What’s stopping you?

Do you have an area of your life where you feel stopped or stuck? You may be starting on a business venture, stretching yourself in a different direction, or simply challenged by everyday life. In any case, here is one technique to become unstoppable when it comes to the goals, accomplishments, and desires that really matter to us.

What’s stopping me?

In 1988, I attended a class hosted by my employer, Frito-Lay, Inc., (and created by Basadur Applied Creativity in Burlington, Ontario, Canada). The class got employees thinking about cost-reducing ideas for the company. However, I applied the techniques taught in the class to my personal goals. Here is my favorite technique from that class.

Ask yourself “What’s stopping me from doing what I am not doing (stopped at, stuck at) that I want to do?” This question, “What’s stopping me?” gives you a chance to bring some rational thoughts to what is causing you to stop, which is probably some kind of subconscious fear. It also helps you get to the roots of what you really want to do. Ask it repeatedly in a drill-down fashion for best results. Here’s an example.

    • What’s stopping me from traveling? — Having only three weeks of vacation a year.


    • What’s stopping me from having more than three weeks of vacation? – Not quitting my job.


    • What’s stopping me from quitting my job? – Fear of not finding another one.


  • What’s stopping me from being able to find another job when I return? (This was in 1988, please use caution with this example today.) — Nothing really; my fear is not realistic. I had a masters degree, great references, Fortune 50 experience in two stable industries, and enough savings. It didn’t make sense for me to be so fearful about losing my job and not being able to find another.

This idea was so powerful for me that I did go ahead and quit my job (that I loved), stored my furniture, sold my car, rented out my house, dumped my boyfriend, asked my parents to feed my cat, and left to backpack alone around the world in 20 countries for seven months. I had never been out of the country before that trip. Not only did I get a job within two months of my return, my employer offered me a position to return to as well. Asking myself “What’s stopping me?” was the keystone that got me off my couch and into living my dreams.

“What’s stopping me?” is a much better question than “What’s the worst that can happen?” “What’s stopping me?” helps you uncover the blocks that are keeping you from a future that you want. It propels you forward and gets you to go after what you want.

Coaches, take note. We’re now seeing brain research that shows that comments like “Tell me more” expressed by a coach after a client has expressed an issue actually shut the client down:

Client: I can’t seem to get a raise.
Coach: Tell me more.
Client shuts down and feels defensive.

Instead, try asking your clients (or yourself!) what’s stopping you? The client will be much more likely to have a breakthrough when you continually ask the question.

Here are some areas to use this:

    1. Where are you procrastinating the most?


    1. What project has been sitting on the dining room table for months?


    1. What’s on your to-do list that’s been there a while?


  1. What are you putting up with in your life for no good reason and that’s not bringing you happiness?

Try the “What’s stopping you?” exercise for yourself. You might just have a dream come true like I did.