What's Stopping You?


Is there an area of your life or business where you just can’t seem to get a grip? You try and try, but can never seem to fix it.

I was thinking about this recently over something that’s been plaguing and frustrating me on a daily basis for quite some time — not consistently sticking with an exercise routine, and I started wondering if there was something more to it.

The fact that I don’t exercise more bugs me all the time. “You need to exercise,” or some variation of it, crosses my mind a minimum of ten times a day. That’s ridiculous. The energy, attention, and time I spend on simply thinking about exercising is far greater than what it would take to simply stop everything and actually do it, so what’s the problem? The answer: Something is controlling me. In my case, it’s a schedule.

I feel a constant pull to conform to someone else’s idea of when I should work and what times things should happen: What time to wake up, eat, work out, run errands, go to bed, etc. It’s silly, but true. A schedule (or really some crazy idea I have of what constitutes a “normal” schedule) is controlling me and making me not live the way I want to live. It doesn’t matter that I might function better and be more productive and content following an altogether different routine than everyone else on the planet. No, I’d rather struggle to do things the way everyone else does. I’d rather see how many ways and how many times a square peg will not fit into a round hole.

Why is that I can commit to forging my own path in every other area of my life, but struggle with this one? I think it’s because it’s so easy to become controlled and not live or work the way we really want to live or work. Think about it. Maybe you’ve wanted for many years to:

  • Write a book,
  • Become a runner,
  • Get up early,
  • Get in shape, or
  • Build a thriving business.

But, why haven’t you? What’s stopping you from doing what you want to do?

  • Maybe you long to be a writer, but hate the thought of having your work criticized. The critics are controlling you.
  • Maybe you wish that you could get into better shape, but can never seem to find the time or routine to make it work. A schedule is controlling you.
  • Maybe you want to build a thriving business, but can’t imagine putting yourself out there and promoting yourself or your business. Your fear is controlling you.
  • Maybe you need to hire an assistant or a coach, but hate to have to turn to someone else for help. Your pride is controlling you.
  • Maybe you’d love to get up early, watch the sunrise over coffee, and enjoy some quiet time to yourself before starting yet another busy day, but have never been able to stick with going to bed and getting up early. Your laziness, indifference or complacency is controlling you.

If there’s something in your life or business that you want to do, something that you know would make all the difference in your productivity or contentment, think hard and honestly when answering, “Why am I not doing it?” Are circumstances, other people, your attitude, your complacency, or anything else controlling you?

Once you know (and perhaps admit) that something is, in fact, controlling you, what are you going to do about it? How will you take back your power?

Sometimes simply being aware of something can change the way you approach it. Just having the knowledge that I’m allowing some arbitrary definition of a “normal” schedule control how I live and work makes me reevaluate how I spend my days and, at the very least, question my motives for doing things a certain way.

In the past, what’s stopped you from doing things the way you wanted to do them in life and business, and how did you find a way to overcome them?

Photo by Flickr user seantoyer, licensed under CC 2.0



I do the same thing with “thinking” about working out!! It drives me crazy! Its nice to realize I’m not alone and I will reevulate my day too.. No better time than the present.

Alejandro Alarcón

Great post, I think we all have some issue we are afraid to acomplish, because of many reasons like you mentiones, some times are little things to improve life quality and I think those maybe are the ones to start with, others, like a radical change, I belive these changes give us uncertainty and are the hardest decision to make, like Nico comments, she left her well paid job to start writing (hope it goes wonder Nico), I belive some times when you make this radical decision, you can also start doing so much stuf, like excersing, make your own schedule, etc. But I believe we must have a plan, al least some ecnomic background to feel free to do it and don´t look back.

Royale Scuderi

Such a coincidence, this mirrors a recent post on my site. I too have been questioning my routines and patterns. It is tough to change thoughts and practices that seem to be second nature to us. Hard to step back and look outside our “box.”

Charles McPhate

I quit my full-time job in September ’06 and started working contract from home. Ever since then, I’ve maintained a non-traditional schedule — in fact, no schedule at all. I work when I know I’m going to be productive. That may be 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. — I never know from one day to the next. I sleep when I’m tired, I eat when I’m hungry, and I’ve never been less stressed in my life than I am now. I’ve taken a lot of flack for it from people who think we should all have routines, go to bed at the same time every night, have a set work schedule, blah, blah, blah. My mind and body don’t work that way, and I make no apologies for it.

Amber Singleton Riviere

Good for you, Charles! The main thing is, you’re happy and stress-free when it comes to your work. That’s what counts. The rest of us would be well-served to follow your lead. Thanks for sharing!

laser printer photo paper

Really Good read and great post. I think everything boils down to having the correct attitude like in everything else in life. I´ts hard to get the correct one but if it would be easy everybody would be millionaires anyway.

It takes such huge amount of determination to get from the incorrect habits into the correct ones. This is something I have been thinking of how to do the best way myself. I think there is a possibility to “brainwash” your self into the correct habits because once you get into it, its like start training you cant stop after a while. And then you are on your path to your success.

I believe in surrounding yourself with both written and visual pictures of goals you wanna achieve and you have to look at them daily so you really get it hammered into your brain!!! Once you start to take serious action usually good things happens. Thats my 2cents

Amber Singleton Riviere

Thanks! I agree, attitude is everything, and I think it is possible to re-train yourself into better habits. When I get into the habit of walking every day (say three weeks in) and I don’t go one day for whatever reason, it’s like something’s missing, and I actually miss going. I guess it’s just getting over that initial hump.

Peter Laudin

Great Post… I recently left 15 years of corporate to spend full time on my e-tail stores… but for the first 10 weeks did very little ‘work.’ There was fear, learning new routines, getting-ready-to-get-ready, adjusting to a new schedule… lots of excuses. But in response to your question, what got me going was when I realized that “Telling a lie to another is wrong, but telling a lie to yourself is just stupid.” And those little excuses were really little lies, and I darn well knew it. “No time to exercise?” Of course there is. A little lie we tell ourselves. Etc etc. I don’t really need to examine myself that deeply to know why, I just need to fix it. My reminder to not lie to myself is the trick that worked for me. I hated thinking myself stupid, more than I hated not getting my work done!


Same exact problem with the exercising. I know it will help me lose weight. I know it will help lower my already high blood pressure. I know it can help with so many things like self confidence and self esteem yet why don’t I do it? I have no clue but if I can find out why I’ll definitely let you know.


Funny you should mention it, the first two on your list are things I’ve recently done.

I wanted to be a writer, so, after six and a half years in the corporate world – I quit my well-paying job with benefits to write.

I wanted to keep in shape, so I go running in the cemetery near my house every weekday.

Your hold ups are projected outward: it’s not the critics that are controlling you – you’re allowing yourself to be controlled. It’s all about permissions and what influence you allow others to have over you. It’s always your choice.

Amber Singleton Riviere

I agree, Nico. Even though we can convince ourselves that it’s something “out there” – someone, some thing, some circumstance, we can take back that control, if we so choose. Best of luck with your writing and running!


I live in a city, so running in the street I get car exhaust, have to wait for lights to change…it’s tedious. In the cemetery I have a closed track that’s lined with trees, few people around (the living kind, anyway) – it’s the perfect place for it.

Charles McPhate

That’s clever, Nico. I live in downtown Chicago, so I can just go downstairs to the riverwalk (literally, since I live on the river). From there, it’s a straight shot to the lakefront trail. Evenings and early mornings, very few people around, and I never encounter a single car.

lamia Ben

Thank you for the great post. It definitely strikes a chord with me. I stopped to think about this on January: What’s stopping me from doing what I want to do? and I realized that it was not really the fear of failure but rather, the fear of success! My lizard brain was kicking at full power and it generated a fright of all the changes in my life that the success might cause. What helped me overcome this? I just decided to make the leap, not over-think stuff and just deal with the consequences later.

Susan Wright-Boucher

Great post. It can be very difficult to get at the root of the problem – especially if one is seeking to change thought patterns that have had years to become firmly ingrained. Sometimes it helps to talk out loud to a friend or trusted advisor and ask them to help reveal hidden assumptions or controlling thoughts.

Amber Singleton Riviere

Thanks, Susan. I agree, and that’s exactly what I was thinking when putting this post together. Sometimes those controlling factors are so deeply rooted and go so far back that it can take a while to even become aware of them, let alone overcome them, but I think even just the awareness can help.

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