7 Mental Barriers for Leaders

June 3, 2013

Breaking Mental BarriersBreaking mental barriers can be a struggle for even the most agile leaders. You spend a lifetime building walls around beliefs and a worldview that gets you certain, predictable outcomes. You stay within the walls of your worldview and you enjoy success. But when you’re confronted by a new obstacle or set a new goal, you suddenly struggle. You feel like you’re banging your head against a wall. Sometimes the wall feels like it’s outside of you, and sometimes it feels like you’re part of the wall itself.

7 Mental Barriers:

  1. Not enough space to think
  2. Too many distractions
  3. Too narrowly focused on the goal
  4. Focused on the problem and not the goal
  5. Limiting beliefs
  6. Confirmation bias
  7. Assumption bias

Some of these barriers are easier to overcome than others. You may be able to limit distractions or give yourself space to think. You may be able to pull yourself away from a myopic view of the problem or the goal. But limiting beliefs, confirmation bias, and assumption bias are trickier because they lie within.

Dr. Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, offers two powerful questions to ask yourself or your people to break through these tough mental barriers.

What is impossible that if possible would make all the difference to solving this situation?

When you have a clear answer then ask,

How would you make that possible?

The first question will help get some clear, out-of-the-box thinking that has not been available for the person stuck breaking the mental barriers. The second question makes the apparently impractical suggestions practical.

The Just Ask Approach

When confronting a mental barrier, start with questions (the Just Ask approach). The answers will come once you’ve found the right questions.

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