Overcoming Life's Obstacles
Common Goal Obstacles By Ross Bonander
Life is full of obstacles that stand in the way of our goals
The great thing about the human condition is that we’re all human, making this, at least in the abstract, our shared condition: We can rely on the fact that someone, at some point in time, must have faced the very same issues we’re facing.
This is especially true as we work toward achieving our personal goals in life. While not every difficult obstacle in your path will have a perfect solution, you can bet that they'll all have responses, methods of coping, tweaking, manipulating, and even overcoming, because others have faced the same challenges before you. And you can benefit from their successes and their failures. When we talk about common obstacles that stand in the way of reaching our goals and dreams we can, for the moment, sidestep specifics and abandon any narcissistic notion that no one has ever had to endure this or that. Instead, we'll focus on learning about the more productive kinds of responses and how we can apply them to our everyday lives.
Feeling overwhelmedFew emotions become as tremendously all-encompassing as the sense that your goals are caught in a distant, amorphous mess you’ll never be able to negotiate. When this happens, you're feeling overwhelmed. And the most common response is usually quite swift: You give up.
Remedy: Few obstacles on the way to reaching your goals are more trivial than feeling overwhelmed. This feeling is often the product of not knowing where to start, which is in itself a product of indeterminate or inadequately developed plans. There’s no use in dressing up a fancy remedy for this. Sit your ass down and make a to-do list, then start doing it. After all, in the information age there is no excuse for whining that you’re stuck not knowing what to do first or unable to properly organize yourself. Substantially bigger obstacles await; if you can’t knock this one down, you’re in big trouble.
Lack of organizationAgain, like feeling overwhelmed, lacking an organized approach is something that feels far more sizable than it really is. If someone asks you why you haven’t been spending much time on that big plan of yours to go back to school and earn a degree and you honestly answer, “I’m not organized,” don’t expect a whole lot of pity or understanding.
Remedy: Disorganization is the product of bad habits. Bad habits do not develop overnight. So don’t expect to get organized that quickly, either. However, both organization and disorganization can be understood as a function of time: Your habit of relying on a faulty memory or of not following through with small tasks, effectively eating up minutes and hours on the clock. Yet, instead of saying to yourself, “OK, I should start writing things down” or “I have to finish this little task before doing anything else,” you moan, “Damn, where’d the time go?” Reclaim that time by scrutinizing your habits for bugs and taking steps to remove them.
Lack of expertiseComing across a peripheral yet crucial issue that requires a certain expertise -- something technical, for example -- that you’re not equipped to handle could leave you experiencing a feeling of inadequacy or inability to perform properly. As a an obstacle, this can create the kind of frustration that drags you to a complete stop.
Remedy: If you can't move forward without a resolution to that crucial issue, don’t despair. In the old days, we got on our fancy new cordless phones and called the reference desk at our local library. Today, you can roam the internet and hope to stumble over what you need, or you can visit my own personal go-to guy: Any one of the seven reference desks at Wikipedia.org -- whichever is pertinent for you. There, you can drop off your question like your car at the mechanic, come back in an hour or a day to find that either it’s been answered (generally, with sources listed) or that someone has pointed you in the right direction. Gathering knowledge you lacked before will help boost your self-esteem and accelerate your climb over this goal-stopping wall.
Don't let your fears consume you -- meet life head on...
Self-doubtDoubting one’s abilities is almost pandemic in human nature. Maybe the only two sets of people who don’t suffer from self-doubt are Napoleonic alpha males and people too dim or too insecure to accept the notion that they might have limitations.
Remedy: A lot of advice recommends that you go to someone who believes in you, to seek a pep talk. This seems inherently flawed, because the term is self-doubt. The drive to overcome self-doubt must come from within, from the self. Otherwise, you’re jamming a piece of gum into a leak that is destined to widen. So while in the midst of self-doubt, transfer that doubt to your desire to reach your goal. What does it mean to you to say, “Well, maybe I don’t want it that bad after all?” If this notion strikes you as more than untrue -- as near blasphemy -- that's good. Go ahead and keep doubting yourself all you want, so long as your conviction to your goals remains the more powerful motivator.
Fear of failurePsychologically, being afraid of failure makes perfect sense because it’s an awful, awful feeling. Or is it really all that bad? After all, failures come in all shapes and sizes; they can be miscalculations, mental errors, oversights, or they can have nothing at all to do with your performance. For example, if you’re an actor and you don’t get a part you auditioned for, do you consider that a failure? To screw up is one thing, to be outdone is quite another.
Remedy: It’s a common misconception to say that nobody likes to fail. Read about the careers of men like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. Now, did these men love to fail? Did they deliberately fail? Were they masochistic in that regard? Of course not. But they both failed many times before they came to realize that the paths they took to achieve their goals were not only littered with failures, but that their eventual achievements would not have been possible without such setbacks. James Joyce even described our errors as a "portal to discovery," so take them in stride and learn from your failures -- don't fear them.
Fear of successAccording to life coach TiCaine, this fear emerges “when you are genuinely creating change and moving forward in your life… and what we imagine in our future has an enormous influence on us.” He goes on to point out that our culture is geared towards trying to remedy aspects of our past, not addressing the conditions of our future. This unknown factor could be the source of our fear.
Remedy: Fearing success becomes a uniquely personal obstacle relating to change and self-esteem. Ask yourself what is so fantastic about your life right now, being as far away from your goals as you are, that you wouldn’t truly want to see it change. In other words, why are you clinging to that? You can’t fear success without also actively embracing failure. The next time someone points out how you like to wallow in self-pity and moan about how you just can’t seem to achieve your goals, accept the fact that you’ve invited failure to bed with you, and not the other way around.
No sense of urgencyOlympic athletes probably have it pretty good in this regard; after all, organizers don’t postpone the games because not everyone was able to instill their own sense of urgency in time. Many of us don’t have the luxury of immovable deadline. While some can create artificial urgency, it’s not possible for others. This lack of pressure makes a lot of us lazy and unmotivated, causing us to never move forward.
Remedy: The most effective remedy is also the most drastic: start lighting fires to bridges and discarding any cushions you may have used to fall back on. If this goal is important enough to you, why have a safety parachute? Let’s be honest, there is not a person alive (who wanted to stay that way) who would leap from an airplane and not deploy their safety chute if their main chute failed. The analogy here isn’t airtight, but it’s close enough. Say your goal is to be a rock star, but if that doesn’t pan out, well, you can always fall back on your talent as a bricklayer. You don’t like laying bricks, but you happen to be good at it.
If the phrase “I can always fall back on” isn’t followed by something you want as much as rock stardom, you’ve killed two birds with a single stone: urgency is dead, and there beside it is your dream.