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What's holding you back?

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It's easy to sit through life, battening down the emotional hatches when a tough choice comes your way. Sometimes it's simpler and less stressful to do nothing at all than to make a fool of yourself with the wrong decision. But while not upsetting the status quo might seem the safe option, it can often mean letting life happen to you - a life that you didn't want and isn't making you happy.

`Nearly everyone who comes to me has a big decision to make: says top life coach Liz Wilde. `Whether it's changing careers or countries, clients are terrified they'll make the wrong choice and mess up their lives forever. My job is to ask the kind of questions that draw the right answer out of every client. It's always in there - they just don't know it yet!'

To help you face those tough decisions and put yourself on the path to an exciting future, Liz Wilde has compiled a simple 11-step plan - and it's a system you can use again and again. Take your time to answer each question and note anything that feels important along the way. You may be amazed at what comes up.

1 What do I really want? It sounds obvious, but you can't get what you want if you don't know what that is. Take some time to think about what's most important to you and then base your decision on whether it supports these values. Enjoy being part of a team? Then you won't be happy giving up your job and working freelance from home. Love the closeness of family and friends? Then that job in New York will make you miserable, no matter how glamorous it sounds on paper.

2 What stops me from doing this? Often the fear of not being successful stops you taking any action at all. That old saying `If you don't try, you can't fail' may be true, but the opposite is even more so. If you don't try, though, you will never get what you want. Which leads to the next question...

3 What is the worst that can happen? We all have over-active imaginations that visualise the most terrible things, but look at your decision more calmly, and the worst is probably not nearly as bad as you first thought. If you can handle that, then you have absolutely nothing to fear.

4What is my inaction costing me? Moving forward may be a risk, but what about the cost of staying put? While you're waiting to make that all-important decision, you're probably feeling bored, sad and disappointed. Chances are any action - while potentially scary - will, emotionally, cost you much less.

5 What is really going on? It's not easy to see the big picture when your day is a continuous to-do list. And who wants to slow down if it means examining what's going on below the surface? But, scary though it sounds, challenging your beliefs can be good for you. Old assumptions (I'm not bright/beautiful/brave enough) protect you from change and are usually based on things that happened to you 10, 15, even 20 years ago. But a belief is just a thought you keep thinking. Isn't it time you chose a more positive one, based on evidence that's relevant right now?

6 Do I have to do it perfectly or not at all? Being a perfectionist makes life complicated, as nothing is ever quite right or good enough. Wait for the perfect job/man/time and you'll never take action. Labelling yourself a perfectionist is also a great excuse for doing nothing unless the outcome is guaranteed. So who told you everything you do has to be perfect? And does this person still have the right to affect your life? Chances are your perfectionism doesn't bring you happiness, so take the pressure off and start making imperfect choices. Action may mean making a few mistakes, but they'll rarely be fatal.

7 What is the easiest way? Very often we focus on what we should be doing rather than what comes easily to us. Life is hard enough, without ignoring our strengths, so ask yourself what the simplest solution could be. What have you got already that can help you move forward without a need to step into the unknown?

8 Am I prepared to work hard to make it happen? Changing your life takes energy and commitment, which can seem too exhausting from a distance. But staying where you are can drain your energy far faster than any new challenge. The choice is yours.

9What excuses am I using to stay in my comfort zone? Our instinct for security is often greater than for success, and the status quo feels familiar and safe even when it's bad for you, which is why we come up with all kinds of excuses for our lack of action. Are you blaming someone else or yourself? We let the past predict the future (`I've never been lucky with men so why should this time be any different?'), or give ourselves a label (procrastinator is a firm favourite) that conveniently lets us off the hook. But all excuses like these really do is excuse you from doing what could make you very happy.

10 Am I waiting for something to happen? It may seem easier to wait for the decision to be taken out of your hands, but when you hope or expect something (or someone) to happen, you set yourself up for constant disappointment. What you're actually doing is pushing responsibility (and your power to change things) onto something or someone else, giving you no control. A word of warning - those who wait usually get what no one else wants.

11 What can I do right now? Some decisions seem so big you feel overwhelmed just thinking about the changes. But who said you have to do everything all at once? Break the action up into smaller steps and suddenly it becomes much less alarming. What's the one thing you can do today that will bring you closer to where you want to be? When you're stuck, doing something (anything!) will help change your perspective. You may just find all your fears are unfounded...

(c) Liz Wilde     Back to Features