It’s easy to look at someone else’s success story and feel jealous, angry, or resentful. You quickly come up with a list of reasons you can’t achieve the same outcome. You say things like:
- Of course, she grew her business to six figures—she has a supportive spouse.
- It was easy for her to get fit—she doesn’t have the genes I do.
- She has time to pursue her education—she doesn’t have chronically ill children.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it turns obstacles into impossibilities. You look at everything you’re struggling with and compare it with what others aren’t dealing with. By the time you’re done, you conclude that your problems or struggles are far worse than anyone else’s.
Everyone Faces Obstacles
But the simple truth is that everyone encounters obstacles when they’re going after their goal. That woman with the six-figure business and the supportive spouse? She has lupus and is in the hospital regularly, but you don’t know that because she never posts about it on social media.
The woman who got fit and seemingly has great genes? She works two jobs and supports her widowed mother. Staying healthy is a priority because it gives her the energy to be her mom’s caretaker.
That woman who’s going back to college to pursue her degree—she battles depression and just getting out of bed each morning is a challenge. But she’s terrified to tell anyone because of the stigma around mental illness.
Just because you see the success don’t assume someone else has no obstacles. Ian Maclaren, a minister and author born in the 1800s, once said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
How Do You View Obstacles?
Once, there were two shoe salesmen. They met on a train when they were journeying to a distant country. Benjamin, the younger of the two, sat down next to Paul. He excitedly shared about his mission.
Paul talked with the younger man briefly. He explained that sales were difficult in his business now and he wasn’t sure if traveling such a distance was even all at that smart. He worried he’d never be able to sell his shoe supply.
After the train ride, the two men went their separate ways. In a few weeks, Paul sent a letter back to the shoe company he worked for. He wrote, “I’m returning shortly. Sales are terrible—no one here wears shoes.”
At the same time, Benjamin sent a letter back to the company that had employed him. He said, “I’m returning shortly. Sales are amazing—no one here wears shoes.”
Why was one salesman successful and the other not? There could be a dozen different reasons but the most likely one is that the young man saw opportunity where the other saw only obstacles.
Susan took this approach when she was starting her online business. She didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a coach or hundreds to pay for fancy courses that would teach her the latest marketing trends.
But she did have time on her hands. As a stay-at-home mom, her schedule wasn’t perfect but it was flexible. She dedicated her nights to learning everything she could about launching an online business.
Focus on Your Advantages
Like Susan, you have obstacles, too. Maybe yours is a lack of money, a lack of time, or a lack of knowledge. Don’t let these things dissuade you. Instead, make a list of what you do have.
Try to do it right now while you’re thinking about it. Just grab paper and pen and list your current advantages, or download our free printable worksheet. These might include things like: access to the internet, a computer, a parent who will watch your children for you, a way to pay your bills, etc.
By creating a list of assets, it’s easier to begin looking for solutions. For example, you might think you don’t have the skills to learn to eat right and live healthier. But on your list, you see you have access to the internet and a computer. So you could go online and look for a fitness tracking website like SparkPeople.
You could take it a step further and see that you have access to a library and a library card. Visit your local branch and look for the latest books on healthy living and find recipe collections that are geared toward your goals. For example, if you have kidney disease, you might look for a low-sodium cookbook.
Sometimes, finding a way to bust through your obstacles and embrace your brilliant self isn’t immediately obvious. Don’t get discouraged if a solution doesn’t seem readily available to you.
Instead, you can use this time to focus on getting creative. For example, let’s say you’re in the middle of a big project and you need access to software. You don’t have the ability to get the software—so can you borrow it from someone else? Can you barter for it? Perhaps you could research online and look for “open source alternative to (program name)”.
Keep in mind that it’s important how you speak to yourself when you encounter an obstacle. Paul, the older salesman, used the phrase “no one wears shoes here” to discourage himself while Benjamin used it as a reminder that everyone needed his product.
You may also want to bring in someone supportive here. For example, reach out to a beloved mentor or coach if you have one. You could also seek out a parent or spouse that believes in you. Share your problem and ask for their solutions. Tell them you want to hear their ideas no matter how silly they might seem.
Then sit back and listen without judgement. If they share a solution that won’t work, don’t just tell them that. Explain why it won’t. They may have an idea on how to overcome your problem once they understand more about it.
You can also try listing it out. At the top of a sheet of paper, write down your problem such as: I don’t have time to eat healthy or I don’t know enough to launch an online business.
Now, make a list of 25-50 solutions. These can be practical and serious or funny and silly. The point is to list every single possible solution you can think of—even if it’s not realistic.
The goal here is to get into a problem-solving mindset. You’re looking for any and every solution. Later on, you can evaluate these ideas and decide if something isn’t right for you. But for now, focus on the list.
After you’re done, you might want to put your list away for a little while. Then you can return to it in a day or two with fresh eyes. With this renewed perspective, the best solution may seem to pop off the page or a good solution you hadn’t considered might come to you as you review your current options.
Look at Previous Obstacles
If an idea for overcoming your current problem isn’t coming to you, it might be helpful to review the obstacles you’ve faced in the past. You can examine them to see how you handled them and what you can learn.
For example, in the past, you may have let a lack of money hold you back from starting your business. You may have said, “I can’t possibly start an online business without thousands of dollars to invest.”
But evaluate whether that’s really true now. Is it simply about money or were you unwilling to look for other solutions that fit your smaller budget?
As you review old obstacles, you might also spot solutions that helped you overcome your problem. For example, maybe you struggled to find enough time to fit exercise in until you kept a time log. You used that tool to determine that you could give up one television show a day to fit in a brief exercise session.
Write down the lesson you learned from these solutions. In the one above, your lesson might be to carefully track everything and look for small pockets of time that might be useful for achieving your goals.
Doing this exercise can be powerful because you’re able to look back at your previous obstacles with perspective. See what you’ve learned between then and now that you can apply to your current problem.
Seek to Understand Others
Sometimes, the biggest obstacle seems to be another person. This can be especially distressing because it’s tempting to believe you have no control over someone else’s actions.
While it’s true that you can’t take responsibility for what another person does or doesn’t do, it is possible to subtly influence and impact people in such a way that they do what you want. This is not about manipulation, blackmail, or force.
Rather this is about approaching the problem from the other person’s perspective rather than your own. For example, you want to purchase an online business course that will improve your marketing skills. Your business doesn’t make enough to cover the expense so some portion of it would come from your household fund. The class is pricey and your partner doesn’t want you spending the cash.
You could view your partner as the obstacle, get angry, skip the class, and become resentful. But that’s not a path that gets you closer to your goals—to build a loving relationship with your partner and start a solid business that supports your family.
When you’re in a calm head space, try to talk to your partner and view the problem from their perspective. You might think it’s merely a money issue and that your partner is simply worried about paying the bills.
But talking it through might reveal what your partner is really concerned about—that you’ll be taken advantage of by some shady marketer or that you’ll build an amazing business and leave him or her.
When you focus on understanding others and not viewing them as obstacles, you open the pathway for healthy communication. It doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily get what you want, but it does give you a chance to build a compelling case for your goals.
Reach Out to Someone Else
You know what your goal is and you understand your obstacles. But you keep spinning your wheels. You can’t seem to get any traction or make progress. You’re feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. What should you do?
Try to look around for someone who has already achieved the same thing you want. For example, if your goal is to become a nurse but you keep getting wait-listed talk to a nurse you know. See what he or she did to get into their chosen career path.
Life is all about connecting with others and often, these connections can help you achieve your goals faster and go further than you could have on your own.
But don’t just be a taker—be willing to give back in your relationships, too. For example if a copywriter looked over your sales page and gave you some free tips, offer to design a graphic for her Facebook header. The more you show yourself as a giver, the more you’ll attract other givers back to you.
The thing to keep in mind with your goals is that you may not be able to make a huge dent in them early on, especially if your goal is a large one. You may need to take small steps consistently to truly see the results you crave.
Sometimes, trying to do too much is a form of self-sabotage. Without realizing it, you overwhelm yourself so that you fail. You do this because failing doesn’t involve leaving your comfort zone. You’ve already been living this way for months or years.
But that’s why it’s important to set mini goals along your path. Instead of deciding you have 1 week to write a book, challenge yourself to write 500 words a day for four months. Yes, the process will be longer but if you’re not a writer, then 500 words will feel like a lot until you’re use to it.
Keep in mind that you can adjust your small goals if they stop challenging you. Using the example above, let’s say you’ve been writing 500 words every day for two months. But now it’s starting to bore you. You don’t feel challenged or inspired by the goal anymore. So try to aim for 800 or even 1,000 words a day.
Enough Quitting Already
The biggest obstacle you’ll ever face is in your own mind. The urge to quit or stop will be strong at times. Maybe you were up all night with a sick child and you’re tired of going to the gym. Maybe you experienced a huge setback in a work project and you want to skip your normal writing session.
Giving into internal resistance won’t help you create the life and business you dream of. Sure, you may temporarily feel better. But when you realize you’ve stopped making progress on your goals, you’re likely to feel embarrassed, sad, or frustrated.
Don’t do this to yourself. Believe in yourself and your goals enough to show up. Even when you’re tired, overwhelmed, or full of self-doubt.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll do your very best work when you show up. Sometimes, you may go to the gym and get one set of lunges done before you have to call it quits. Maybe you’re only able to write 50 words of your next blog post instead of your usual 1,000+.
The important thing isn’t how much you did. It’s the fact that you showed up! You were consistent and you sent a message to yourself that you’ll prioritize your goals no matter what’s happening around you.
By showing up, you create momentum. That momentum motivates you and keeps you pushing forward, even on the days when it’s hard to keep going. Remember, you can create a life and business you love if you’re dedicated to getting it done.
As you keep moving forward and making progress toward your goals, take time to celebrate. You can do this in any number of ways – by treating yourself to an activity like a manicure, movie in the middle of the day, a new book, or your favorite dessert.
Just like you train a puppy with rewards, you can train yourself this way, too. Try to set small rewards when you reach a certain milestone.
For example, if you’re new to the gym, treat yourself to a fresh haircut after you’ve been to 10 sessions. If you’re starting a service-based business, splurge on a new book after you’ve reached out to 10 potential clients.
The important thing isn’t the reward—it’s the fact that you’re taking the time to celebrate yourself and your amazing quest toward your goals. You are worth the investment of time, energy, and money it takes to become your best self!
Would you like a printable worksheet to work your way through the obstacles? We have a free worksheet for you here.