Why You Haven’t Broken Through to the Next Level in Your Life

By: Jim Murphy


  1. Most of us spend most of our lives playing at a level well below our abilities.
  2. Here’s three reasons why:
    1. We don’t really know ourselves.
    2. We’re too afraid to let go of our past.
    3. We’re too afraid of getting hurt or being disappointed (to dream big dreams).
  3. If you want to get to the next level in your life, you have to increase self-awareness, let go of your past (and the identity you’ve held on to), and get better at managing your feelings and fears.


“It’s surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you’re not comfortable within yourself, you can’t be comfortable with others.” – Sydney J. Harris, journalist

How many people do you know who’s confidence doesn’t match their abilities? Or perhaps their level of achievement is well below their skill level? Perhaps it’s you?

Here’s three primary reasons why:

  1. You don’t know yourself and your situation well enough to know what’s holding you back and you’re likely unaware of what’s possible for you.
  2. You’ve been holding on to your past and thus haven’t been able to go forward with the extra weight you’re carrying.
  3. You’re too afraid or too unskilled to manage your most scary feelings.

Increase your self-awareness

So there’s some big questions…

  • What’s your dream?
  • What do you want most?
  • How do you want to feel in your life?
  • What’s your life purpose?

And some important learnings…

  • Your heart’s greatest need is for unconditional love (most people in Western culture spend their entire lives trying to be successful so they can feel loved).
  • You are not your mind. It’s a part of you that needs to be trained.
  • Self-mastery is mastery of the ego–that part of your mind that’s always threatened, always comparing, and never satisfied.
  • Most people spend most of their waking lives in some form of judgment: about themselves, others, or their results and circumstances. They live in constant reaction instead of creation.

Perhaps the biggest limitation to self-awareness is being too afraid to get critical feedback on personal weaknesses (or unaware of the need) and/or the lack of ability to get people to be brutally honest with you.

Let go of the past

One of the primary reasons we have difficulty letting go of the past is because we’ve attached our identity to it. We go through life and latch on to certain achievements or status points and that becomes how we see ourselves (and feel ok about ourselves).

In order to get to the next level we have to let go of those things, but that means going through seasons in your life where you’ve got nothing to hold on to, no role or achievement or person to say you’re ok.

A boat, as you may have heard, is safe in the port, but that’s not what it’s built for. It’s built to be on the open ocean, hit by waves, tossed in the wind, knocked sideways and re-stabilized. Too often I’ve gotten in the boat and sat in the port, too afraid to untether and head into the unknown, where great learnings and beauties await.

In Western culture we’ve been brainwashed to think that life is about comfort and happiness and getting my desires met, when the truth is that those three things are often the biggest obstacles to living a meaningful, fulfilling life with great experiences and deep, enriching relationships.

Most people settle for less than they’re capable of because they’ve never been in situations (or stayed in them) where they’ve had to overcome very big obstacles. To find out who you are (and what’s possible for you), you have to regularly put yourself in situations where the challenge is extremely high and the goal is beyond your reach.

Look for patterns and tests

Life is continually inviting us to the next level, but so often we miss it. We get these tests of self-examination that are too often side-stepped as distractions or inconveniences.

When two different people tell you the same thing, or the same problem occurs multiple times, it’s often an invitation, a message to say, “Hey Jim, that’s actually a square peg in your hand, which is why it’s not fitting in that round hole.”

To get to the next level we need to regularly examine our lives and see if we’re learning and growing. This means, like a good education, we need regular exams, and to pass them when they come. First however, we need to recognize when the exams come, and learn what the real exam is (so often the problem is not the problem, but simply an invitation to the real one).

Embrace your fears and the feelings that may come

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” – Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence

One of the biggest things that holds us back is the fear of certain feelings, failure and rejection being two of the most common.

One question I often ask myself is, “Are you willing to face any feeling?” Or perhaps, “Are you willing to be really uncomfortable if this doesn’t work out? Are you willing to face the feeling of extreme discomfort of getting into this cold plunge/cold shower? Are you willing to face how you might feel if you fail in a big way in front of everyone?”

In order to get to the next level we need to be willing to fail, to let go of our ego and how we’ve seen ourselves and embrace learning and growing as our #1 goal in life. To learn and grow in love, wisdom and courage is the great aspiration, one that can change the world, and not just yours, but all of ours.

Let me know how it’s going for you.

Love Jim

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