How We Get In Our Own Way of Our Success

"The most important thing is transforming our minds, for a new way of thinking, a new outlook: we should strive to develop a new inner world.”
~ Dalai Lama

“How do I get in my own way?” This is a wonderful question to ask your-self and reflect upon to gain access to the door of self-awareness. To be frank, everyone I coach, gets in their own way and are not even aware of how their thoughts, their go-to style, and their patterns of thinking during challenges and adversity hold them back from what they ultimately want to achieve. Let me give you an example.

I WAS COACHING a C-Suite woman who wanted to leave her current job and seek a higher position in a larger company. During our coaching, she was asked to interview for a promising job that met all of her criteria. If she landed this new position, she would be working for a company that was worth double the amount of her current one, would hold the Global CIO position, and be the only female at this level in this organization.

At the start of the interviewing process, she was enthusiastic and confident. However, as weeks turned into months, with several interviews with different individuals, she was losing her confidence, and becoming frustrated and perturbed. During our work together, I became very familiar with her patterns and go-to style when she became frustrated, impatient, and distressed.

One day she calls me, (we are now 5 months into the interview process) and exclaims, “Can you believe it! I have to interview again and with the person I first interviewed with 5 months ago!” As I listened, I knew if she went into that interview with that level of frustration, she would not get the job. The organization had narrowed the candidates down to my client and one other prospect.

After a moment’s pause, I told her, if you walk into that interview with that attitude, you will not be offered the job. I knew her well enough by now, that as she walked into the door, her body language would show how perturbed she was by having to come in yet again. During our work together, our focus was on her impatience and how she can come across too intense and harsh when she is in this state. She knew I was right and yet, couldn’t get out of her own way to see a different approach.

We are often not aware of how we get in our own way. In this situation with my client, her emotions were getting in the way. When we are in the emotional part of the brain, we cannot access that part of the brain, the basal ganglia, to come up with what I refer to as, “A never thought of before response.” In other words, part of getting out of our own way is to transform our patterns, our go-to style and get out of what we know – our comfort zone – and try something new.

My client was being confronted with having to change herself and in the eloquent words of Viktor E. Frankl:

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Frankl also wrote:

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”


When we are emotional, we have very little time to take advantage of that space and choose a different response. There are strategies and skills that I teach that help my clients use that space and cultivate responses that help them be the best they can be. My client was getting in her own way, stuck in her pattern, and implored me to help her out. As a coach, I guide my clients to arrive at their own solution rather than telling them what to do. However, this time, I knew she was desperate. I said, “When you walk into that office, tell him, ‘I am so flattered to have this opportunity to meet with you again.’” I heard a sigh of relief, a small chuckle, and then she said, “I can do that.” She then asked me why SHE couldn’t think of that.

We all can get caught up in our emotions, limiting our ability to come up with a different response from our go-to style. Increasing awareness and your emotional intelligence is about learning these skills to figure out how to handle situations differently. It is about changing your mindset, what Dan Siegel refers to as “Mindsight” which:

“is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us to be aware of our mental processes without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in.”

Once trapped in the “reactive emotional loop” navigating into new territory to arrive at a different solution is often out of reach. Learning about what triggers you and your go-to style are learned through various ways. I use the EQi – 2.0 assessment which illuminates your strengths and what needs changing to develop self-awareness. With this information, you can then get out of your own way and start choosing different responses.

My client landed the new job. She called me after the interview and told me that when she walked into the office, she could tell from his body language that he too was tense about this long process. When she told him how flattered she was to have this opportunity to meet with him again, she said that he sat back, relaxed and the meeting turned into an interesting conversation rather than an interview.

Thank you for reading my article. I appreciate your likes and comments to further the dialogue on personal development.