What’s Holding You Back?


“What’s holding you back?” is the fundamental question everyone should answer BEFORE setting goals, objectives and resolutions for the New Year. This applies to your personal life and your professional life. I know nothing of your personal life, but I do know a thing or two about business life, having lived there more years than I care to remember.

“What’s holding you back?” isn’t as easy a question as it might seem. The intent of the query is not to unleash your frustrations about insufficient budgets, unreasonable customers, cantankerous bosses, or endless project lists – not that these matters are unimportant or should be overlooked. The operative word in the question is “YOU.” What are YOU going to do about the factors that are limiting your potential or constraining your ability to reach for the stars without ending up with a handful of mud?

What are YOU going to do about the factors that are limiting your potential

Let’s look at this issue from a strategic perspective via a short check list:

  1. Define your goals. You’ve likely got something in mind already. High-achieving business types usually think in quantifiable terms, such as accelerating project due dates, reducing customer complaints, identifying cost reduction opportunities, driving  sales, increasing profit . . . you get my drift. Now go into the switch & shift mode; think about YOU. Forget quantitative and consider the qualitative side of your business life. These are the ‘softer’ factors that include empathy, stress, contentment, how you lead, how you inspire, and how you impact others.
  2. Define the constraints. Most of them will emerge from the goal definition exercise. Let’s assume that you work in an overly complex business environment and complexity is crippling decision-making, curtailing execution, and savaging the culture.
  3. Play out the “What if . . .” scenario as it applies to the constraints that are keeping you from your quantitative and qualitative goals. Start with “what if there was no complexity?” Your response will likely articulate what you would do better in an unencumbered world. This is important, but there is more to it. You must first address the things YOU must do to reduce the complexity cancer. For example, “what are you prepared to sacrifice” to help clear the way to a more focused environment.
  4. Develop an action plan. Using Pareto’s 20/80 rule (20% of everything, creates 80% of the impact) to prioritize the few things that matter most, you are on your way to defining how YOU will make a difference. This is your vision. Compelling visions are the first step to creating meaningful changes.

I have seen so many cases of people accepting a status quo that is in dire need of alteration. When it comes to making change, there are three types of people: drivers, passengers and road kill. Begin your New Year in the driver’s seat. Plan your work, work your plan, and enjoy the ride.

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Image credit: ventdusud / 123RF Stock Photo

John Bell

John Bell is the author of Do Less Better. The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World. A retired consumer packaged goods CEO and global strategy consultant to some of the world's most respected blue-chip organizations, his periodic musings on strategy, leadership, and branding appear in various journals including Fortune and Forbes. John has served as a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. He can be reached at his blog http://www.ceoafterlife.com/

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