What is holding you back?

Today my friends I want to ask you a simple but profound question.

What is holding you back?

You’re doing what you do.  You’re getting the results you’re getting.  And a part of you longs for a deeper, more satisfying path.  So what is it that is holding you back?

I’ve been thinking about these questions as my Rocket Results students have been wrestling with these pretty deep questions and getting great answers.  And I observe four major forces that can often hold us back.

The matrix?

Oftentimes the thing that holds us back from taking steps forward in our life is a lack of clarity about what we really want.  Perhaps it’s a lack of imagination, and perhaps it is the limited options generally presented by “the matrix” around us, but I think it’s normally a lack of connection with our deeper self.

It is really worth the effort of forcing yourself to get clarity on where you want to go.  My Rocket Results students have been getting amazing results as they get clear about  what they really want in their life.  For example:

“I’m surprising myself. Don’t think I normally give myself permission to dream – or haven’t in a long time.”

“I was inspired… something inside me said ‘wow, I want that!!”

The wall?

Sometimes we know what we want, but there is a wall, a barrier, stopping us.  Or so we think.

  • Is that barrier really prohibition (someone forbids you)?
  • Or is it actually inhibition (you forbid yourself)?
  • Put it another way: *“who says you can’t?”*

The answer, often, will be: yourself.  And that is a wall you can most certainly dismantle.

The dragon?

In any story worth telling, the hero encounters challenges on his or her way to the ultimate prize.  I call these challenges “dragons” and “demons”.

Dragons are the external challenges, and demons are the internal challenges to be overcome.

Well, the biggest dragon for many of us has got a name, and it’s called The Whirlwind!  This is the vortex of “the day job”, of “business as usual”, of “all our existing responsibilities”.  That is the dragon that eats up so many of our good intentions, our strategic projects, our resolutions and our dreams.

This dragon is NOT all-powerful.  But it does have to be named, acknowledged… and then confronted.

The demon?

All heroes have their inner journey, and their inner demons to be confronted.  There might be fear, pride, doubt, self-depreciation, addictions or other challenges to overcome.

But the big demon for so many of us is Distraction.

You start something, and then your phone buzzes and

sorry, where was I…

sorry, could you repeat that…


You get heads-down on a task and then


phone call


web page


manage incoming email

coffee break


email again

end of day, nothing really achieved…

So, what is the barrier you need to crush in 2017?

There you are.  Four barriers that will hold you back if you let them.

  • The matrix: Clarity about your deepest ambition?
  • The wall:  It looks like prohibition, but it’s probably inhibition?
  • The dragon: The whirlwind that sucks up all your time and energy?
  • The demon: The distraction and lack of focus that sucks your creativity?

Why not become FIRE?

To end, a story from the desert fathers:

Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do?

The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?

Becoming fire: to commit wholeheartedly to your purpose and your direction, to that which makes you come alive, to that where you can serve at your highest contribution.

My friend, thank you for reading the Purposeful People blog in 2016.  As we head into 2017, let me ask you: why not become fire?

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  • Chris Gare

    Richard, you should think about when and under what conditions we should be comfortable with our achievements. The fun and challenges are in the chasing and not the achieving. I have seen that to get that buzz we continue to set achievement goals long after we should be pleased with what has been achieved in our careers. This is mainly because we are afraid to let go and being scared of becoming irrelevant in our sphere of influence. It’s not just an age thing either! That drive to over-achieve can be a horrible nagging voice that can spoil the inner quiet we all deserve.

    • Richard Medcalf

      Chris, valid question and thanks for pushing back a little here! Sorry it took me a while to get to replying. The short answer is I actually think we need to move from achievement to purpose: from the buzz of achieving things to a deeper satisfaction that we are contributing to something that truly matters. I’m not promoting workaholism – I’m proposing identifying what will satisfy more than the next promotion or the next sale, and going wholeheartedly for that.

      I will cover your question in more detail on a future post, because it’s a good one and is some needed balance.