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Issue: 75 - Mar 16, 2015
Five Secrets to Success and Happiness
By: Dr. Phil Zeltzman
Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dave Lakhani,* business consultant and author, wrote an interesting description of roadblocks that have a tendency to be in the way of our success, in our personal or professional lives. Fair warning: the author doesn’t mince words. Facing our self-imposed roadblocks may feel uncomfortable, even difficult at times. As a matter of fact, becoming aware of our roadblocks has to do with complex psychology and requires some serious soul-searching.

Here is an overview of 5 common roadblocks:

1. Procrastination

Procrastination is the art of postponing things, of putting things off until another time.  Procrastination only becomes a big problem when you keep replacing high-priority tasks with low-priority activities.

It can take many forms: “I'll start exercising tomorrow.”

“I'll work on that project next week.”

“I'll start saving next month.”

This is clearly not the way to success.

2. Ambivalence

“Ambivalence is the coexistence of two opposing opinions or indecisions on which course of action to follow” explains Dave Lakhani.

What does this mean? You know you should quit smoking in order to be healthier, yet your grandfather smoked six packs a day and lived to be a hundred years old. So you're not sure if quitting smoking will make a difference. This ambivalence leads you to take no action.

3. “Have to” or “should do”

This is a very interesting twist on the concept of roadblocks.  Here's how it works.  Our brain creates a belief that if step A doesn't happen first, then we can't move to step B.  For example: “I can't start exercising (step B) until bingo season is over (step A).”

“I can't plan a vacation (step B) because I have too much going on right now (step A).”

“I can't start saving (step B) until I start my third job (step A).”

Clearly these are roadblocks that we create in our own mind. It's important to take a step back and ask, “What would happen if I didn't accomplish step A?” or “What would happen if I put step A on the back burner?” or “Do I really need to deal with step A before working on step B?”

In other situations, B does not necessarily exclude A. Although it's a silly example, with the proper motivation, it is possible to go to bingo classes and exercise. How about you walk, bike or run to bingo classes? A little bit of creativity will often lead to a new solution or a good compromise.

4. Excuses and justifications

In Lakhani’s words, “Excuses are another form of resistance that causes roadblocks to remain unchanged. We all have personal dialogues, complete with excuses and justifications for not doing what we need to do in order to move forward.”

This is how we might sound when we have our internal dialogues:

“I didn't have time to exercise, because I wanted to watch Dancing with the Stars.”

“I haven’t taken a vacation in 3 years because I have so much going on at work.”

“I don't have any savings because life is short and I’d rather spend money and have fun with my friends.”

By focusing on the current problem, we make excuses and come up with justifications for not doing something else that would move us closer to our goals. At least in the short term, instant gratification makes us feel better.

5. Giving up

According to Lakhani, “by far the most common type of resistance is simply giving up.” 

We all have seen many people quit around us: they quit (vet) school, they quit their job, they quit their relationships…

Sometimes, quitting looks like the easy way out, but it reinforces our belief that quitting is an option. And the next time we face an obstacle, it may just look easier to quit without even trying to solve the problem. And so people give up on important goals in their lives.

Which roadblocks are holding you back in your personal or professional life? Have you given up on being your own boss? Have you given up on retirement? Have you given up on weight loss? Have you given up on being debt-free? Have you given up on a new job opportunity? Have you given up on happiness? 

Ultimately these roadblocks result in resistance: resistance to change, resistance to improve, resistance to move on. The author explains ways to destroy the roadblocks in his book.*

Surely, going through this process can be uncomfortable and possibly painful. Facing reality can be tough. Yet if the first step is indeed awareness, then you need to identify your self-created roadblocks in order to fight them. Identifying your roadblocks and consciously deciding to get rid of them will lead you to a series of goals. Your next step it to meet these goals. Your success and your happiness depend on it.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.amazon.com).

* Dave Lakhani.  The Power of an Hour (Wiley, 2006).