The first step to moving forward towards your goal is to recognise that you are stuck


IN YESTERDAY’S article, we looked at five of 10 psychological barriers that may be standing between you and your goals, namely:

•   Fear;

•   Blind optimism and perfectionism;

•   Multitasking;

•   Barking up the wrong tree; and

•   Keeping the “wrong” company.

Here are the remaining five barriers:



 Not choosing your battles carefully

Sometimes, we may be on the right path to our goals but we fall short of achieving them because certain things hold us back.

Conventional advice often zeroes in on bad habits such as being disorganised or not managing your time well. While you should improve on these, you might want to look at the broader picture.

Could it be that you have a need to always be right or to always have the last word?

This might be sabotaging your personal and work relationships, which in turn will impact your ability to focus on your goals. 



 Lacking meaningful pursuits

One of the benchmarks of happiness is personal success.

At work, you experience success if you feel a sense of pride in the job you do, when you achieve your key performance indicators, and when you experience positive relationships with your colleagues and boss.

But it is important to ask yourself whether your choice of work can be considered a meaningful pursuit. Often, we choose careers to fulfil the expectations of family or society.

At the end of the day, you need to understand what you are striving for. Nobody can tell you what is right for you.

If it is a meaningful pursuit, you will feel fulfilled, and if it is not, you will know in your heart that something is missing.



  Too many choices

Imagine you are shopping for a washing machine. You visit two stores: One carries only three brands and the other has 10 different brands on display.

Do you think it would be easier to make a decision between the three brands or 10? 

We generally believe that it is best to have more choices. But too many can hinder our ability to come to a decision, as we become overwhelmed by the “tyranny of choice”.

This refers to a situation in which having abundant options can actually confuse and stress out the individual.

We want the best results and thus keep looking for more and better options — which leads to indecisiveness and the inability to act.

Instead, we should look at our available options and select what will serve us best at this point in time.

Be aware of the possible ramifications of each choice and then choose the one that will have a greater impact or create more meaning in your life.



 Victim mentality

People act as victims due to what we call “secondary gain” — they get care, concern and affection.

It is especially hard to stop playing the victim when we get so used to enjoying these “benefits”. Blaming someone or a situation for your problems is what keeps you from moving forward in life.



 Lack of resilience

We all face setbacks but what is crucial is our ability to bounce back from adversity.

How a person reconfigures and reconstructs himself after experiencing failure is known as post-traumatic growth.

Some people rise above the challenge when they are tested by adversity and their strengths kick in, pulling them upward and forward.

Others, however, can remain stuck for a long time, and if there is no resolution, the setback will limit their growth and impede them from progressing towards their goals, be it a positive relationship, health or career aspirations.


Getting unstuck

When we are stagnating, we feel angst, frustration and fear about the future.

The first step to getting unstuck is awareness: Acknowledge and build awareness of where you are stuck in your life. You may find professional help useful at this point.

Next, work towards accepting whatever is causing you to feel stuck.

This may require you to remove the mask (which we all wear) and deal with the underlying issues. Then make a commitment to let the issue go.

Finally, when the time is right, take a leap of faith and step outside your comfort zone.

Remind yourself that you were not growing there.

Once you take that first step into the darkness — the unknown — you will gain more confidence to push forward.


Article by Stephen Lew, the founder and director of the School of Positive Psychology, which provides positive psychology and psychotherapy courses, training programmes and seminar workshops at undergraduate, postgraduate and executive level. For more information, call 6884-5161 or visit