The One Thing You Keep Doing That Will Forever Hold You Back

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'd be willing to bet if I asked you what you did this morning, 80% of what you did was the same as what you did yesterday morning, and the morning before, and the morning before that.

And if I asked you about the current political situation, you'd tell me the same thing you tell yourself or anyone you with whom you discuss politics.

And were you to pass the neighbor who bugs you so much because he leaves his trash cans on the street, you'd probably have the same thoughts about him as you did the last time you saw him (0r his trash cans).

Or if you wake up in a bad mood or feeling depressed, you likely believe your thoughts that the day is bad and that life in general doesn't meet your expectations.

Or if I were to suggest my spiritual beliefs and practices hold the most truth, you would likely feel defensive and prickly and protective of your beliefs and practices.

So you might be wondering right now where all of my know-it-all statements are leading. They are leading to this:

The one thing you keep doing that will forever hold you back is doing the same thing.

If you keep doing, believing, acting, expecting, and accepting the same things day in and day out, you are living a life of foolish consistency and mindless repetition. Mindless repetition causes stagnation.

And of course stagnation prevents us from living to our fullest potential — to a more complete expression of our true selves. It keeps us tethered to the status quo.

Think of it this way: if some authority person required that for the rest of your life, you must follow the same routine every day, profess the same beliefs, view people in a certain way, and believe everything you think, you would resist it kicking and screaming. You'd lodge a complaint about the infringement on your rights and personal freedoms.

But look at how we do this to ourselves.

We entrap ourselves in a box of repetitive actions and beliefs even as we deeply long for freedom, authenticity, and self-expression.

I'm not trying to shame you personally here. We all do this. We all have our own personal operating systems that, in many ways, serve us well and reflect at least part of our authentic selves. We know what to expect, we have our routines, we espouse our beliefs, and this makes us feel safe and defined. We need these things to some extent for our mental health.

We entrap ourselves in a box of repetitive actions and beliefs even as we deeply long for freedom, authenticity, and self-expression.

But — and this is hugely important — you must recognize there is more than one truth or reality in every situation, thought, and belief.

While you are going about your morning routine, perhaps grabbing your coffee and rushing out the door to get into traffic, there are others who wake up to have a family breakfast or take a morning walk or meditate.

While you see the selfish man who leaves his trash cans on the street too long, he is inside tending to his wife who has cancer.

While you believe the path to God or truth or enlightenment is a one way path, many others believe the same — except they are on an entirely different path.

While you might perceive the world on a given day as dangerous or difficult, others are experiencing it as beautiful or fulfilling.

All of us perceive life through the filter of our own personal operating systems. So for the most part, reality and truth are very personal. What is real and true for you may not be real and true for me.

We develop our personal operating systems beginning in childhood and construct them year after year based on . . .

  • influences and beliefs passed on from our parents;
  • peer pressure;
  • societal and media influence and expectations;
  • our life and work experiences;
  • the routines and expectations of our spouse or partner;
  • the community, region, or city in which we live;
  • and our natural personality traits and inclinations.

So by the time we reach adulthood, we have habits, beliefs, and behaviors that are entrenched. They might shift and change slightly over time, but usually it takes some event or major life shake-up to make that happen — a job change, a move, getting married, getting divorced, having children, someone dying, etc.

But think of what we might be missing by only following our daily routines, choosing the same kind of friends, believing the same beliefs, listening to our same negative thoughts, and accepting the same messages that flood our brains every day.

Is it possible that there might be many truths and realities and ways of perceiving the world? Could it be that by remaining entrenched in your operating system, you are missing the biggest, most exciting party of a lifetime?

I know all of the reasons (excuses) for remaining steadfast to the status quo. I have (and continue to) use them myself.

  • People will think I'm crazy.
  • I'll have to admit I was wrong.
  • It will feel strange and uncomfortable.
  • I just know I'm right about this one.
  • No one I know does it that way.
  • My family would disapprove.
  • Why fix it if it ain't broke.
  • I don't think I'll like that.
  • This is the way I've always done it.
  • I've done all the research.
  • You don't really understand how I feel.
  • I'm too old (too young, too busy, too something) to change.
  • I'm happy the way things are.
  • That's not my style.
  • I heard it on the news (or read it on the internet).

Could it be that by remaining entrenched in your operating system, you are missing the biggest, most exciting party of a lifetime?

What if — just what if — there were something more for you, something better, something more aligned with your deepest desires and true self?

What if you really like oatmeal after years of eating toast?

What if you learn more about trash can man and decide you really like him?

What if you visit a different place of worship and take away something profound?

What if you investigate a different political perspective and see some truth in it?

What if you decide to ignore negative thoughts and count your blessings instead?

What if someone suggests something new and you release your knee-jerk resistance and try it anyway?

What if the guy on the street asking for money doesn't want to buy booze after all but really is hungry?

What if you are able to learn the piano, pass the course, switch careers, make the speech, or write that book?

What if you really would look better as a blonde rather than a brunette?

What if everything you know and do and believe is only a tiny portion of the truth or maybe even holds no truth at all?

I know change is hard and scary. But if you change just one thing about your life, change the way you feel about change.

Instead of resisting it, embrace it.

Instead of accepting, challenge.

Instead of challenging, accept.

Instead of staying on the path, take a detour.

Instead of seeing ugliness, look for beauty.

Instead of talking, listen.

Instead of saying no, say yes.

Start small by challenging or changing little pieces of your life and beliefs. Have oatmeal instead of toast. Go a different route to work. Have a conversation with trash can man. Ask someone to tell you about their faith or political beliefs. Turn off the TV and write a poem.

What will happen is one of two things:

A. You will learn something, become intrigued, get excited, feel enthused, and feel more like yourself and decide to change permanently, or . . .

B. You will learn something, expand your thinking, stretch yourself, and decide you prefer the way you've been doing it or believing it previously.

Either way, you have become an active creator rather than a passive acceptor. You have become conscious of what you truly want for your life.

But remember, you can't try just once and then run back to safe ground if you feel uncomfortable. Accept that discomfort is a natural part of shaking things up and making change. Try to ignore the discomfort and pay attention to your surroundings and reactions. You were probably nervous before your first kiss, but think what you'd have missed if you stopped because of nerves!

I know if you are reading a personal development site like Live Bold and Bloom, you have the desire to grow and evolve into your most authentic and joyful self. You want to reach your fullest potential — or at least a fuller potential. Who doesn't want that?

Rather than allow your life, your thoughts, and your choices to happen on autopilot, challenge and shake up everything around you. When the dust settles, you might discover there's very little that can hold you back.

For additional reading: here's a lovely free eBook called Reaching Your Full Potential that you can download right now.

Reaching Your Full Potential

If you want to discover The Simple Step-by-Step Formula That Finally Reveals Your True Passion, I invite you to join my 4-week interactive course, The Path to Passion.

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 19 comments

What an amazing post!! I’ve read it all at once 🙂 You wrote the things that I was thinking but that I couldn’t find a way to express. Thank you for this amazing article. Thank you, thank you, thank you 🙂

    Barrie Davenport

    You are so, so welcome Yevheniya! I am so happy you found it useful.


This is a must read material for all. At least you will learn something about change. BN: none of us can do without change. Even God change sometimes change His methods.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Daniel,
    Yes, change will happen whether we instigate it or not! So we might as well change in ways that seem good for us.

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Beautifully written. Great insight, especially with regard to the importance of perspective.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Tony,

    Thank you so much! I’m so glad you liked it.

Chu Nam

We also know everything happen cause by some reasons. So what you know about reasons? or something that we don’t know exactly about that, we really need check it if we want do something with it. We only don’t interested in it when we ignore it. So what really important we need check and know what is reason. Then difference action make by you will easy more before.


Hey Barrie,

Amazing read! I loved the part in which you expose us as the guardians of our own mind prison. I try to challenge the boundaries of my comfort zone all the time, but sometimes it’s just too easy to fall for your long entrenched routines…. Good wake-up call!


    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Cornelius,
    Oh, I love that expression — “our own mind prison.” That’s exactly what it is. Keep challenging those boundaries. A little push goes a long way!


I love this idea. I tend to hide in my routines and recently have had an issue where I chose to trust in something rather than look for flaws. I still have negative, mistrustful thoughts creeping in…but I choose to view this situation as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. Having faith that something will work out in the end is hard when the present moment seems difficult. A great reminder that how we choose to view something/someone can so powerful. It can change your life to shake things up, and the shift is incredible when you choose your own reactions and thoughts.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Marley,
    It can change your life. Ever since I read Byron Katie’s books on “The Work,” I’ve been challenging all of my actions and beliefs. I don’t hold “The Truth” for anything. There are so many versions of the truth.


Perfect article with perfect advice at the perfect time! I love this!
I’m at a cross roads in my life with a huge need for drastic change, here are some beautiful inspirations to make that happen:)
Thank you, thank you thank you:))

    Barrie Davenport

    I’m so glad this came to you at just the right time Cheyenne. Isn’t it cool when that happens?!


I agree as well as I disagree to this post. I agree to the part that we need to change our way of doing things in a routine to get to something new. As someone has said, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got”. So, if I am in doldrums now, and I keep doing those things that put me there, I will always be there and there will not be any way out. I agree to this part.

But what I disagree is that you always have to change the routine. Now if I am in a path of progress, if I have discovered a way of life, a routine that elevates my state, then it is better for me to keep practicing that routine than to change it just for the sake of change.

    Barrie Davenport

    Hi Braja,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I don’t think you always have to change the routine. But you should always be mindful that change is an option and that there is more that one way to act or believe. We all need routines to keep our lives in order. And we find some routines that work well for us. But it is something we should revisit regularly so we can continue to grow and evolve.


Ahh I love this post! That’s exactly what I am working on this year! I drive to work a different way as often as possible, hang out with new friends and try new restaurants. It’s been very challenging. It’s so comforting to have a routine. But, I must say that in the past three months of working on branching out, it has made 2013 a much more interesting and dynamic year. I feel much more open to new ideas and people and it has also increased my patience. Thanks so much for expressing this idea.

    Barrie Davenport

    That is so wonderful Jilayne. It does help stretch you to get out of routines and comfort zones.

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