06/14/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

'The Block': Do You Have It?

There is not a single person who walks into my office who does not describe a "block" of some kind. It is as though life is one big obstacle course, and figuring out how to get beyond those obstacles is a pretty challenging thing. At times these "blocks" are small hills and at other times impossible-to-navigate mountains. For college students this may be the boredom of studying at school; for married couples, it may be the boredom of routine and the drag of responsibilities and for others. Or it may be the inability to reach the next earning bracket, the impossibility of finding a decent man or the feeling that their lives are going nowhere fast.

If we look at all of these blocks, what do they have in common? And once we understand this, what can we do about it?

All of these blocks, when examined closely have the following in common: (1) They are expressed as things outside the individual; (2) They lead to a progressive sense of hopelessness; (3) They usually lead to distractions as a form of relief; (4) They lead to the formation of "block" communities with the secret desire to succeed; (5) When they are overcome, the resulting joy does not last very long. Why is this? What is the significance of each of these factors? And what can you start thinking about to overcome these blocks?

(1) Examine The Inside Story: Nothing that we see or feel is not inside of us. If you see an apple, it is because it is an image in your brain. If you see a block, it is similar. Blocks are mind-mountains -- they are signs that your mind has somehow stopped charting a course that feels progressive. No matter how much you grapple with those outside forces, the real demon is inside-literally. Can't find a guy? Why has your brain stopped charting a course toward that? Can't find a job? Why are other people employed when you are not? Can't get over the boredom and responsibility of marriage? What are your assumptions about marriage that create this boredom? The "window" through the block is not self-blame. It is self examination. Make a list of assumptions that you have, and ask: what kind of mind-training do I need? Do you need to meditate? Do you need to help your brain out by sketching out a new course? Do you need a new experience to rejuvenate the sputtering engine of your brain?

(2) Hopelessness is perspective, not reality: Hopelessness is much like darkness or a tall mountain. To overcome these challenges, you have to turn on the light or find a safe way to climb the mountain. The lack of energy that we feel about this occurs because we imagine that the light will automatically come on (it actually sometimes does -- see sunrise) or that we can jump over mountains. When you come across a block, rather than losing all steam because you cannot pole vault over a mountain, consider that this is a hike. Take time off to enjoy the scenery. Avoid jagged edges. Find the least resistance path to your goal. This often requires stopping your daily trudging and asking: if this were an easier way, what would this be? Hopelessless is merely searching without a plan. Hope is a plan for a journey without knowing the destination.

(3) Distractions are energy boosters; couple them with plans: If you have just had a great time, see this as an energy boost. Too often, our great times are confined to partying, followed by a hangover. People live out the hangover and then avoid all energy boosters. Rather, after a good time, even after a hangover, reflect on that good time and use it to chart out that plan beyond the block. Don't just repeat the partying. The same thing with that great song or recent achievement. Make your plans in those mind-states, and you will be astounded how much richer they are than when you make your plans at a down time.

(4) Avoid block communities: Misery loves company. So guys seek out guys at bars to complain about women but when they leave they go back to what they have. Women do the same. Moderate people commiserate with the moderate and so on. Allow yourself to be part of a thriving community. Rather than feeling alienated, ask yourself: what are they doing that I'm not. What plans have they given their brains?

(5) Accept the fleeting joys but know that each joy can be a new level on that mountain: People often give up on joy because it does not last long enough. The beauty of this journey is the journey. The course through life is every bit as interesting as your most beloved video game if you look beyond the final score. You put money into many unknown things: arcade machines, wedding rings, that new fad diet. Why not put "money" on your life?

It is funny how blocks disappear so mysteriously when instead of looking with wide eyes at the mountain before us, we pack up a good lunch, take some water, make sure we are physically fit and start that journey toward what we want. If we can stare a mountain straight in the eyes, the mountain will succumb. The major lesson here: blocks are not easy to overcome; this recommendation is meant to be a summary and not glibly suggesting that we can just do this, but if you feel blocked in your life -- look inside. That is where the block is.

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