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How to Overcome the Obstacles to Your Success

These 5 steps can help you get unstuck so you can achieve more of what you want.

Bigstock with permission
Source: Bigstock with permission

Life is all about closing the gap between who you are and who you want to be. It is what causes us to grow and evolve as human beings. Anytime you set a goal and achieve it, you become more of the person you aspire to be. Many people, however, can get stuck and frustrated when they don’t feel able to achieve the goals they set for themselves. If you set a goal and don’t achieve it enough times, you are likely to stop trying after a while, which can result in leading a life where you don’t feel you are thriving. Knowing how to get past obstacles to goals is key to leading a life that feels inspired, purposeful, and satisfying.

There are two different types of obstacles mental one and real ones. Mental obstacles are beliefs about your ability to obtain what you want. These beliefs are generally influenced by past experiences of times when you haven’t succeeded that you use as evidence proving you can’t do something different. Many of these mental obstacles generate the emotion of fear. The other types of obstacles are real ones that feel like facts, such as —I don’t have enough money to buy my dream home.

The first thing you have to do to get past any obstacle is to identify it in a clear way. Lots of obstacles, especially mental ones, float around in the back of your subconscious mind and manifest as vague feelings such as—This project is too big and I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it, so why bother trying. The easiest way to identify your perceived obstacles to a goal is to engage in a simple brainstorming exercise by writing down everything you can think of that will get in the way. Don’t censor yourself, just write down anything that comes to mind.

Once you have generated a list of obstacles, sort out what feels like real obstacles and start with those. Go through them one by one, checking them against the five steps below. What you will find is that often as you start to view the real obstacles differently, your mental obstacles will start to shift as well. If it seems more doable because there are fewer real obstacles, it won’t feel as mentally overwhelming.

  1. Check your assumptions. Many assumptions that make a situation seem impossible are really just self-imposed limitations. For example, if you want a better paying job you might make some assumptions such as to get one, I need more education, more experience, and different skills. Always stop to check if the assumptions you are making are based on fact. Are there other people with similar skills and education who already have better-paying jobs? There are very successful people without college degrees. Some of the most common assumptions are —I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough help, It has always been done this way. Don’t be afraid to challenge these ideas before letting them be a game stopper.

  2. Manage your resources. You may notice that some of the most common assumptions have to do with feeling you don’t have enough resources. Resources such as time, thought, and action are available to everyone, but they are limited resources, so in the same way you think about how you spend your money, you have to think about how you spend your other resources. The more of them you put toward your goal the more likely you are to realize your dreams. Everything we want to achieve in life takes time. A well-established money management concept that can be applied here is “Pay yourself first.” This means you should set aside some time in your life to achieve your goals before you give your time to anyone else. Most people don’t think they have the time to manage a crisis like a broken water heater, but if it happens, they find the time to deal with it. If you can find the time to deal with a crisis, chances are if you really tried you could find the time to work on an important goal or life dream.

  3. Brainstorm. Your brain is a solution-generating machine that has the ability to generate solutions to problems you don’t even know exist yet. The more focus and attention you give to thinking about something the more ideas your brain will generate about it. One way to jump-start this solution generating process is to engage in free-flowing brainstorming, which can be as simple as writing down all the ideas that come into your head. The key is to not filter the list with what you think are “realistic” as this is often based on certain assumptions. Once you‘ve got all your ideas down, put away your list and come back to it 24 hours later. See which ones jump out at you and challenge any assumptions that come up for ones that seem undoable. The best time to engage in brainstorming is just before bed. Your subconscious mind will continue to work on the problem while you are asleep. Einstein used to get many of his biggest “aha” moments in the morning when he was shaving.

  4. Consider possible alternatives. You will always run into obstacles over which you have little control. If you want to publish a book, at some point you have to deal with the issue of whether publishers like the book, whether they have the need for that type of book, and so on. It helps to be flexible thinking about alternate ways to achieve your goal. Maybe self-publishing or an e-book is the way to go. Getting locked into one way of doing something can really limit your options. Thinking about the bigger picture of why you want to achieve your goal can be helpful here. If your ultimate goal is to get your idea out into the world for other people to hear, then you may need to give yourself more options than— I want to be published at a top publishing house.

  5. Ask someone else. Since you can only look at a problem through the lens of your own perspective, one of the biggest obstacles to seeing an alternative way of doing something can be the blind spots in your own thinking. It can be very useful to ask three people you trust for their opinion. Asking someone who has more experience than you do can provide you with valuable data for generating new solutions.


J. VIlhauer. (2104). Think Foward to Thrive: How to Use The Mind's Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life. New World Library. Novato, CA.

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