Inside and outside

When we’re talking about the things that get us stuck, there are two kinds of things that come up a lot. People name this division a lot of ways: pragmatic/emotional and hard/soft come up a lot. I don’t especially love either of those divisions though — since when is emotional stuff not hard?! — so I’m going to suggest another one.

Outside obstacles are ones that have to do with the world around us: things or information or skills that we need but don’t have, like I need Jane’s phone number to set up our appointment. For me, it’s important not to get on my own case about whether something should be an obstacle: if I need it and don’t have it, it’s currently standing in my way. That’s all. Sometimes, even the act of identifying what these outside obstacles are can help: many things seem less intimdating when made concrete.

Inside obstacles are ones that only have to do with us: the fears and hopes and desires that we need to address in order to move forward in a way that feels safe. These too are sometimes helped simply by being named, or by being gently addressed using some of the tools we talk about here.

Almost always, of course, any given hurdle has both inside and outside aspects: if I don’t have Jane’s phone number, maybe I’m embarrassed to ask Joan for it, or maybe I’m worried about the appointment for some reason. Sometimes, we can push ourselves to just get past the hard obstacle, but if it’s one of those things that has been floating on our to-do list for months, chances are that it’s something we need to address the inside pieces of first. When we’ve directly approached our fear or anxiety, then the outside obstacles conveniently start to seem much smaller and easier to move past.

Tell me about something you’re stuck on that has both outside and inside aspects. If you take a moment to breathe, can you find the next right thing to do so you can get to where the outside obstacles aren’t so obstacle-like?

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