Overcoming Mental Barriers to Success

By Stephen T. Messenger

May 3, 2022

Last week I had my first, and hopefully last, positive COVID-19 test.

I was on a work trip staying in a hotel. On Monday night, a COVID truck ran over me and then backed up just for fun. It left me lying there out of breath and lacking the mental energy to beat it.

Tuesday morning, I went to the urgent care center and received my badge of honor, a positive COVID test.

I walked out defeated.

This put a full stop to my trip. I felt miserable; couldn’t swallow food, liquid, or medicine; and my family was over a thousand miles away.

Slinking back to the hotel after grabbing the bare minimum of Advil, cough drops, Jell-o (more of a childhood placebo), bananas, and chicken noodle soup, my spirits were at an all-time low. I was done.

Wednesday morning, I went to the emergency room. I was dehydrated, couldn’t sleep, had coughing fits, and felt horrible. While there, they gave me an IV bag and some antibiotics. Physically, it was some help.

But the doctor at the hospital did something that the care center didn’t. He saw I had a mental barrier towards feeling better, and he verbally pumped me up. He said that I can beat this by staying positive and using deliberate self-care.

That last part wasn’t medical advice but mental advice. I went back to my hotel with a different mindset than the day before. While physically the same, I walked out of the hospital mentally prepared to win. COVID was not going to have its day!

I attacked staying hydrated even through it really hurt to swallow. I forced down chicken noodle soup. I ran a load of laundry for fresh clothes and faced COVID with a renewed mental state.

Nothing changed physically from Tuesday to Wednesday except for my mindset, and with that, everything changed.

Your Employees Have Mental Barriers

If you look around your office and family, you’ll see some people that have mental barriers to certain tasks, maybe even their whole job. It’s easy to pick out some of the easy ones—disgruntled, upset, and angry. It’s harder to find the subtle barriers such as aversion to challenges, a feeling of non-appreciation, or a fear of change.

A leader’s job is to identify ways of breaking down these mental barriers in people. Some examples are:

Manage Emotions. Many times, people are blocked by their emotions. They feel hopeless or like failures. A large obstacle can paralyze people. My COVID diagnosis with a limited support system made me feel mentally worse than I should have. They need you to help calm their emotions.

Refresh Them. Some people are exhausted physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually. This can happen for various reasons. Leaders need to assess if any of those reasons are work related and deal with them. Talk about these issues. The IV physically refreshed me enough to get me moving on my own self-care.

Provide Purpose. We all need purpose in our lives to feel valued and important. Who in your organization does not feel valued, and how do you get them there? The ER visit gave me a renewed sense of purpose by telling me to stop letting COVID happen and actively manage it.   

Build Them Up. Encouragement is a powerful weapon. Your job is to inspire and influence others to meet their maximum standard and full potential. Positive words build others up more than you know, especially from a boss. My mental energy changed out of the hospital visit because the doctor built me up to defeat this sickness. Words change lives!

It’s like one of those lawnmowers you start with a pull cord.  Leaders need to pull the cord of their employees to get them moving on their own. After that, they just run themselves.

Rich Roll was 50 pounds overweight and an alcoholic at age 40. After realizing the danger, he embarked on a journey of fitness. Ten years later, Rich was an Ironman triathlete and recognized by Men’s Fitness as one of the top 25 fittest men in the world. He says:

“Understand that mood follows action. The way to change your mental and physical state is to take the action first, not wait for your emotional state to change first.”

Sometimes all it takes is you inspiring and influencing others to overcome a mental barrier. Who have you influenced today?

Lead well!

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