How to Get Out of Your Own Way


The easiest way to “get out of your way” is to focus on what you can control.

What can you control?

Your thoughts, feelings and behavior. This includes what you assume, believe, expect and want. You can’t control results or outcomes, as they’re byproducts of what you do — but you can influence them, of course.

Why is this difficult?

Although focusing on your thoughts, feelings and behavior sounds simple, it’s not easy. Why? We’re taught to look externally to feel “in control” — to worry about what other people think, say and do (deep down, we’re anxious about consequences and whether or not we can handle them). This consumes enormous amount of energy that we don’t put into what keeps us strong — the internal power that comes from being “in control” of what we think, feel and do. The entire public relations, marketing and advertising industries are involved in “designing” stories about what seems (or should seem) rather than what is.

When we put our focus on what people think, say or do, we put our power into their hands. If we’re worried about how people perceive us, we can be manipulated because they know they something we want (their approval). Think about US political scandals where men in high positions are caught with extramarital affairs and in wanting to hide them, they can easily be bribed by those who promise to keep the secretes quiet — in return for expensive favors, of course.

When we “get in our own way,” we fumble around trying to please others at the cost of honoring ourselves. This drains time and energy and internal power –> resulting in feeling low self-esteem at the least.

How did we get here?

Through the education system that’s based on a reward/punishment model, we’re taught that people are widgets or cogs in a wheel with no inherent value (or allowed to express emotions). We learn to prove our worth with visible achievements or not be considered valuable at all. This puts our focus on the outside world and “what we have to show for ourselves,” which becomes our constant focal point without considering what we, ourselves, think, feel or do (which is hard enough).

How to stay focused?

Get really good at distinguishing between what you can control, what you can’t control and what you can influence.

Put 100% of your energy on what you can control and your influence will grow.

An example: let’s say that you lead a team around a high-visibility project. If you focus on how it’s perceived by your boss or other teams, you put your energy there instead of what you need to do to keep the good ideas and solutions going. If, on the other hand, you put all of your attention on how you and your colleagues/teams think about the project (ideas, innovation, assumptions), feel while doing it (encouraged, happy, discouraged, anxious) and behave (re: taking the right actions that lead to success) –> positive results are natural outcomes.

A challenge

Try focusing on what you think, feel and do for one week without worrying about what others think or say. Notice the increate in your energy and ability to attend to what’s most likely to create good results. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about others’ opinions, rather you’re more concerned on doing great work than looking good.



Image by Freekpik