Barriers to Fulfillment

Starting a new retirement is a major shift in living. Seniors new to the experience make the adjustment in many ways. One of the first activities, seniors new to retirement engage in is cleaning out closets. In addition, this is a great time to clean out the metaphorical closets that are keeping you from your dreams and goals.

To retire is to find new goals and dreams. Adult living has changed over the last forty years and the boomer generation is going to redefine retirement activities. Active adult living can have obstacles that need exploration.

We all have barriers keeping us from self-fulfillment. Sometimes they are small, sometimes not. They may be internal, or outside of our control. They may actually be figments of our imagination, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us. As Dr. Phil says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” Recognizing and understanding the barriers to our happiness is the first step in addressing them.

When you think of a vein or artery, the blood is hopefully flowing freely. As you’ve seen in commercials, cholesterol is a plaque that adheres to the wall of the artery and clogs the flow of blood.

Think of barriers as keeping you from being fully in the flow of your life, either currently or in the future. Barriers could be fears, limitations, relationships, beliefs, things you’re tolerating, or lack of resources.

Draw a large circle on a piece of paper. You want to identify the barriers that are keeping you from a fulfilling life. If you have control of fixing or eliminating the barrier, write it inside the circle. If the barrier is outside your control to eliminate or change, write the word outside of the large circle.

Once you have listed all your barriers, think about what you learned from this exercise. If there are barriers in your control to change, do you want to remove them from your life? If so, what do you need to do to eliminate them? How serious are these barriers from keeping you from your goals?


The biggest barrier for most of us is fear. It is designed to prevent us from moving into harms way. Yet, too often it restricts us from dreaming big dreams or making them a reality. Fear is actually our friend though. Fear is the result of change, the unknown or our resistance to those things. Yet, how can you grow and live a fulfilling life without getting outside of your comfort zone?

Taking the time to understand what the fear is and where it comes from is the first step to moving through it. The second step is to take very small steps. In his book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Robert Maurer, a UCLA psychologist, states the brain is resistant to change and will sabotage new endeavors. By starting off with very small steps, the brain will get used to the new behavior without balking. The key is to not activate the brain’s initial alarm channel.

Everyone has barriers that prevent them from living a truly authentic life. Most barriers are in our mind and can be removed once we understand what it is and start taking steps to correct. This is often easier said than done and may require assistance from a friend, coach or therapist.




About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at

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