Personal: attitude - most people have to face internal obstacles of self-doubt and fear as much as any external obstacles of circumstance and opportunity.
Social: fear of disapproval - especially from family - who have strong views on what you should and shouldn't do with your life. Many people don't find their element because they don't have the encouragement or confidence to step outside their established circle of relationships. The decision to play it safe, to take the path of least resistance, can seem irresistible, particularly if you have your own doubts and fears about the alternatives. Even stronger influences are our friends - we choose our friends as a way of expanding our sense of identity beyond the family. Pressure to conform to standards and expectations of friends and other social groups can be intense. Groupthink: members strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action. The element is about discovering yourself and you can't do this if you are trapped in a compulsion to conform.
Cultural: values and forms of behaviour that characterise different social groups. Culture is a system of permissions. It's about the attitudes and behaviours that are acceptable and unacceptable in different communities, those that are approved and those that are not.
Reflection: Are we putting up barriers for our students, preventing them from finding their element? Are we helping them to break down these barriers?
Photo Credit: Trapped by Lincolnian (Brian)