Unlock the Block: How to Jump Over, Push-Through, and Navigate around the Barriers That Hold You Back

Road blocks can be extremely frustrating when they are standing in the way of arriving at our destination.  We can all relate to a time when our route was changed by an unexpected road block. Usually, a sign alerts us to the block but sometimes it can be a surprise. We may have to turn around and head back in the direction we just traveled. While frustrating, roadblocks can actually be helpful and ultimately take us to a place better than the planned route. At that point, it becomes a building block to something even better.

Early in my career with the IBM Corporation, I faced a road block as I pondered a career change. I wrote about it below and included some suggestions to help you navigate around your work or personal roadblock.

Here’s the story:  This week I celebrated my annual Independence Day (the day I left the IBM Corporation to start my own business). I remember agonizing over the decision to leave the security and safety of a corporate job. I had applied for an educational leave of absence to pursue my master’s degree. My plan was to finish my degree while trying to see if I could make it on my own as a professional speaker. If I wasn’t able to make it in my own business, I would return to IBM after the two-year educational leave. IBM denied my request.   It was decision time. I felt like I had a well thought-out plan though I didn’t have a back-up. Most of us don’t think of alternatives when things are going well. Then the block comes and we are faced with a dilemma. The blocks can be major career decisions like mine was or they can be small blocks that prevent us from taking action on a goal. Our ability to navigate around a block is dependent on how we think through it and whether or not we are willing to take action.

Stop the block: Identify a block in your personal or professional life. Just as a block is six-sided, here are six points to help you unlock your own block.

  • Analyze the block. Write a clear statement of what the block is and where/how it started. What are the factors that caused the block? Did you do something to exacerbate it? Is there a mindset or behavior change that you can make to help alleviate the cause(s)?
  • How is the block affecting you and your personal or professional performance? Determine if it is a real block or if it’s mental. As any Olympic athlete will tell you, mental conditioning is as important as physical conditioning. Think about your mental mindset. How can you improve it to help stop the block?
  • What is the biggest pain, cost, or frustration that the block causes?
  • What action steps do you need to take to remove the block? Take the easiest action step and identify ways you could move past the block. Take one step right now.
  • Identify how your life or work would be better if you could permanently remove the block. What would change for you or the situation if the block didn’t exist? Imagine a perfect world solution. Visualize how things would be without the block.
  • What resources do you need to remove the block? Who do you know who has overcome something similar? If willing, how could they help?

While my decision to leave IBM wasn’t thought out as thoroughly as what I outlined above, it worked out well and for more than 25 years I have been fortunate enough to have my dream job. Independence for you and/or your company could start with a block unlock. Why not get started today?

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