I spend a great deal of time holding myself back. How do I stop it?

I spend a great deal of time holding myself back. How do I stop it? –@wiztrader

The structure of your question is revealing. The two question marks. As if your own body (“holding myself back”) is totally out of your control. The use of the word “it”, again implying your inability to move forward is somehow an “it”, outside of you, controlling you.

So let’s ask: what is controlling you?

I will tell you. Your parents are. Your friends are. Your spouse is. Your job is. Your colleagues are. Your children are. So many people have expectations of you. Each one draws a circle around you. You can’t move beyond each person’s circle without disappointing their expectations.

And so where can you stand? You stand in the center, in the tiniest circle of all, the tiny circle that is the intersection of all the many circles drawn around you.

You need to step out of the circles. Forget about “it” for a second. There is no “it”. There is you. You need to step out of those circles but it’s not so easy. You’ve just spent the first half of your life keeping inside of them.

To step out in one second is impossible (or , at the very least, hard).

You are now a spy. A spy on your own life. There are enemies everywhere, keeping track of your position. You must attempt to fool them.

Do something a little different. Fingerpaint. Take the wrong subway. Go vegetarian for a week. Leave in the middle of the day and don’t comeback. Go to a museum instead. Write a one page novel. Give advice to someone who didn’t ask for it and doesn’t want it. My favorite: return an email from 2007. Start it: “Sorry for the small delay.” Write an email to someone you hate and say, “How’s it going today?”

You can’t jump forward until you learn how to step forward. To step forward you have to start breaking through these tight circles wrapped around you. You have to practice what it’s like to move outside the circles.

In the movie THX-1138 (George Lucas, pre Star Wars), all of the inhabitants of the underworld are told the world above has been destroyed by radiation. So they have to live in this tightly controlled 1984ish world with tight controls. The main characters, as they do, fall in love. They are chased for breaking the rules. Eventually they hit above ground and realize it is not wracked with radiation. It is, in fact, a paradise.

Give yourself time. Practice stepping outside the circles. Eventually you will break free into the above world. And nothing will ever hold you back again.