• Max Linkoff

Why You're Stuck: Personal Development Trends

Updated: Jan 20



Whenever I tell people that I’m a coach, I get asked the same question.


“What are some of the challenges that you see people deal with?”.


My coaching journey has given me the opportunity to work with a number of amazing humans from a range of companies and industries. No matter the client and where we are with our lives, there are clear and consistent themes that tend to pop up.


Specifically, for how and why we get stuck as humans.


Below are 4 personal development trends that I’ve come across in the executive, career, and personal life coaching space. Each trend contains a description to better understand a broader context that may be applicable to you, its impact, and how you can make progress against it.


While each of these themes has been bucketed into 4 groups below, I find from personal experience that it’s inevitable that we face one of them at one point or another, no matter where you are in your personal and professional growth journey.


The difference is having the skills and toolsets to drive awareness to when you’re getting stuck and knowing how to break free from the clutter.


1. You’re Lost in Your Stories


Description: Stories are the falsehoods and dramatizations that we tell ourselves and that play out in our heads for different situations. Think of them as the made-up context and falsehoods that stray far from the realities of what really happened in a situation.


Here’s an example: your boss sends you a message telling you to come to his office.

The story that you create is that you’re in trouble, did something wrong, and are about to get some tough feedback.


Here’s another: you struggled in a past career role and that experience haunts you.

The story that you’ve created is that any time you look to apply for a new role or role outside of your comfort zone, the perception that you’ll fail stays in the forefront of your thinking, so you don’t end up applying at all.


Impact: The stories we tell ourselves have a direct impact on our mindset and how we manage the little voice in our heads. When we get lost in a made-up interpretation of what we think happened, our judgment can get cloudy, anxiety can increase, and our ability to think clearly and take the appropriate action for a given situation can be crippled. Even worse, it can mentally paralyze you depending on how deep into the story you take yourself.


What to do: Stories get you lost in your own tracks and sometimes, the simplest solution is restating or writing down the facts of a situation that happened and that you’re playing out in your mind. It’s an excellent way to bring peace and calm and to delineate between what happened versus what you may be making up for a situation.


2. You’re Not Leading, Your Ego Is


Description: Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly depending on your outlook, even the humblest of us can be influenced by our ego when it comes to decision making. We don’t take an action because it won’t make us look good and/or, it doesn’t benefit the sense of power we’re looking for.


Prideful tendencies are nothing new in human nature. The important question is how often do those prideful tendencies negatively impact our growth and ability to provide support among those within our working or personal bubbles?


Impact: Our ego can be downright blinding when it comes to decision making. It’s almost as if it causes you to run a sprint while blindfolded.


Not only does it tend to drive selfish leadership for team scenarios (doing what’s best for you because it can make you look better), but ensuring your ego is stroked usually prevents the right action from being taken. These are the ones that will likely drive personal or professional growth.


The more you lean into taking actions to fulfill your pride, the more likely you are to put guardrails on the positive and growth-oriented roads you can take in life.


What to do: Separating ego from reality is no easy task. A simple question I like to ask clients and myself is “what action would you take if ego didn’t matter”?.


Would you take a ‘lesser’ position and title at an amazing new company if it meant getting your foot on the door?

Would you take responsibility for an action that could benefit how you, your team, and/or direct reports or manager work together?


3. You’re Struggling to Take Action with all of the Activity in Your Mind


Description: What happens when you’re a high performing individual and have too much wrapped in your head? You may fall victim to executive order dysfunction, which is a loss of ability to take action. While you may have an idea about a future action and/or decision that needs to be made, your ability to do so gets crippled.


Impact: While there is a scale for how executive order dysfunction may affect you, having too many thoughts and ideas running around in your brain for your personal and professional life can prevent even the best of us to plan, take action, and conclude on the right decision to move forward. You may know what needs to happen, but your ability to decide on where and how to start can be clouded, causing you to get stuck. Failure to keep your brain in tip-top shape and find ways to sort through the swarm of activity may also increase that activity overload feeling in your mind.


What to do: The power of a sounding board can be invaluable for breaking through the internal clutter that is trapping you in your feet. Practically speaking, working with an executive coach who understands your professional and personal context can be invaluable for helping you to work through whatever indecisive thoughts may be swirling in your head. Think of this as a dance between yourself and a coach, where the coach should ask you several powerful questions to help you break through where you may be stuck and to ultimately empower you to make the best decision to move forward. That is just one of the dividends that a client-coaching relationship will serve you as it grows.


Don’t have a coach, a simple exercise of Morning Pages, or writing all of your thoughts down on paper can make that overwhelming feeling feel more manageable and even lead to the “aha” moment for how to move forward.


4. Your Learner and Growth Mindset Muscle is Still Developing


Description: Sometimes the opportunities and challenges that we’re willing to take on are driven directly by our approach to failure and growth. A Fixed Mindset, the opposite of a Growth Mindset, stifles your potential and learning abilities as you stick to either what you know or what can make you successful. Leading with your ego falls into this category — you know what you know and are only willing to take on opportunities that will ensure a successful outcome and stroke your pride.


Other times, the questions that we ask ourselves for given situations can dictate our mindset for those situations — and how we respond to them. When faced with adversity, do you ask yourself questions around your own skills and ability (Can I do this? What’s wrong with me?) or do you look for an outlet to deflect blame (What’s wrong with him/her? Why can’t they get their work done? How can I prove I’m right)? If so, you may be leading with a Judger Mindset.


If a Growth Mindset is more of a macro mindset, then a Learner Mindset is a micro context and mentality that we can employ to stay consistent with our day-to-day outcomes. They are complementary in nature.


Impact: Our approach to growth and our ability to ask ourselves positive oriented questions — a Learner Mindset — have a direct impact on our approach for creating positive outcomes for ourselves both personally and professionally. A Fixed Mindset that leans Judger will result in a loss of professional growth and the ability to lead and empower those around you. A Judger Mindset alone and an inability to recognize when your thoughts have become negative in nature can also make confrontations challenging and lead to a loss in personal confidence for handling adversity. From a personal perspective, Judger questions can even impact your social capital, which is essential for the moral and mental support that serves as a foundation for success in our lives.


What to Do: To tackler a Learner vs. Judger Mindset, start paying attention to the questions that you’re asking yourself internally. Are they positive oriented in nature? Do they lead to win-win situations for yourself and those around you? Or do they feel more negative, blame, and judge oriented? The more awareness you place into the type of questions that you’re asking yourself, the more you’ll be able to get yourself on a Learner Mindset that is growth-oriented in nature, creating endless opportunities for growth in your life. More information on a Growth vs. Fixed Mindset can be found here.

To recap, here are the 4 most common personal development trends that I have seen through my own personal experience and coaching journey. These include:


1. Getting lost in your stories

2. Leading with your ego

3. Struggling to take action without a sounding board

4. Leaning into a Fixed and Judger Mindset


If any of these personal development trends are relevant for you in your life, don’t sweat it.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, avoiding them altogether is nearly impossible. What you can do, though, is start to work towards minimizing the impact and bring awareness to the areas that cause you to be stuck.


Ready to take action and start your journey with a coach who can empower you to break through the clutter to address these and other areas? I’d love to chat more and see how we can work together. Send me an email at max@maxlinkoff.com.

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