The Only Thing Stopping You is You

The boy who was born without a right hand and wanted to play baseball with his classmates.

He devised a one-armed throw/catch method, and when the other kids didn’t play with him, he practiced by throwing a baseball against a brick wall. Years later, that boy pitched in the Major Leagues and the United States Olympic team.

The musician who epitomized the rock-and-roll lifestyle, complete with frequent drug and alcohol use.

One morning, he put on a pair of running shoes for the first time and covered the miles back to his bike, which he had left at a bar the night before. He became a runner, and never touched alcohol or drugs again.

The junk-food addict who decided long ago her running days would never return. 

Today, she is one of the fastest female marathoners in the world, participating in the US Olympic Trials this month.

What’s your excuse? 

As we begin a new year, you’ve probably had your fill of the stories of change and inspiration that we like to roll out after the holidays. And yet by the time December comes around again, we usually look back and find that we’re pretty much the same as we were last year.

Maybe you set a goal but didn’t follow though. You focused on it for a few weeks, maybe a few months. But eventually you gave up — not because it was too much work, but because it didn’t hold your attention. It wasn’t exciting enough to become your obsession.

You see, the biggest mistake a person can make isn’t setting the bar too high — it’s not setting it high enough.

Haven’t you done it too? Think of something that would absolutely love to do, but that you’re certain you’ll never accomplish. Now ask yourself why it’s so damn impossible. Chances are, you’ll think of your barriers and sigh with resignation. You can’t. Even if you tried, it just wouldn’t happen.

But ask yourself one more question.

“Says who?”

No matter how many names you rattle off, there’s only one thing ultimately stopping you from reaching their true potential: yourself.

You choose to listen to the naysayers. You choose to believe them. You choose to set up limitations. You water down your original goal to something that isn’t so hard or won’t take so long to achieve, because that’s what everyone else seems to do.

Stop blaming other people, things, or situations. What makes the difference isn’t what happens to you, but what you choose to do with it.

Change by choice or by force.

Choosing to change can be scary and hard, sure. There’s always a voice in your head reminding you that you might work really hard and still fail. People choose to focus so much on that possibility that they become blind to the chance of success.

The one-armed boy, the musician, and the runner could have stayed in their comfort zones. No one forced them to make a change. They faced their own roadblocks to success. And each of them had their fair share of critics. Yet in spite of it all, they realized none of that mattered.

Each one of them believed change was possible, and eventually, others began to believe it, too.

Get out of your own way.

It’s not easy to think like this. We’re conditioned to do the opposite — to aim low, to avoid risk, to keep our goals to ourselves so that we won’t look foolish when we fall short.

But with some practice, you learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Here are a few of my favorite small steps you can take to get yourself to think bigger, starting today.

  • Make it public. Quitting is easy when you keep your goals to yourself. If you tell the world about it, you’ve made yourself accountable. And you’ll probably inspire someone.
  • Use denial as a weapon for attacking doubt. (If you want to borrow my mantra: “I can, I will, and kiss my ass.”)
  • Ignore what other people have to say. Especially if what they have to say starts with “You should…” The only person who knows what you “should” be doing is you.
  • Know your reasons. Make a list of reasons why you want to accomplish whatever it is, and include painful ones like “If I don’t accomplish this I’ll feel ___ and I’ll let down ___.” Make your reasons detailed and emotional — you want to really feel it so that you’ll be motivated to act.
  • Keep a journal of your progress. Focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you still have to go. (“I took two seconds off my average minutes per mile today. I’m a BAMF!”)
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Your goal should be about achieving the upper echelons of your awesomeness, not someone else’s.
  • Mentor someone else. Whether it’s someone who wants to become a vegetarian or is training for the same 5K you did two years ago, mentoring is a great reminder that you accomplished something that, at one time, you thought was impossible.
  • Refuse to settle for less. Don’t water down your goal because it’d be easier. Goals are supposed to be hard. If it isn’t hard, it’s not a goal — it’s a task.
  • If you stumble, learn from your experience and try again – no one ever said you only had one shot.

It’s be uncomfortable at first, I promise. Take that as a sign that you’re pushing the boundaries. Soon you’ll begin to see less limitations and more possibilities, and you’ll start to realize something incredible:

You have far more potential than you’ve ever given yourself credit for.

Get out of your own way. You could be sharing your own success story next year.

About the Author:
Susan Lacke used to be a deaf, klutzy, awkward person. Now she’s a deaf, klutzy, awkward writer and Ironman triathlete.



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  1. I needed this today… now I must get out of my own way & make things happen!

  2. Who are the three people mentioned at the beginning of this article?

  3. Thanks – my goal (making it public) is to train for and do a first ever triathlon this year; get out of my own (limiting) way and shine the light within regularly.

  4. Thanks for this Susan. I think that your story is one of the most inspiring of all. I can’t believe you didn’t even mention yourself!

  5. The “refuse to settle for less” step really spoke to me. How true is that!!! I’m always worried that my goals are too lofty but you’re so right! If they’re not hard they’re just a task that I’m completing, something I could do any day of the week and not really feel proud of. So yes I can! Here I go! Watch me! ………….:) Great Post!

  6. Very motivational post! Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes- “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

  7. Citlalli V says:

    Thanks so much! Now, where’s my running stuff?

  8. Great article, I think I’m going to steal…err I mean borrow your mantra.
    Check your link for “the runner” its a bit wonky.

  9. I definitely needed this after speedwork this morning in Tempe. Maybe, a sub 3 hour marathon at Pf Chang’s this year but keep trying if not!

  10. Kristi Clark says:

    Very nice piece!

  11. I signed up for my first half marathon yesterday!!! Thanks for some more encouraging words!

  12. Love it! Thanks for the great article 🙂

  13. Susan,

    I did in fact steal your mantra (I can, I will, and kiss my ass) to get through my 50k trail race this summer. Definitely got me through a race I wasn’t sure I could finish!

    Also, as a side note, I saw Jim Abbott pitch when I was in late middle school/early high school. VERY inspirational, even to a sullen teenager!

  14. I agree that a key to success is a journal. I journaled about my food last month and came to many conclusions about my habits. It was very insightful. I was able to modify my behaviors to be more successful.

  15. Matt! That was awesome! You’re right, we have NO EXCUSES! That’s why I started running again, even after struggling with Sciatica for over a year. The first 2 weeks were so painful, but I went slowly. Now, 3 weeks later, after switching to a Healthy, Guten Free, Sugar-free, Vegan diet, I’m running PAIN FREE
    NO EXCUSES!!!!

  16. Love it! I think I’m also going to have to borrow your mantra for the Ironman. I’m sure the kiss my ass part will help somewhere on the bike.

  17. Mat Grills says:

    WOW! What a great article! It was a super kick in the bum to stop making excuses and that I have the power to change my life…no one else! Thank you for a brutal yet honest story. I will save it in my reading list and read it often to help keep me motivated! Thanks again!

  18. How much do I love this blog? (Answer: a lot.) Thanks so much for the kick in the rear, Susan 🙂

  19. You. Are. Awesome.

    Seriously. You have this way of putting into words an amusing combination of inspiration and ass-kicking. I’ve never seen anything like it.


  20. I soooooo needed this kick in the @$$ today =)

  21. Susan… you inspire me!

    After major injuries received in an accident, I gone farther than most of my doctors ever dreamed I would. I’ve finished 4 half-marathons since they’ve told me they don’t know if I’ll ever walk again.

    But now somedays when I’m tired and my body hurts I want to ‘rest on my laurels’ and not keep trying, but this line of yours has kicked my butt…
    “You see, the biggest mistake a person can make isn’t setting the bar too high — it’s not setting it high enough.”

    Thanks to you …. I wil keep on, keeping on!

    Best wishes to you!!

  22. Fantastic post! We often are our own worst enemy and the only barrier to our goals.

    “You see, the biggest mistake a person can make isn’t setting the bar too high — it’s not setting it high enough.”

    I printed this quote out to keep in my wallet, to keep me motivated.

  23. Monica carten says:

    Thanks Matt,

    I really needed this today. Some days are going to be a grind and others a breeze. Today was the former and that’s ok. I have great a great husband, a great mom and fantastic friends.

  24. Susan,

    Excellent post! Writing about your progress is a pretty inspiring way to see yourself grow! I keep a food and training journal and I love to look back at my old journals to see how far I’ve come!

  25. Amanda Gaden says:

    Surprised there aren’t MORE comments to this! What an awesome blog…and so true. This mom is going to get after it this year – time to model for my daughter what kicking ass looks like. Thanks for putting it all into words!

  26. Great write up Susan. I am in the process of being introduced to a paraplegic who is training for a triathlon. He recently lost has leg from the knee down and is running biking with a prosthetic. Just another example of how anybody can do it if they are determined. The biggest reason why people don’t make a change is the really don’t want to.

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