What’s stopping you? Common limitations executives choose or reject

by | Mar 12, 2023 | Career Planning, Personal Brand, Professional Confidence, Women

What’s stopping you? Common limitations executives choose or reject… and the difference that choice makes

“Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.” – Jerry Dunn

When I work with individual executives on their leadership brand, they are at a point in their lives when they want to try something new, go for something bigger, or be recognised for something more.

As soon as we put a big goal out there – we say the words out loud, we tell someone, or we write it down – we are immediately met with scary thoughts.

Who am I to do this?

What would I add to the competition/noise?

Am I ready?

Am I good enough?

In my work, I get to observe fascinating phenomena of the human psyche! Listening to people’s stories leads me to ask questions like ‘Why is this behaviour presenting?’ / ‘Why are they using those words?’ / ‘What do they really mean?’ / ‘What’s underneath this?’

At some point, we’ve all told ourselves a story about what limits us… we are all human, and no matter how successful or accomplished we become, we still have fears and uncertainties tucked away somewhere, that can stop us from achieving personal and professional growth. They usually come up as soon as we step outside of our comfort zone!

Do any of these (very human) thoughts resonate with you? 

  • I haven’t focused on building my profile because I don’t like to self-promote.
  • I don’t like to talk about myself; I prefer to focus on my team.
  • I haven’t got further in my career because I’ve been focused on lifting others up in their careers.
  • I have too many ideas, so it’s hard to get things off the ground.
  • I’m juggling too many responsibilities and don’t have time to work on myself.
  • Even though someone has offered me this opportunity, I don’t feel ready to take it on.
  • Even though this is what I want, I’m not sure I have what it takes.
  • Even though others say I’m great at what I do, I’m not sure I can really stand out.
  • Even though I know I’m great at what I do, I’m overlooked at promotion time.

The funny thing is that, while I’ve heard these sentiments a thousand times (from very accomplished, brilliant professionals), each time a client admits one to me, they think they are the only person to have this thought.

Over the years I’ve heard a range of reasons why people don’t go for what they want, or at least, why they stall on taking action. I’ve also come up with a few of my own reasons to stall on things, at times. But what I’ve learned is that usually, there is a ‘real reason’ underneath.

People are not really lazy, unfocused, disorganised, lacking in resources or lacking in time… they are not really ‘not good enough’. People don’t prioritise a goal or an action that matters to them because they are scared, worried or unsure of themselves in some way. If we’re honest, we’ve all been there, and we probably will be again at some point.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” – Fred DeVito

Reflecting on this, I’ve decided to add a few extra questions to an exploratory exercise I give clients when they start work on their personal brand. These new questions will help my brave clients to honestly look at what is blocking their progress, in order to move through these blocks and achieve what they really want to!

Here are two of the questions I have added, from a set of 8:

  • What stories do you tell yourself about who you are and what you can or can’t do, be or have?
  • Is there an environment you want to be part of but where you feel like you don’t belong?

“You can have excuses or you can have success; you can’t have both.” – Jen Sincero

While there can be real issues in our personal circumstances that keep us from doing things, there are countless examples of people overcoming the most challenging roadblocks. At the end of the day, there is usually an answer to the question: ‘So what are you going to do about it?’

The danger of an excuse is that it can really become a limitation that you carry around with you throughout your life. But as I’ve seen with so many clients, honestly facing the limitations you have named for yourself, no matter how uncomfortable, is the only way to change the story… and this is often where the Leadership Brand journey begins.