I ran track in high school for awhile, and I loved high jumping. What excited and scared me most was knowing that I had to raise the bar if I wanted to win. For that to happen I must have cleared the previous height, but I knew the next level would be more difficult.
During a track meet the bar was set higher than I had cleared before. On my third attempt I gave it everything I had and cleared the bar but injured my ankle, forcing me to drop out of the meet.
My ankle eventually healed and I started to compete again, but I never jumped as high as I did the day I got hurt. I had convinced myself that if I couldn’t get past a certain height as a member of the varsity track team I might as well not even try to compete. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I realized that my problem wasn’t that I had reached the pinnacle of my athletic ability, but rather I didn’t want to raise the bar for fear of suffering another injury.
To this day, whenever I want to give up on something or I’m tempted to settle for less than what I believe I’m capable of, I think back to that experience in high school and am reminded of the importance of making every effort to keep raising the bar in every area of my life – even if it is only a centimeter.
Sadly, most people never attain the levels of accomplishment and achievement they are capable of in life. Why? Because there are many hurdles to navigate and overcome if we’re going to eventually clear the bar on whatever goals we set, and it’s not easy.
Here are some common hurdles many business leaders I have worked with over the years have had to overcome in their effort to raise the bar and elevate their lives.
Blame – If you want to elevate your life, eliminate blame and take personal responsibility. When things go wrong or don’t work out, don’t seek fault. Fix it. Blaming actually gives away your power to influence positive change. Surprisingly, admitting an error will earn you more respect than pointing to someone else.
Cynicism – This pervasive suspicion of others is a defense mechanism that often develops after someone we trusted let us down. A major let-down can convince us that it is better to expect nothing than it is to face disappointment. Cynicism is a high hurdle because it crowds out hope – the kind of hope that motivates us to take risks, work confidently and collaboratively with others. But the more you practice trust, the more you train your brain to expect the best from others and the less cynical you will become.
Anger – Some anger is good, healthy and appropriate and can motivate us to make positive changes to improve a situation. But uncontrolled, chronic anger is like wearing a ball and chain while you try to high jump toward success and satisfaction in life. How you choose to respond to your anger will make a difference in the quality of your relationships, your physical and emotional well-being and your effectiveness in bringing about positive and constructive change in your life. If this is a hurdle that keeps you from clearing the bar, choose today to do something about it.
Jealousy – In general, jealousy erupts from a crisis in trust. The distrust of others and/or of oneself that is experienced as jealousy usually serves the goals of projection, protection and/or competition. Simply stated, projection involves placing our own feelings onto others. Instead of feeling jealous of others, let their success inspire you to know what is possible.
Egotism – Egotism is an attitude of arrogance or superiority, and there is a big difference between self-confidence and arrogance. An arrogant person only feels smart if someone else feels stupid and so they use an ability (or perceived ability) to look down on others. However, a confident person feels competent from the inside out. They exercise their abilities in useful, healthy ways. While they appreciate external validation, they don’t depend on it to define their ability or worth.
Perfectionism – Perfectionism is bondage to living according to unrealistic standards, and it stems from fear. A healthy high-achiever celebrates successes, learns from failures and is open to new experiences. Perfectionists want to appear that way but they are terrified of appearing less than perfect. Perfectionism breeds procrastination, stress and anxiety, self-criticism, stifled ambition and fear of new experiences.
Fear – Some of the more common fears the men and women I work with involve rejection, failure, criticism, disapproval, embarrassment, humiliation, poverty and success. We all possess some level of irrational fear. The key is to be aware of it and to overcome it.
Figuratively speaking, you may have injured yourself tripping over one or more of these hurdles, but it isn’t too late to heal and get back in the race. Ask a mentor or find a coach who will be honest and encouraging with you as you practice healthier ways to elevate your life.
We would like to hear your ideas on how to overcome some of the hurdles you experienced in your race toward achievement. What helped you get to the next level? Tell us your story!
Live, Work & Relate Well!