4 Barriers to Personal and Professional Growth (And How to Tear ‘em Down)

Throughout our lives, we experience moments of momentum where we feel like we're expanding, moving upward, and spreading our fierce little wings.

Other times, we feel like our own growth has become sluggish or blocked in some way. When this stagnation occurs, it's an indication that it's time to get curious and shake things up.

As a leader, you are not exempt from the reality that growth requires conscious effort. You spend a lot of time focusing on the growth of those around you, and while this is a critical focus for anyone in a position of leadership, it's important to maintain an awareness of your own development and make adjustments as needed.

When your own development becomes stagnant, it can be quite comfortable in the beginning. It feels safe and secure, at least at first.

The natural progression of an individual involves continual growth. Once basic needs are met, self-actualization is the next step. When we cut ourselves off from the natural progression of this development, we are in a sense going against the flow of life.

I like to use the analogy of a butterfly when thinking about this concept. We may get used to the way things are in our cozy little chrysalis. However, when our wings form, we'll eventually need to break free from the chrysalis. The longer we stay there, the more uncomfortable it's going to get. It may have benefited us for a while to stay put for a while, but if we're going to become who we're meant to become, we need to muster up the courage to spread our wings and break free.

When something you're doing or a behavior you're repeating isn't working anymore, whether it's at home or at work, you need to take positive action towards remedying it. Or, at some point, it will be met with consequences. If your behavior is impacting those around you, you could even end up losing something or someone that matters to you if you fail to move in the direction of growth.

Another reality for leaders to keep in mind is that you are a model for behavior in your organization. If you are putting forth an effort to develop your employees but are neglecting your own growth, it will send a mixed message to your team.

If you've become aware that you've stagnated and want to step into a place of growth, you may find yourself running into some unwanted barriers as you try to move forward. Here are some of the most common.

1. Infrequent Feedback

According to WORKBOARD, 72% of employees think their performance would improve with more feedback. And as a leader, receiving feedback is just as essential as giving it. Feedback serves as a direct catalyst for growth by showing you what you didn't know and revealing your "blind spots," so to speak, granting you the awareness you need to improve in these areas. If feedback is infrequent, so are your opportunities to grow.

Remedy: Break down this barrier by directly requesting feedback from your team. ANNUAL REVIEWS ARE OLD NEWS, and giving feedback is best as a two-way street, regardless of how "high on the totem pole" your position is within your organization. Don't hesitate to ask your team and your fellow leaders directly:

Do you have any feedback for me?

This question alone holds the potential to set you on a new path towards ultimate growth by allowing you to course correct in the areas where your team and colleagues provides you with constructive feedback.

2. Lack of Clarity Around Goals

Much of what we do in our day-to-day lives we do because we consider it necessary to do. Unfortunately, necessity doesn't do much for us in terms of growth. In order to grow, we have to have a vision. Having a desire outside of necessity and a clear vision of what you're after is an essential part of knowing which direction you want to go and grow.

Remedy: Write a stump speech. Writing a stump speech, as outlined by Susan Scott in her best-selling book "Fierce Conversations," requires asking yourself essential questions that will create clarity around your goals and where you're headed. To create a stump speech, ask yourself:

1.Where are you going?

2.Why are you going there?

3.Who is going with you?

4.How are you going to get there?

When answering these questions, consider where you envision yourself in six weeks, six months, and six years. What resources do you need and what steps do you need to take in order to make this vision become a reality? Once you have a plan in place, you can start taking actions in the right direction. When the movement and momentum begin, growth is inevitable.

3. Fear of Failing or Being Wrong

Sometimes growth requires us to take on new challenges, and new challenges can be scary–especially when succeeding or failing might affect others on our team. But the reality is that it's better to try and fail than to not try at all. In fact, RESEARCH SUGGESTS that failure can actually be a motivator and lead to higher amounts of success in the long run.

We may also fear that we've been "wrong" all along. Our ego finds it difficult to admit when we need to make a change, or that the way we've chosen to do things for so long just isn't working. Even though we're all faced with this dilemma, we tend to be hardest on ourselves and feel alone in the experience.

Remedy: Cultivate self-compassion and have a conversation with yourself about your own intentions. Think about why you want to pursue a particular goal or achieve a particular outcome, and then take a look at why you're so afraid to fail at it. Ask yourself:

What about this goal do you consider important?

What are you avoiding (or missing out on!) by staying where you are?

Let the positive answer be your motivator rather than backing out due to fear or reluctance to approach something in a new and different way.

4. Unsupportive Environments

An unsupportive environment is one that lacks the essential resources needed for development. Being a leader doesn't exempt you from the need to be surrounded by people who want to see you grow and become the best version of yourself. Taking a close look at your current circumstances can reveal important opportunities for change, which may also require having difficult conversations with people who may be holding you back. Ask yourself:

Do the people in my work life and at home support my growth?

Do I have the resources I need (whether they be emotional, structural, or technological) to grow in the ways that I want to?

If the answer is no to either of these questions...

Remedy: Commit, first and foremost, to seeking out the resources you need. Have these tough conversations with your loved ones or colleagues whose support you feel you need for your own growth. Surround yourself with people who do support you. Request the kind of resources you think would present growth opportunities for yourself and positively impact the people around you.

These are just four of the most common barriers to growth. Aside from this list, what else can you think of that might be holding you back? A bit of self-inquiry can provide you with valuable answers.

Want more tips on how to request feedback? Download our webinar 'FEED' ME: 5 FIERCE TIPS TO ASK FOR AND RECEIVE FEEDBACK

Last updated 9/23/2018; originally published 6/07/2017.

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