Overcoming obstacles to change

Many of us come to the self-development world because we recognise this need for something within us or our lives to change. We may know exactly what that is (a more fulfilling career perhaps?) or we might simply be feeling lost and not want to feel like this anymore.

man looking out at water

Either way, the only way for things to move forward is for change to happen. Sounds simple enough, but taking these steps, in reality, doesn’t come without its obstacles. 

Here we asked career coach and author of Change Your Life in 5, Sue Belton to share her wisdom on the subject including why we fear change and why ultimately, real change is always an inside job.

In your experience, what challenges come up the most for those wanting to make a change? 

In my experience over 12 years of working with ambitious professionals ready for their next step, there are always two main challenges: fear and self-belief.

Fear that they won’t get it right or that they’ll make the wrong decision, and linked to that, fear that they’re not ‘good enough’, a fake, a fraud. When I challenge and shift these mindsets with my clients, they absolutely blossom and anything really does become possible for them – in their career, their leadership, their lives.

So many of us know we need to make a change in our lives but can feel stuck before we begin. What first steps would you recommend for people to start taking action?

Firstly know that change is scary – that’s the first cause of getting stuck. Our brains are hard-wired to keep us ‘safe’ which also means comfortable and doing the same thing, whether it makes us happy and fulfilled or not! Neuroscience shows that the part of our brains that are designed to keep us safe from danger will (unconsciously) keep us in a job/career/relationship that is making us miserable or not honouring our values or living our purpose. So know that in order to make any changes you’ve got to get your brave on! 

Secondly, we have all been conditioned to do certain things or believe certain things are not possible for us. Many of us have even chosen careers that other people (namely our parents or teachers) wanted us to do, so most of us don’t actually know what we do want! 

woman looking up

So the first step towards making a change in your life is to absolutely clarify the kind of life or career that you do want. To do this effectively you’ll need to go to your absolute ‘fantasy’ version in order to bypass those opinions and limiting beliefs of others.  

When I do this with clients I get them to stand up (physically moving has been shown to help you think in different and more expansive ways). Go into detail – location/what you’ll be doing, who with, the skills you’ll be using – then reverse engineer targets and goals along the way in order for you to reach that.

Once you have your clear vision start digging into and identifying your values – what’s truly important to you. 

If you really can’t do this (and it often takes a lot of holding and pulling back to the vision from me with clients), then get straight onto identifying the conditioning, the limiting beliefs and where they come from. This is crucial inner work that creates the biggest impact and change with my clients.  

I have seen people who don’t do this work, and have worked with clients who have already gone out there and made some very expensive ‘sticking plaster’ decisions and mistakes i.e. completely retraining and spending their savings in the process only to discover it wasn’t the right new career route for them, moving house, moving country, splitting up with husbands and wives – all because they thought an ‘external’ solution was the answer – it never is.

Real change is always an inside job.

Are there any techniques/exercises you recommend people try to help them commit to the changes they want to make?

To help you commit to the changes you want to make I advocate setting yourself up with a solid early morning routine. I am a huge advocate of this and have been doing it myself for the past four years (it’s how I wrote most of my book), and encourage most of my clients to do the same.  

I’m talking a routine of structured journaling, meditation, exercise and reading. Doing this consistently will set you up for a day of clarity, calm, focus and motivation. It’s also a great time to do your stuff – whether that’s researching next steps, retraining, up-skilling etc. Don’t leave your ‘stuff’ until the end of the day – by then you have no brain power left (aka cognitive function) – that’s why it just doesn’t happen.

Woman writing

Finally, can you tell us a little about your book, Change Your Life in 5, and who you think would benefit from reading it?

My book CYLI5 is for ambitious professionals who are ready to take the next step in their careers and lives. They probably don’t know what that looks like yet, they just know they can’t continue doing what they’re doing for much longer – they feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their work and have for some time (usually two years!). 

The book takes you through five clear steps in order to significantly change the things in your life you’re unhappy with and is packed full of proven tools, visualisations and journaling techniques to help you do that. 

The steps

Clarify: what’s really important to you, how you feel right now, your values and your purpose.

Conquer: self-sabotaging voices, fears and doubts and meet your future self.

Choose: fresh new ways of looking at life and how to change anything you are not happy with.

Celebrate: your achievements, be kinder to yourself and learn how to beat imposter syndrome.

Commit: to putting yourself first, reducing stress and making changes every day.

You can learn more about Sue’s work and download the first chapter of Change Your Life in 5 on her website, SueBelton.com.

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Written by Kat Nicholls
Kat is a Senior Writer for Life Coach Directory and Happiful magazine.
Written by Kat Nicholls
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