How to Overcome the Obstacles that are Holding Your Goals Hostage!

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 out of reach, but rather because of unexpected obstacles and setbacks that get in our way.

It’s probably safe to say that every goal we set comes with an array of landmines. These landmines typically manifest as problems that we must figure out how to overcome.

If we’re able to figure out how to successfully maneuver through these landmines, that’s when an improbable goal becomes a deep-rooted part of our reality.

Let’s for a moment divert our attention to multi-million dollar lottery winners. Specifically, I want to bring to light those people who are far worse off today than they were before they won the lottery.

These people lost everything, merely because they didn’t go through the typical struggles that self-made millionaires face. As a result, they weren’t able to hold onto their goal when it was clearly within their grasp.

Reading through this article, of course, won’t help you win the lottery. What it will do is help you handle the obstacles you will likely face as you work toward your goals.


The 3 Types of Obstacles You Are Likely to Face

There are three types of obstacles that you will likely face along your journey toward your goals. We will categorize these obstacles as personal, environmental, and social.

Each obstacle presents you with a different set of challenges. Get through these challenges, and you will make inroads into your goal. Wilt in the face of these challenges and your goal will always remain out of reach.

Personal Obstacles You Might Face

Personal obstacles are related to our psychology, behavior, and state-of-mind. They typically include unhelpful habits, debilitating emotions, paralyzing fears and limiting beliefs.

The reason these obstacles prevent us from moving forward comes down to how we choose to interpret events and circumstances, and the subsequent thoughts we choose to dwell upon.

The thoughts we typically dwell upon prevent us from making objective decisions. Our poor choices, subsequently lead us down less than optimal paths as we work toward our goals.

These thoughts we tend to dwell upon are often recognized as the 10 Cognitive Distortions that sabotage people’s choices and behavior.


As a side note, you must first learn to effectively control your thoughts before you apply the ideas presented in this article. I would, therefore, highly recommend you explore the 10 Cognitive Distortions before proceeding with this article.


With that said, here is a list of personal obstacles that could prevent you from achieving your goals. Included are links to other articles that can help you gain a deeper understanding of each topic.

Take a moment to identify if any of these obstacles are currently preventing you from getting what you want most out of life. Ask yourself:

Which of these personal obstacles do I typically succumb to?

How exactly are these obstacles manifesting in my life? What are the triggers?

Why exactly do I tend to succumb to these obstacles? When? Where? At what specific times?

How are these obstacles preventing me from achieving my goals?

How can I begin working through these obstacles in optimal ways?

You can, of course, work through each of these personal obstacles individually. However, a more practical way to approach things is to take control of your thought patterns. And that’s, of course, where the 10 Cognitive Distortions come into play.

Social Obstacles that Could Get in Your Way

Social obstacles are related to people who either do not cooperate with you, sabotage you or are merely incompetent and unable to fulfill the responsibilities assigned to them.

When it comes to social obstacles, it’s essential to do a little forward planning to ensure that you clarify your needs adequately, your knowledge thoroughly, and your instructions carefully.

It also helps to develop good strong bonds and relationships with the people you rely on most. Ask yourself:

Whose support do I need to achieve my goals?

Who is currently holding me back from being my best self? How?

Is it possible to mend or change this relationship and realign this person to my goals?

How can I build more supportive relationships with the people in my life?

The key here is to subtly influence people by attempting to better understand their needs, motives, and desires. Only in this way will you successfully improve your chances of maneuvering through the social obstacles in your life.

Environmental Obstacles that Could Hinder Your Progress

Environmental obstacles are often unexpected conditions and circumstances that you typically have very little control over.

Because environmental obstacles are often unexpected occurrences, we are frequently ill-prepared and unable to deal with them in optimal ways.

However, with a little research and forward planning, you can set in place contingency plans that can help you work through these obstacles in more effective ways. To do this, begin by exploring Murphy’s Law.

Murphy’s Law states that…

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 overcome environmental obstacles. Ask yourself:

What environmental obstacles could I potentially face as I work toward my goals?

What contingency plans could I set in place to overcome potential obstacles?

How could I minimize the effect that these obstacles have on my life and on my journey toward my goals?

Another way to prepare yourself in advance is to adopt a 360-degree approach to thinking. This, primarily, comes down to thinking in an expanded way where you make full use of your ability to use hindsight, foresight, and insight while making decisions.

Types of Obstacles People Face When Pursuing Goals


Questions to Help You Overcome Your Obstacles

When it comes to overcoming obstacles, many people just don’t know what to do, where to begin or how to move forward when adversity strikes. Moreover, they struggle to start over again when their goals and dreams seem to have fallen apart.

In such instances, as a life coach, I will typically ask these people a series of questions that help them shift how they think about themselves, about their lives, and about their circumstances.

These questions help stimulate more profound insights and understandings. Subsequently, they help unlock hidden inner resources that these people didn’t realize they had access to.

Here is the list of questions that I would typically ask a client who is struggling to overcome a personal problem.

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 the problem:

How did all this start?

Who or what perpetuates this problem?

Identify the details of the problem:

When did it happen?

How did it happen?

Where did it happen?

Explore the consequences of having this problem:

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?

Take control of your behavior:

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?

How could you adapt to all the things you can’t control?

Identify the things you would like to keep:

What is happening that is good?

What would you like to see continue to happen?

Gain proper perspective on the situation:

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 problem?

What can you learn from this person to help you work through your problem?

Expand your options:

What could you do differently?

Who could assist you along this journey toward solving this problem?

Where haven’t you looked for a solution?

How will you know when this problem has been resolved?

What is your criteria for success?

At the very least, what these questions will do is help you gain more clarity about the obstacles you currently face.

With more clarity comes greater insight and understanding that will help you to think about your life and circumstances in more resourceful and optimal ways.

Assessing Your Life Obstacles


24 Ideas to Help You Overcome Life’s Toughest Obstacles

When confronted with obstacles, 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 you always have options.

There are always things you can do, actions you can take and decisions you can make that will help keep you focused and on track with your goals.

Here are some ideas to help you overcome life’s toughest obstacles.

Step Back Emotionally

When unexpected obstacles suddenly arise, it’s easy to get lost in our emotional reactions. However, for the most part, our emotional responses are often not very productive, and more times than not they don’t actually help the situation.

Instead, we must learn to step back from our emotions and strive to see the situation in an objective and logical way.

When you choose to stay calm and collected, that is when you grasp your circumstances from an intellectual perspective. You can then begin to identify the actual relevance and significance of the events that have just taken place.

Gain the Necessary Resources and Support

At times we just don’t have the necessary resources to help us deal with the situation at hand.

In such instances, we must question what pieces of the puzzle we are missing. We must then look for the necessary tools, strategies, knowledge and the support we need to help us overcome these obstacles in optimal ways.

Acquire a Different Perspective

Sometimes obstacles are only as real as we make them out to be. In fact, occasionally obstacles are merely misunderstandings and generalizations that we have made about our circumstances.

At other times, obstacles are only as real as the assumptions that are clouding our judgment.

To begin shifting your perspective, start by viewing your predicament from another person’s perspective. Alternatively, you can use a variety of framing and reframing techniques to help change how you think about your dilemma.

Seek Proper Guidance

Sometimes, the answers we need to overcome an obstacle come from sources outside ourselves.

In fact, there are many people out there who might have already dealt with and successfully overcome the circumstances you face today.

Approach these people, seek out mentors, life coaches or experts to help you find the answers you need to achieve your goals.

Breathe, Take Control, and Take Action

When obstacles surprise us unexpectedly, our first reaction is typically no reaction at all. We just freeze and have absolutely no idea what to do.

This paralysis may seem unhelpful at first. However, it actually gives us a moment ponder and think through our circumstances in optimal ways.

Take these moments to breathe deeply and ask yourself the following set of 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’m just not seeing things clearly. Where must I look for more information?

How could I view this situation differently that would be more helpful and provide me with better options?

Taking action on these questions will help you gain some semblance of control over your life and circumstances. As a result, you can slowly start building the momentum you need to attain your goals.

Get Your Priorities in Order

At times we’re unable to overcome certain obstacles because our priorities are simply out of order.

This is especially relevant when you consider the value we gain from taking the time to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills required to achieve our goals.

All this essentially boils down to committing yourself to lifelong learning.

Become a lifelong learner and start acquiring the knowledge and skills you need to work through life’s problems more effectively. That is how to get your priorities in order.

Assess Your Obstacles

To overcome an obstacle, you must first understand how it manifested in your life. With this in mind, ask yourself:

What went wrong?

What could’ve caused this?

What must I do now?

The key, of course, is to learn from your experience then use that experience to build a more optimal future course of action.

List Possible Options

Sometimes obstacles have a tendency to constrict us mentally in a confined space — thereby limiting our perspective of the situation.

In such instances, we must quickly come to the realization that solutions can only be found when we take the time to explore other possibilities and scenarios.

To do this, quietly sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself over and over again the following two questions:

How can I overcome this obstacle?

What options haven’t I considered?

The more options you have, the more opportunity you have for finding a suitable answer to the problem at hand.

However, you must first, of course, understand what it will take to turn these options into opportunities. Only in this way will you work through your problem in optimal ways.

Ask Effective Questions

The above two examples hopefully help highlight the power of questions and how asking effective questions will allow you gather new insights and perspectives.

In addition to this, spend time overviewing the obstacle analysis questions listed on the second branch of this IQ Matrix. These questions will provide you with even deeper insights into the nature of your problem and the potential solutions that may arise.

How to Overcome Obstacles in Life

Experiment in New Directions

Asking effective questions will help you gather new insights. However, you must now use these insights to experiment and try new things that could help move your goals forward.

Choose to live life as a scientist and challenge yourself to experiment your way through your problems.

Accept and Acknowledge Your Circumstances

When confronted with an obstacle, the worst thing we can do is to deny that the problem exists.

When we dismiss that something exists we close ourselves off to possible solutions, answers, and opportunities that are waiting to be discovered.

With that in mind, we must come to accept and acknowledge the circumstances for what they are from an optimistic, solution orientated, yet realistic perspective.

Think Critically and Creatively

Without problems, there would be no need for creative or critical thought. In fact, throughout human history, people have consistently applied critical and creative thought to help them overcome life’s greatest problems. And that is precisely how we have continued to advance as a species.

With that in mind, you must consistently take the time to learn and use these two thinking skills to your advantage when solving problems.

It, of course, won’t be easy. It takes significant work and effort to develop these essential life skills. However, nurturing curiosity can undoubtedly give you a head-start. From there, I would suggest working through the 5 phase creative problem-solving process.

Take Small Steps

By taking small steps, you ensure that you always remain in control and avoid getting caught up in your problems.

The key is to break down what you need to do to overcome your obstacle into small manageable chunks. From there, progressively work on one or more chunks per day until you successfully reach your outcome.

With that in mind, you might find value in exploring the six-step productivity process.

Make the Necessary Sacrifices

At times we find it difficult to overcome certain obstacles because we’re simply unwilling to make the changes that would help us to successfully overcome our problem.

Sometimes it’s not what you do, but rather what you let go of that has the greatest impact on your life. 

To achieve any goal takes some form of sacrifice. There is, after all, a price for success, and you must be willing to pay that price in the form of change or sacrifice.

Many people typically struggle with this. They struggle because they get caught up in the instant gratification trap. Avoid this trap, and you will find it easier to overcome the obstacles that life throws your way.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Progress is built upon a myriad of mistakes we make each day. Some are big, some are small, but one thing is for sure… they help us learn the lessons we need to learn to achieve our goals and objectives.

Take time to learn from every failed attempt and mistake you make. The more you learn, the more you will grow and the better you will handle the obstacles that life blesses you with. 🙂

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 our circumstances.

You must, therefore, keep things as simple and straightforward as possible, because the toughest of problems are often solved in the simplest of ways.

Cultivate Self-Belief and Self-Confidence

You’re unlikely to overcome an obstacle if you don’t believe that you’re capable of surmounting it in the first place.

Your self-doubt manifesting as your critical voice will only paralyze you from within. It will keep you focused on problems and not on the solutions you need to get the outcomes you want.

With that in mind, you must develop the necessary self-confidence and the self-belief you need to help you work through your problems in more optimal ways.

Cultivate Calmness

Calmness provides you with clarity-of-mind. This allows you to ask better questions, to think more creatively, critically and effectively about your problems.

When your mind and body are calm, you naturally tap into a reservoir of internal resources that you typically wouldn’t have access to if you were to react emotionally to your circumstances.

Cultivate a Progressive Mindset

A progressive mindset helps you to proactively deal with the circumstances at hand.

A progressive mindset is a mindset that asks practical questions, that always looks for new answers, opportunities, and solutions, and that is flexible, adaptable and continuously learning from past mistakes while in the pursuit of its goals.

Cultivate these Indispensable Qualities

The people who successfully overcome obstacles consistently cultivate the following qualities:

Don’t Dwell on the Negatives

When you dwell on what you don’t want, you will get more of that in your life. After all, we attract what we focus on.

Therefore, if you focus on worst-case scenarios, then you’re not focusing on solutions, and if you’re not focusing on solutions, then you’re unlikely to find the answers you need to overcome your problems.

Don’t Throw Blame on Yourself or Others

It’s paramount that you do not blame yourself or others for your predicament. Certainly, take responsibility, but don’t play the victim card.

You can, of course, acknowledge that someone else was at fault. However, it’s important to understand that it’s often not the person but rather the systems or process that led to the undesirable outcome.

Fix these, do not lay blame, and the obstacles you face will fade away. 🙂

Don’t Look for Sympathy

When we look for sympathy from others, we come from the point of weakness. In those moments, we display an inability to control our fate.

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, doesn’t mean that we should refrain from asking for help or assistance. What it does mean is that we should focus on exploring options that will move us forward toward the attainment of our goals and objectives.

Don’t Quit!

Finally, no matter what, do not quit, because the greatest opportunities are always intertwined with life’s most significant struggles.

Persistence and perseverance, a commitment to consistency and massive action are what you need to overcome life’s biggest obstacles.

Guidelines for Overcoming Obstacles for Goal Achievement


Concluding Thoughts

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 prevent us from achieving our goals, but rather as small — and at times significant — stepping stones that are required “modules” we need to pass to obtain our Ph.D. in Goal Achievement.

And finally, it’s necessary 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. These lessons will be critical to your success as you make progress along your journey toward your goals.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Overcoming Obstacles

Download Using Map Free Maps

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. Your purchase will also go a long way towards supporting the further development of these maps.


Here are three recommended IQ Matrix mind map bundles that can help you handle adversity, solve problems more effectively, and develop the mental toughness you need to overcome life’s toughest obstacles and setbacks.


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Gain More Knowledge…

Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:


Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.