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Having a goal or following a dream provides us the motivation and aspiration to achieve what we want. But how many times have you realised something’s holding you back? You’re just not nailing it.

Something’s afoot and sometimes we don’t know what this is, and sometimes we do, but don’t want to acknowledge it because it’s too big, too frightening or pushes us out of our comfort zone.

The biggest obstacle – what’s holding us back – is often us and being afraid to let go.

I’ve recently come back from a four-day business retreat. It was time out to invest in myself, and my business.

Day three was an “activities day” that we were deliberately kept in the dark about what this would entail. We had collectively imagined this would be some kind of team building activity. I’d geared myself up for the possibility of rock-climbing, abseiling or even zip lining and as someone with a long standing fear of heights this was taking up a considerable amount of head space as we drove towards our unknown destination.

My worst fears were confirmed when we found ourselves in a forest clearing standing in front of a series of high ropes, a bright blue ball suspended from the canopy and an upended log with a series of metal footholds.

As the instructor was advising how to put on the safety harness and how tight to wear our helmet, I was screaming silently, “Nooooooooooo!”

All we had to do was skim up the pole, stand on the top, let go of the rope and leap off the top to touch the blue ball before being lowered gently to the ground by our colleagues.

No sweat, except I get vertigo 2 metres off the ground and this was closer to 12. The long distant memory of having to be rescued as an eight year old by my father who found me on all fours clinging to the grass on the side of Cissbury Ring, a hill fort on the South Downs in the UK, terrified I was going to be blown off the hill by the wind.

So my first response to the pole climb challenge was “No way, Hosé!”

Having then watched my team-mates struggle with their fear, the jelly legs and succeed I thought, “Stuff it, maybe if I keep my eyes closed I can make it a little way up that pole.”

Having managed a couple of steps, my brain then started over thinking the challenge and I stopped. This was a bad move because once the momentum was lost; my ability to overcome my fear was also gone.

The wood of the pole was surprisingly warm and smooth. I felt quite safe clinging on with my eyes closed and happy to wait a bit while I gathered my wits to consider how the heck I was going to get down as I hadn’t noticed a cherry picker on the way in.

Meanwhile, I had helpful advice coming from different directions with the Instructor speaking in a commanding voice telling me I HAD to sit back in my harness, let go and swing off the pole so my team-mates could lower me to the ground.

Let go???

That sounded like such a ridiculously preposterous idea. I continued to sit holding on to my warm pole, wishing the whole thing would go away and turn out just to be a bad dream.

“You look like a koala, Jenny,” my teammates said.

Good grief.

Conscious I was holding up proceedings I tortuously peeled off one limb at a time and finally let go, swinging with a bit of a squeak (it may possibly have been a shriek) until I found myself safely on terra firma.

Successful mission?

Well as a pole climb it was pretty pathetic.

However, as a tussle with those inner demons, I was pretty happy. I had climbed higher than I ever climbed previously before.

I had total trust in my colleagues to keep me safe. What held me back was my limiting self-belief and irrational fear.

What do you find hard to let go of?

Is it the belief in your own ability?

Is it your attitude to what success looks like?

Are you a winner takes all and the loser nothing kind of person, or someone who sees failure as something to learn from in order to be better next time?

Are you clinging onto a relationship that no longer serves you because the fear of loss feels greater than the relief of freedom?

Do your behaviours in challenging situations currently reflect your outcomes? If those outcomes aren’t what you were hoping for – how can you change that?

We are creatures of habit in thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Our brain is a prediction machine constantly searching for patterns of familiarity that keep us feeling safe.

Uncertainty, a closed mind or behaviours that indicate a lack of trust in ourselves make it harder to be the best version of ourselves.

This isn’t about the pole climb.

It’s all about the awareness of self and understanding that fear is normal because the brain’s primary objective is to keep you safe.

Challenging those thoughts and self limiting beliefs allows us to become open to the idea that it’s inherently possible to change our outcome if and when we’re open to letting go of what is no longer serving us.

It isn’t easy.

Our brains like to keep us tightly wrapped in the safety blanket of what we have learned keeps us safe.

Switching to be curious around what would it would look like to stand on the top of that darn pole, shifts our thinking and psychology from fear to the excitement of stretching ourselves further than we ever thought possible.

The beauty of being more brain aware is you can focus your neuroplasticity towards shifting your mindset and the eventual reward of achieving your true potential.

What do you find difficult to let go of?

What’s holding you back?

Is it an emotion, a thinking process, a relationship or a habit?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, keynote speaker and best-selling author. You can now pre-order her new book ‘The Natural Advantage’ due for publication in October 2024.

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