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Goals and the Obstacles on the Way

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If you want to achieve something big, expect a bumpy road. Maybe it is even a new road, nobody ever went before. If you can achieve your goal easily, most likely it is not big enough.

Be prepared for obstacles on your road towards your goal, but don’t be afraid of them. It’s these obstacles that make your goal a big, audacious and worth pursuing.

What Are Obstacles?

Like a rock on the road an obstacle is everything that endangers the successful achievement of your goal. The rock can be small enough to just pass by or it might be huge and forces you to turn and to find a completely new road.

If an obstacle is too big it can prevent you from pursuing your goal. This can indeed make sense if the price or effort is higher than the benefits of the actual goal. However, an obstacle can just seem big. It can be frustrating and kill your motivation although it is still worth pursuing your goal.



Here are some typical examples obstacles on your way towards your goal:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success (What will change? What will I lose?)
  • Permission (What might others think or do?)
  • Self-limiting beliefs, not believing in yourself
  • Distractions (all these daily tasks)
  • Other priorities (urgent vs. important)
  • Circumstances (inner and outer)
  • Bad advice
  • Procrastination
  • Naysayers

Predictable Obstacles

Basically there are two kinds of obstacles, the ones you can foresee and the ones you can’t. The first category might be bigger than you think. Here comes an example.

Let’s say your goal is to travel the world for one year. Examples for foreseeable obstacles include the following:

  • Your boss declines your sabbatical
  • You can’t find someone who rents your house for the year
  • You can’t get enough money in time
  • The visa process for a certain country takes longer than expected
  • While traveling you can’t stand the food in a certain region
  • It rains for two weeks
  • Someone steals your mobile phone
  • A dog bites you

And here are some examples you cannot really foresee (or should not plan for):

  • You meet the love of your life and he (or she) has other plans
  • You have an accident on the day before your journey and now you need to recover for two months
  • There is a giant meteor approaching the earth and now …. OK, this is a bit too extreme 😉

Inner vs. Outer Obstacles

There are also inner and outer obstacles. Inner obstacles include your beliefs and your motivation. Outer obstacles are related to your environment and to the circumstances, including the people around you. Inner and outer circumstances are very much related to each other. Here is an example.

You want to go on a one-year sabbatical and you talk to your boss. She says that she does not like the idea because it conflicts with existing projects. This is an external obstacle. Now you might think that she will never approve the sabbatical. This is an internal obstacle. In this case your belief is more pessimistic than the actual fact.

Examples of obstacles fro the goal to go on a sabbatical next year.

  Predictable Unpredictable
Inner I procrastinate. I will like the idea to stay home and work on an exiting project here more.
Outer My boss does not like the idea. I have an accident and need to recover for two months.

Keep Your Motivation

How do you stay excited about your goals when times get tough?

When you have a big goal, you will most likely face challenges on the way.

You always want to keep the big picture (the big goal) in mind to stay excited. And, in order to stay motivated, you always want to make some progress. A tiny progress is better than no progress. It will boost your motivation.

There are three phases when it comes to challenges.

Before the Challenge

You might want to plan for obstacles. Quite some challenges can be foreseen. For example, if your goal is to travel the world for three months one challenge might be that your boss does not like your idea. Make a list of all the challenges you can foresee along with possible ways to handle them.

This exercise will make sure you are prepared for tough times. It also makes your plan more realistic. Of course, you cannot foresee everything.

Here is a sample list for our sabbatical example.

Possible Obstacle Possible Solutions
I procrastinate. I have a clear plan and always have a next action. I have regular reviews together with my spouse.
My boss does not like the idea. I understand the concern of my boss and present her with a plan how my projects will go on during my sabbatical.

During the Challenge

If you face an obstacle you can get back to your list from above and see whether you already covered it.

If not, you need to come up with a new approach to handle the challenge. The most important thing is that you do not lose sight of your goal. In other words, no matter how many other tasks you have on your plate, reserve some time for working on your goal. It is helpful to schedule regulate review sessions in your calendar. This helps you to reconnect to your goal.

If you are completely stuck it might also help to reach out to a friend, family member or colleague. Sometimes it is amazing what you can get if you just ask for it.

You might want to have a look at the obstacle section in this free goal setting eBook “Goal Setting for a Fulfilled Life”.

After the Challenge

After the challenge it is a good idea to review and learn from it. You can do so in your review session mentioned above.

If you are looking for app support we recommend our free goal-setting app VidaGoals which helps your to plan your goals and get regular reminders and motivation.

From Problems to Challenges

What can you do when you face an obstacle? Of course, this very much depends on the actual obstacle. However, the following general considerations might help you.

Plan upfront

Ideally you plan for expected obstacles upfront. In this case the obstacle does not come too much as a surprise and ideally you have already thought about possible solutions.

Keep calm

Take some time to review the situation, don’t rush or do impulsive actions you might regret later.

Assess the obstacle

What is the actual problem? What part of the problem is real and what might just be worrying thoughts or false beliefs? What are the realistic consequences if you cannot solve the problem?

Connect with your goal and your Why

Take some time to think about your goal, imagine it, feel it and become clear again why this was important to you in the first place? Is your goal still relevant to you?

Ask for help

Ask family members, friends or coworkers for help or advice.


Decide if it is still worth to pursue your goal. If the price is too high you might well decide to drop your goal and to go on with the next one. Don’t make it an easy decision but don’t overthink it for too long as well. Any decision is better than no decision.

If you decide to continue pursuing your goal, go for it. Put in all your effort and make your dream come true.

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