Frank A. Clark
If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.
The Landmines Standing Between You and Your Goal
Setting goals is the first step… achieving them is the second step… and it’s at this second step that most of us stumble. We stumble not because the goal is unachievable, but rather because of unexpected obstacles and challenges that arise along the journey that make the goal seem unachievable.
It’s important to understand that every goal we set naturally comes with a plethora of landmines that are attached to that goal. These land-mines show up in our lives as a set of obstacles, challenges and problems that we must surpass in order to get to our end destination, which is our goal. In fact, unless we successfully maneuver through these land-mines and overcome them, than we will fail to learn the valuable lessons that are required to help us achieve — and keep — our goal when we get to that end destination.
Have you ever heard of multi-million dollar lottery winners who are far worse off today than they were before they won the lotto? They lost their money because they didn’t go through the struggles, obstacles, challenges and problems that self-made millionaires face, and as a result they weren’t able to hold onto their goal when it was clearly within their grasp.
Today’s discussion won’t help you win the lottery, however what it will do is help you to deal with the obstacles that you will likely face as you progress along your journey towards the attainment of your objectives.
Types of Obstacles
There are three types of obstacles that you will likely face along your journey towards your goals. These include personal obstacles, environmental obstacles and social obstacles. Each is outlined separately below.
Personal obstacles are related to our psychology, behaviors and state-of-mind. They can include limiting habits, debilitating emotions, fears and beliefs. These obstacles prevent us from moving forward towards the attainment of our goals and objectives because of the thoughts that we tend to dwell upon every day. These thoughts naturally prevent us from making effective decisions and undertaking the actions that will help us create the momentum we need to get to our end destination.
Here is a list of personal obstacles that could be preventing you from moving forward in your life:
- Lack of pain
- Lack of discipline
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of inspiration
- Lack of desire
- Lack of skill
- Fear of change
- Fear of failure
- Feeling unworthy
- Pessimistic thoughts
- Too many time constraints
- Too much complacency
- Too much blaming of self and others
- Too many excuses
- Too much complaining
Identify if any of these obstacles are currently preventing you from getting what you want most out of life, and choose today to take control of your thought patterns and begin making better and far more effective decisions.
Social obstacles are related to people who either do no cooperate with you, sabotage you, or are simply incompetent and unable to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to them.
When it comes to social obstacles, it’s important to do a little forward planning, to make sure that you clarify your needs adequately, your knowledge thoroughly and your instructions carefully — ensuring that that the communication doesn’t break down at any stage. It also helps to develop good strong bonds and relationships with the people you rely on most.
You will go out of your mind if you try to control everyone’s behavior, decision and action. Instead try to subtly influence people and understand their needs, motives and desires. Only in this way will you successfully improve your chances of manoevering through the social obstacles in your life.
Environmental obstacles are often unexpected conditions, occurrences and circumstances that you have very little control over.
Because these events and circumstances are unexpected, we are often ill-prepared and unable to deal with them effectively. However, if we do a little research and use some forward planning we may be able to predict and oftentimes influence these occurrences by setting into place contingency plans. To do this, begin by following Murphy’s Law:
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible time, all of the time when you least expect it. So what are you going to do about it?
When you plan for the future, you gather a better understanding of the possible scenarios and consequences of your decisions and actions. Planning also gives you insight into additional resources you may need to help you overcome environmental obstacles that lie on the journey ahead.
Obstacle Analysis Questions
As a life skills coach, I often work with clients who are struggling to overcome personal obstacles. They don’t know what to do, where to begin or how to move forward. In such instances I will ask them a series of questions that helps them gain new perspectives and understandings about their circumstances. As a result they begin to unlock hidden resources they never realized they had.
I have outlined the specific questions I ask below.
Question the Problem
What are the indications that this is a problem for you?
How do you know this is accurate?
Question the Origins of Problem
How did all this start?
Who or what perpetuates this problem?
Identify the Details
When did it happen?
How did it happen?
Where did it happen?
Determine the Consequences
What would happen if you ignored it?
When could it become a bigger problem?
What could lead to this specific outcome?
How does this affect you?
How does this affect others?
How does this affect life?
Could resolving this cause other problems?
Whose behavior do you control?
What aspects of this problem can you control?
What aspects of this problem can’t you control?
How must you respond to what you can’t control?
Identify the Positives
What is happening that is good?
What would you like to have continue to happen?
What are your assumptions about this?
How are your assumptions contributing to the problem?
What is another perspective you haven’t considered?
Who has successfully overcome this?
What can you learn from this person?
Expand Your Options
What could you do differently?
Who could assist you?
Where haven’t you looked for a solution?
How will you know when this problem has been resolved?
What is your criteria for success?
Tips for Overcoming Obstacles
When confronted with obstacles, problems and challenges, it’s easy to become a little overwhelmed, especially when the circumstances are unfamiliar and seem a little threatening and urgent. However, no matter what life throws your way, keep in mind that there are always options available, there are always things you can do, actions you can take and decisions you can make that will keep moving you forward in the right direction.
Step Back Emotionally
When unexpected obstacles suddenly show up, it’s easy to react emotionally to the circumstances. However, emotional reactions are often not very productive, and more times than not they don’t alleviate the situation. Instead we must learn to step back from our emotions and see the situation from an external perspective — through logic and reason. It’s only once we grasp the circumstances from an intellectual perspective that we begin to identify the true relevance and significance of the events that have taken place.
Gain Necessary Resources and Support
At times we simply do not have the necessary resources to help us deal with the situation at hand. In such circumstances we must question what pieces of the puzzle we are currently missing, and then look for the necessary tools, strategies, knowledge and the support we need to help us overcome this obstacle successfully.
Acquire Different Perspective
Sometimes obstacles are only as real as we make them out to be. In fact at times obstacles are simply misunderstandings and generalizations that we have made about circumstances. At other times obstacles are only as real as the assumptions that are clouding our vision.
To begin shifting your perspective, start by viewing the situation you find yourself in from another person’s perspective. Alternatively you can use a plethora of framing and reframing techniques that will help you shift the way you think about your circumstances.
Often the answers we need to help us overcome the obstacles in our lives can be found by simply talking to other people. In fact, other people might have already dealt and successfully overcome the circumstances you find yourself in. You must therefore seek out mentors, life coaches or experts to help you find the answers you need to move you forward towards your goals and objectives.
Breathe, Take Control and Take Action
When obstacles overwhelm us, our first automatic response is to freeze. This paralysis may seem unhelpful at first, however it gives us time to ponder and think strategically about the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Take these moments to breathe deeply and ask yourself the following questions:
What is it that I control?
What is it that I don’t control?
How can I gain control over these circumstances?
If I cannot gain control, then how can I influence these circumstances?
If I cannot influence them, then maybe I am not seeing things clearly. Where must I look for more information?
By asking and taking action on these questions you will gain some semblance of control over your circumstances and can slowly start building momentum moving forward towards the attainment of your goals.
Adjust Your Priorities
At times we are unable to overcome certain obstacles in our lives because our priorities are simply out of order. This is especially relevant when you consider that spending a little more time concentrating on developing a certain skill or gaining knowledge in a specific area of your life can have a significant impact on your ability to overcome difficult circumstances.
Assess Your Obstacles
You will rarely be able to overcome an obstacle unless you are able to figure out how it originated and weaseled its way into your life. 😉 You must therefore ask yourself:
What went wrong?
What could have caused this?
What must I do now?
List Possible Options
Sometimes obstacles have a tendency to lock us up mentally in a confined space, thusly limiting our thinking and perspective of the situation. In such instances we must realize that solutions can only be found when we open our minds to possibilities and options that we hadn’t considered before. To do this, simply sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself over and over again:
How can I overcome this obstacle?
What options haven’t I considered?
The more options you have, the more opportunity you have to find a suitable answer to the problem you are facing.
Ask Effective Questions
The above two examples hopefully help unlock the power of questions and how asking effective questions can help you gather new and different perspectives about your life and circumstances. In addition to this, spend time overviewing the obstacle analysis questions that are listed on the second branch of this IQ Matrix map. Together they provide a powerful example of how questions can be used to help shift your perspective.
Experiment in New Directions
Asking effective questions will help you gain new insights into the obstacles that are standing in your way. Use this gathered information to try new things and move in new directions that you never considered before. It is after all the path less traveled that will make all the difference in the end.
Accept and Acknowledge Circumstances
When confronted with an obstacle, the worst thing we can do is to deny that the problem exists.
When we deny that something exists we close ourselves off to solutions, answers and opportunities that are waiting for us to discover. We must therefore accept and acknowledge the circumstances for what they are from an optimistic, solution orientated yet very realistic perspective.
Think Critically and Creatively
Creative and critical thinking was built upon the foundations of the obstacles and problems that people have dealt with throughout the course of human history. In fact, without obstacles and problems there would be no need for creative or critical thought. You must therefore use these two tools to help you unlock the solutions and answers you need that will help you overcome the obstacles in your life.
Take Small Steps
By taking small steps you ensure that you always remain in control and do not get overwhelmed by circumstances. To do this, simply break down what you need to do to overcome this obstacle into small manageable chunks, then progressively work on one or more chunks per day until you successfully reach your outcome.
Make Necessary Sacrifices
At times we find it difficult to overcome certain obstacles because we are simply unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to make the changes in our life that would help us to successfully overcome the problems we are confronting. Sometimes it’s not what you do, but rather what you let go of that will have the greatest impact on your life.
Learn from Mistakes
Progress is built upon a myriad of mistakes that we make on a daily basis. Some are big, some are small, but one thing is certain, they are all significant with helping us learn the lessons we need to learn, to help us achieve our goals and objectives.
Take time to learn from every unsuccessful attempt, from every failed result, and from every unsatisfactory outcome. The more you learn, the more you will grow and the better you will be able to deal with the obstacles that lie ahead on your path.
Keep Things Simple
When dealing with obstacles, simplicity is the key. The more we try and complicate things, the more likely we are to become overwhelmed with circumstances. You must therefore keep things as simple and straightforward as possible, because the toughest of problems are often solved in simple ways.
Cultivate Self Belief and Confidence
You are unlikely to overcome an obstacle if you don’t believe that you are capable of overcoming it. Your doubts will only paralyze you and focus you on problems and not the solutions you need to get the outcomes you want. You must therefore develop the necessary confidence and self-belief that will help you to think far more effectively about the obstacles and problems in your life.
Calmness provides you with clarity of mind, which enables you to ask better questions, think more creatively, critically and effectively about your problems.
When your mind and body is calm, you naturally tap into a reservoir of internal resources that you normally wouldn’t have access to if you were to react emotionally to circumstances.
Cultivate an Active Mindset
An active mindset helps you to proactively deal with circumstances. It’s a mindset that asks effective questions; always looks for new answers, opportunities and solutions; is flexible, adaptable and constantly learns from past mistakes, while moving forward towards the attainment of its goals and objectives.
Cultivate these Indispensable Qualities
Those who successfully overcome obstacles in their lives, consistently cultivate the following qualities:
I will break down each of these qualities — as well as other qualities — within future IQ Matrix maps.
Don’t Dwell on the Negatives
When you dwell on what you don’t want, you will get more of that in your life, because we attract what we focus on. Therefore if you focus on worst case scenarios that will rip your life apart, then you’re not focusing on solutions, and if you’re not focusing on solutions then you are unlikely to find the answers you need to help you overcome your problems.
Don’t Throw Blame on Your-Self or Others
It’s paramount that you do not blame yourself or others for the circumstances you find yourself in. Yes, you can acknowledge that someone was at fault, however it’s often not the person but rather the systems and processes in place that lead to this outcome. Fix these, do not lay blame, and the obstacles you are facing will be fade away.
Don’t Look for Sympathy
When we look for sympathy from others, we come from a point of weakness and an inability to control our fate and destiny. We must instead look to come from a place of personal empowerment, where we take full responsibility for our life and circumstances. This of course does not mean that we shouldn’t ask for help or assistance. What it does mean is that we should focus on always exploring options that will move us forward towards the attainment of our goals and objectives.
Finally, no matter what, do not quit, because the greatest opportunities are always interlocked with the most difficult struggles of your life.
Frank A. Clark knew all about the value of obstacles when he said:
If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.
Obstacles are just “things” that are there to teach and strengthen us for the journey that lies ahead. We must therefore not view them as insurmountable problems that will prevent us from achieving our goals, but rather as small — and at times large — stepping stones that are required “modules” we need to pass in order to obtain our Ph.D. in Goal Achievement. And finally, it’s important to remind ourselves of the indispensable lesson that many former Lottery winners have found out the hard way, that there is only one thing worse than being poor, and that is “being rich and then being poor once again”.
Take time to learn the lessons that life throws your way, because these lessons will be critical to your success as you move forward into the future.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
Did you gain value from this article? Would you like to keep these concepts at the forefront of your mind? If so, then you might like to download the accompanying mind map reference poster to your iPad, tablet or computer. The map presents you with a quick overview of this article. It’s designed specifically to help improve your memory and recall of this information so that you can better integrate these concepts into your daily thoughts, habits and actions.
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 4 Obstacles to Positive Life Change @ Psychology Today
- 5 Effective Tips on Removing the Obstacles to Your Success @ Dumb Little Man
- 6 Obstacles Threatening Your Progress @ Change Your Thoughts
- 7 Ways to Get Past Tough Situations Quickly @ Tiny Buddha
- Are You Getting Knocked Off-Course by Obstacles? @ Pick the Brain
- How to Find Strength to Overcome Obstacles @ Soul Hiker
- How to Move Past the Obstacles that Hold Us Back @ My Super Charged Life
- Is it an Obstacle or an Opportunity? @ Michael Hyatt
- The Eight Greatest Obstacles @ Live to Coach
- Top Obstacles to Your Success in Life @ Life of Excellence
- Top 10 Tips to Overcome Obstacles Successfully @ My Super Charged Life