If you’re struggling to achieve your goals, the problem may not be your motivation; it might be your choices. Here’s how to grow your career on your own terms.

Is it like you have a big goal to achieve in your career but there’s something which is constantly holding you back? Something that’s holding you back from pursuing your dream job or starting that business you’ve always dreamed of, or thwarting the progress you’d like to make.

If you find your answers to these questions begin with the words, “I have to,” it’s time to look at your reasons from a different angle.

Your choices are holding you back!

Yes, that’s true! The tough-love truth about the “have-tos” in your life is that most of your obligations are nothing but choices. These “have-tos” are not forced on you at all but are a result of choices that you have made.

Do you think you “have to” continue on an undesirable career path just because it’s getting you a handsome paycheck every month? For finding more freedom to find a job that you actually enjoy, you may have to compromise on that expensive Honda Civic or all those modern electronics cluttering up your home. You may also “have to” quit traveling for a while because you can’t afford it until you achieve your career goal.

Each of your obligations hinges on a choice you’ve made and, often, one you continue to make. You might have not have made it consciously — you might have automatically fallen into that routine because it’s how everyone else does it — but it is a choice.

If you’re happy with your choices, good for you. But if you’re not, it could be the right time to realize and start choosing differently.

Learn to say “No” to things!

Now that you have realized what your obligations really are, it’ll become much easier for you to say “No” to anything that doesn’t truly help you get where you want to be.

Saying “No” to poisonous relationships; this includes people who are keeping you from pursuing your dreams.

It also includes saying “No” to those opportunities that everyone out there thinks you’re crazy to pass up. This will get you some time to pursue what really matters to you.

Whenever you find yourself short on time, money or motivation, ask yourself this question: What’s holding me back from doing what I so passionately want to? And how can I treat those obligations as what they really are: choices?

If you say you never could do that, you certainly never will. Every one of those obligations is a choice. Getting up in the morning is a choice. Taking your kids to that game, going to work. You face hundreds of choices every day, and you just keep saying ‘yes, yes, yes’ to them. And that’s great, and that’s what gets you through the day and gets you success. But there’s also the choice to sometimes say, ‘I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to work every day of my life.

If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Living purposefully takes effort. It requires swimming against the tide. It means making unconventional and often unpopular decisions. It requires consistently checking in with yourself to make sure you’re making conscious decisions about where you want to go, rather than letting the tide carry you.

But in the end, it’s worth it. Because you’re creating the life you want, not the one your neighbor wants or the one your family wants for you or the one society says you should want.

Choose your obligations wisely, so they don’t keep you from living in a way that makes you happy.

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