Common obstructions to achieving your goals and how to overcome them

If you think that the goals you've set yourself are too difficult to achieve and you're not progressing towards them, there is likely to be an underlying reason why you're not seeing the progress you'd like. You may not even be aware of some of them! Read on to find out what they are and what you can do about it.

Woman running race looking happy


If you aren't sure what matters most to you in life and the general direction you want to go in, then it's difficult to set and achieve goals. You may feel stuck and frustrated. Any goals you set yourself may, at some level, not reflect who you are and may be about achieving something for someone else.


By establishing your top priorities in life (your values) and the order that they matter to you, you can start to set goals, manage your time and make decisions based on these values. Everything starts to fall into place when you understand your purpose. A coach can help you understand your top priorities and help you set achievable goals.


Do you find yourself taking on more than you need to? It could be doing too much at home, at work or in a voluntary role, for example. This may be because of a need to receive praise from others or because you believe that what you do will never be enough. 


When you take on too much, you may handle it for a while, but ultimately you will end up feeling exhausted and stressed. Stress can have serious impact on your health. So ask yourself, am I relying on someone else to praise me for my efforts? What happens if they don't? What reward or feeling do I get by taking on too much? Is there another way for me to get that reward?


Are you putting yourself last? Are your priorities in life all about someone else and what they want or need?


The airline mask analogy is relevant here. When you fly, the airlines always tell you to put your own mask on before helping others. There's a reason for that. It's about looking after your own wellbeing, so that you are fit and well to look after others. By taking care of your own needs and ensuring your own health, happiness and wealth, you will be much better placed to support those around you.


Do you feel like you're on a treadmill, repeating the same weekly routine without change? Perhaps you were you taught as a child that you shouldn't rock the boat and instead just accept things the way they are. How much time and energy do you spend maintaining things as they are? What are you tolerating in your life and why?


When you start to appreciate how much energy you waste on keeping things the same, then you can look to make changes. If you've discussed your life priorities with a coach, then you could set some goals based on these values. From there, you can explore the options available to you to achieve those goals.


This obstruction is known as lottery fever. You might say that "once I win the lottery, I will start volunteering". Or it can apply in other areas, e.g. "once I lose some weight, I'll start dating". You are putting off achieving your goals by waiting for something else to happen. But what if it never happens?


There is usually a reason why you might tell yourself, "I'll do this once X happens". There is some kind of positive reward for you. Perhaps you don't need to deal with something or someone. Perhaps you feel safe by not taking a risk, because you're scared to fail. These reasons are valid, but when you understand them, you realise you are making a choice to not pursue your goals and why. If you're having trouble getting passed that, a coach can help you examine how to overcome these anxieties.


Some people are negative and seem to suck your energy and enthusiasm. This may even be a close friend or relative. They can be hard to be around at times. Perhaps they create a lot of problems for you as you pursue your goals. This can lead to resentment and arguments.


It is likely that by pursuing your goals, you will start spending time with like-minded people who are of a more positive mindset. In doing so, there may be less time for those who sap your energy. But if it's important to you to spend the same amount of time with the negative person, then you can reassure them that although you're pursuing your own goals, it won't affect your relationship with them. In fact, achieving your goal may benefit both of you.


You may feel pulled in different directions as you want to meet your family responsibilities, whether to a child, an elderly parent or someone who is unwell, but you also want to pursue and achieve your own goals. It's understandable that your dependents may take priority, however this means you are putting yourself further down the priority list.


By taking time to look after yourself and attending to your own priorities and goals, you are taking good care of your own mental health. This is vital if you want to be fit and well to look after others. When you've established your top priorities and set goals that are meaningful to you, you can plan the steps you could take to achieve these goals. It's important you set time aside each day to do something towards your goals. This will help you regain some balance between your own needs and those you care for.


If you're in the older generation, you may tell yourself that you can't achieve something because of your age. Now, it's true that certain activities become more challenging with age, depending on your health.  However, it's possible to achieve many of the goals you set by simplifying them.


When you take a big goal and break it down into smaller steps, it becomes more manageable. That works regardless of your age! For example, let's say you want to achieve something in the next year. Begin by breaking that goal down into goals for each month throughout the year. Now break them into weekly goals, then goals for the next week. Each week, on a set day, plan your activities for the next week, ensuring you take steps every day towards your goals. When you start working towards your goals it brings happiness and an increased sense of confidence too.


Are you constantly telling people you don't have time to achieve things that you say are important to you? It's one of the most common reasons given for not achieving our goals. 


This also comes back to life priorities and goals. Once these are set you can begin to look at how you're spending your time. Think about your activities for the week ahead. How do they relate to your goals? Are you spending time on activities that take you towards your goals? Of course, there will always be demands from others. But how much of these can you delegate or say "no" to? What activities are a complete waste of time and irrelevant? Time management is a skill that can be learned and a life coach and can help you work out how to make time for yourself and your priorities.


Money is a very common reason to give for not achieving your goals. There are bills to pay, Christmas is coming up and so on.


If you have a serious financial problem, then it must be tackled with the support of your bank and a financial adviser. A local credit union may be able to support you. However, sometimes it's about having the money and not being willing to spend it. But with your life priorities clearly defined and understood, it becomes much easier to make decisions about where to spend your money.


It's often the case that the reason we're having difficulties achieving our goals is we may not be looking after our own needs well enough. There is an underlying theme in this article and that is one of self-knowledge and self-care. When you know yourself well, understand your motivations and set yourself meaningful, achievable goals AND learn to nurture your own needs, then you should start to see these obstructions diminish.


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