Thursday, January 3, 2013

What Might Be Holding You Back?

By Ellen M. Diana, Ph.D.

If you haven’t made your list of New Year’s resolutions yet, you’re running out of time!  Thinking about your list can feel energizing or cumbersome depending on your perspective. But most likely, you’ll feel guilty if you don’t make a list, a bit aimless and scattered about your goals and plans for the New Year.

Before you start to work on this pesky list, decide what will make you happy in 2013. What will it take to increase your life satisfaction? What do you desire that is missing from your life, or what areas of your life could improve? Considering these questions will make your list more meaningful and, ultimately, more attainable.

Next, divide your list into personal and professional goals. Be specific and avoid broad statements such as “Get a new job” or “Lose weight.” Instead, list “Explore jobs where I can work out of my home and match or exceed my current salary” or “Exercise for 30 minutes at least twice a week and avoid fast food for lunch.” Be realistic and list goals that are attainable, not “get a college degree” if you haven’t even started a program. Instead, list “explore college programs and apply for entrance” as a goal. Keep your list to ten items or under.  If you reach all your goals mid-year, you can always start a new list or just sit back and enjoy your accomplishments until 2014 rolls around.

Finally, determine what holds you back from reaching your goals. Often personal insecurities, rather than lack of motivation or talent, hold you back from being all you can be. Take the following quiz to determine which of six barriers has the potential to hold you back from being your best self in 2013. The quiz surveys self-esteem, stress management, self-acceptance, relationships, interpersonal boundaries, and positive thinking.  If you’re had difficulty meeting your goals most often it’s due to one of these six barriers.

Self-check Quiz

Take this brief quiz to identify what holds you back from reaching your goals.

Directions: Put a check in front of the items that are true for you. Respond as quickly as possible without over thinking your responses.

_____ 1. I have more weaknesses than strengths.

_____ 2. I worry about the future.

_____ 3. I should change some things about myself.

_____ 4. I feel taken advantage of at home or work.

_____ 5. Sometimes I’m afraid to be honest with others.

_____ 6. I often feel helpless and hopeless about some situations in my life.

_____ 7. I don’t feel positive about my future.

_____ 8. I find it hard to be around others who don’t share my beliefs.

_____ 9. Not many people know the real me.

_____ 10. I feel that people I’m close to should know what I need without my having to tell them.

_____ 11. I often criticize myself.

_____ 12. Sometimes I overreact to situations.

_____ 13. I am not often curious about or interested in others’ ideas and opinions.

_____ 14. I can’t stop thinking about past mistakes or failures.

_____ 15. I feel sad a lot of the time.

_____ 16. I often ask for advice before making a decision.

_____ 17. I tend to avoid dealing with my problems.

_____ 18. I don’t accept compliments or help from others very well.

_____ 19. I feel like I’m good at giving advice.

_____ 20. I am a perfectionist.

_____ 21. I see most people as being very different from me.

_____ 22. I often overlook my body’s signals of stress, anxiety, fatigue, anger, and sadness.

_____ 23. I feel alone and disconnected from others.

_____ 24. I don’t always say what I really mean.

_____ 25. I often use the words “should” or “have to.”

_____ 26. I don’t like the way I look.

_____ 27. I find it hard to relax.

_____ 28. I often skip meals or eat whatever is quick and available.

_____ 29. I worry about pleasing others more than I worry about pleasing myself.

_____ 30. There are some people I just don’t like.


Scoring the Quiz:

Circle the numbers below that correspond to the statements you checked:


C - 11, 16, 18, 26, 28; H - 2, 12, 14, 22, 27; A - 1, 3, 20, 25, 30;

R - 8, 10, 13, 19, 21; G - 4, 5, 9, 24, 29; E - 6, 7, 15, 17, 23.


Low Self-Confidence
Anxiety and Stress
Self-Limiting Beliefs
Conflicted Relationships
Unhealthy Boundaries
Depression and Negative Thinking


Count the number of items in each of the six letter categories and notice the ones that have 2 or more circled. These are the areas that keep you stuck and interfere with your ability to meet your goals for success, happiness, and love.

Notice the categories that have zero or one circled. These areas may be ones in which you have fewer challenges, your areas of strength.

Armed with this knowledge, seek out self-help books and online resources, such as my Charge Up Your Life series of books to acquire the tools to conquer your personal barriers.

Make 2013 your best year ever!

Ellen Diana is a psychologist, author of the Lucky Dreamer Tip Series, and co-author of the Charge up Your Life series of self-help books. She has 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website

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