Why You’re Not Making Progress and What to Do About It

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Feeling stagnant?

Last week I wrote about the importance of knowing what we want and taking small easy steps to make it happen. If you are so busy keeping up with obligations and responsibilities that you never have a moment to reflect on your life and set an intention, I hope that article encouraged you to take action.

But what about the steps that aren’t easy? What about that thing that’s been on your mind for months or maybe even years? The mere thought of it is draining. You feel discouraged. You probably beat yourself up for not having made progress. What to do about that?

The root cause

If you are not making progress, or maybe not even trying, it’s most likely because you are experiencing inner conflict. Inner conflict means wanting two different things that seem mutually exclusive. For example, you want to gain muscle but you don’t want to exercise. Or you want to lose weight but you don’t want to change your diet.

I chose these two examples because they are easy to understand but most instances of inner conflict aren’t so obvious. They may be buried in the unconscious mind. The first step is to make the unconscious conscious so that you can examine your beliefs and question their validity.


Example #1 - Conscious thought: I want to move up on the organizational chart.

Reality: I am not doing what is necessary (e.g. taking leadership roles, volunteering on committees, building a network, working on getting strong references, filling out applications, getting prepared to interview, etc.)

Potential unconscious beliefs:

  • I am not sure I am good enough for these jobs.

  • I am afraid of being rejected.

  • I don’t want to have to work more than I do now.

  • I prefer the comfort of my current situation.

  • I won’t forgive myself if I make a poor choice.

  • I don’t want to become my peers’ boss.

  • I fear how my relationships will change.

It’s very common to want something but not do what’s necessary because a part of us wants to succeed while another part doesn’t. The inner conflict has to be resolved before we can step up, do our best, and succeed.

Example #2 - Conscious thought: I want to become more organized and productive.

Reality: I keep repeating the same old habits and telling myself I don’t have time to learn and implement a new system.

Potential unconscious beliefs:

  • I am afraid to look at how I spend my time. I fear my own judgment. I don’t want to have to acknowledge the ways I avoid what’s uncomfortable, procrastinate at times, or spend too much time on things I like, at the detriment of what’s important.

  • I just don’t want to make more efforts. My system isn’t perfect but it’s good enough.

  • I take pride in working hard, so the idea of getting more done in less time doesn’t feel right.

  • I am afraid to look bad if I finish my work by 5 pm and go home. What will people think?

  • I am punishing myself for my flaws and inadequacies. I don’t deserve better than the life I have now. (Sorry, this one is heavy but so common that I couldn’t leave it out!)

If you are conflicted about what success will bring, consciously or not, you will engage in self-sabotage. So stop beating yourself up about what you haven’t accomplished yet and look at what’s been holding you back.

Understanding yourself better

Here are some general questions that can help you uncover what is really going on within yourself.

If I succeed…

  • … what will it mean?

  • … what will change?

  • … what will I lose?

  • … what will be harder?

If I try and don’t succeed…

  • … what will that say about me?

  • … will I be able to forgive myself and accept myself fully?

  • … what will my loved ones think, feel, or say?

  • … what will I do about the problem?

Take some time to journal about your dreams, your fears, and the implications of doing your best to turn your desires into reality. Bring your concerns to the surface and you will realize that most are unfounded, and a few may be valid but you are more than strong enough to handle them.

You have to decide if you want to be driven by fear and doubt or by vision and purpose.

Do you choose to limit your life to what is familiar and comfortable or do you want more for yourself?

There is no judgment here, no right or wrong answer, but you need to acknowledge your truth. Denial and regret cause more emotional pain than change ever could. Facing reality with courage is half the work.

You don’t have to do this alone. Click here to schedule a time to speak with me about how we can work together. If you think you know what to do but you aren’t doing it, it means you need someone to facilitate the process, make you feel empowered, and keep you focused on your goals.

There is no better time than right now to get started. Let’s do it!

If one-on-one coaching is more than you think you need and you simply want a self-study program to help you set goals, prioritize, organize your time, follow-through, and improve your mindset to feel more empowered, take a look at this program.


About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. 

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