power of An Hour: Business and Life Mastery in One Hour a Week, doesn’t mince words. Facing our self-imposed roadblocks may feel uncomfortable and even difficult at times. As a matter of fact, becoming aware of our roadblocks has to do with complex psychology and requires some serious soul-searching.

Here are five common roadblocks that may very well prevent you from reaching your full potential.

1. Procrastination

Procrastination is the art of postponing things until another time. Procrastination truly becomes a big problem when you keep replacing high-priority tasks with low-priority activities.

It can take many forms:

  • “I’ll start exercising tomorrow.”
  • “I’ll start my new diet next Monday.”
  • “I’ll work on that project next week.”
  • “I’ll start saving next month.”
  • “I’ll start going to go to bed early starting on April 1.”

This is clearly not the way to success. It takes discipline to put important tasks before watching kitten videos and posting on Facebook.

2. Ambivalence

Lakhani said, “Ambivalence is the coexistence of two opposing opinions or indecisions on which course of action to follow.”

What does this mean? You know you should quit smoking in order to be healthier, yet your grandfather smoked six packs a day and lived to be 100 years old. So you’re not sure if quitting smoking will make a difference. This ambivalence leads you to take no action.

You rationalize that you have good genes and smoking won’t kill you, so why should you quit?

3. “Have to” or “should do”

Here’s how this very interesting twist on the concept of roadblocks works. Our brain creates a belief that if Step A doesn’t happen first, then we can’t move to Step B. For example:

  • “I can’t start exercising (Step B) until bingo season is over (Step A).”
  • “I can’t plan a vacation (Step B) because I have too much going on right now (Step A).”
  • “I can’t start saving (Step B) until I start my third job (Step A).”

Clearly these are roadblocks that we create in our own minds. It’s important to take a step back and ask, “What would happen if I didn’t worry about Step A?” or “What would happen if I put Step A on the back burner?” or “Do I really need to deal with Step A before working on Step B?”

In other situations, B does not necessarily exclude A. Although it’s a silly example, with the proper motivation, is it possible to go to bingo and exercise? How about you walk, bike, or run to bingo classes? A little bit of creativity will often lead to a new solution or, at least, a good compromise.

4. Excuses and justifications

In Lakhani’s words, “Excuses are another form of resistance that causes roadblocks to remain unchanged. We all have personal dialogues, complete with excuses and justifications, for not doing what we need to do in order to move forward.”

This is how we might sound when we have our internal dialogues:

  • “I didn’t have time to exercise, because I wanted to watch ‘Dancing with the Stars’.”
  • “I haven’t taken a vacation in three years, because I have so much going on at work.”
  • “I don’t have any savings because life is short, and I’d rather spend money and have fun with my friends.”

By focusing on current problems, we make excuses and come up with justifications for not doing something else that would move us closer to our goals. Instant gratification makes us feel better, but it is not a good way to plan for the future.

5. Giving up

According to Lakhani, “By far the most common type of resistance is simply giving up.”

We all have seen many people quit around us: they quit (vet) school, they quit their job, or they quit their relationships.

Sometimes, quitting looks like the easy way out, but it reinforces our belief that quitting is an option. The next time we face an obstacle, it may just seem easier to quit without even trying to solve the problem. And so people give up on important goals in their lives.

Which roadblocks are holding you back in your personal life? Your professional life? Have you given up on being your own boss? On retirement? Weight loss? Being debt-free? A new job opportunity? Happiness?

Ultimately these roadblocks result in resistance—resistance to change, resistance to improve, or resistance to move on. The author explains ways to destroy the roadblocks in his book.

Surely, going through this process can be uncomfortable and possibly painful. Facing reality can be tough. Yet if the first step is indeed awareness, then you need to identify your self-created roadblocks in order to fight them. Identifying your roadblocks and consciously deciding to get rid of them will lead you to a series of steps, which are really a series of goals.

Let’s take an example (I’m not a physician, so please only take this as an illustration):

Roadblock: quitting smoking.

Steps to take:

  1. Find a physician with experience in addictions.
  2. Make an appointment.
  3. Find a support group at the local hospital.
  4. Convince Mary/John/my spouse to go on this journey with me.
  5. Buy XYZ book.
  6. Enroll in the gym on Main Street.
  7. Create reminder to drink water every hour on the hour.

These seven steps (again, merely examples) can then become seven goals.

Your next step it to accomplish these goals. You can apply the same concept to any roadblock that is in your way.

Your health, success, and happiness depend on it.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. For more information about him visit his websites at DrPhilZeltzman.com and VeterinariansInParadise.com.

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One thought on “5 secrets to success and happiness

  1. Quitting veterinary school is probably the best thing any student should do today. Dr Zeltzman’s advice is ridiculous and he should stick with cutting instead of counseling. Use the economic way of thinking which is not follow your passion but analyze what you can realistically accomplish based on your individual strengths and resources versus what achieving that goal will bring you and cost you. Obviously, veterinary medicine has less rewards for more work and hardship than about every other profession today. But so many pursue it thinking they will be one of the few who will reach the top, and there are fewer opportunities at the top today for veterinarians than in the past and they come at greater cost in time and money for less reward. This is probably a major reason why men avoid veterinary school compared to medical school, dental school, engineering etc where efforts are better rewarded.