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6 Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles That Hold You Back from Success

tephen King famously threw his first novel in the bin after being rejected for the 30th time, and it was only because his wife got it out of the trash that he persevered and went on to be one of the most successful authors internationally with over 50 books[1]! Clearly, overcoming obstacles came naturally to King.

Mary Anning[2] was one of only 2 children to survive of her 15 siblings when sheltering under tress in a rainstorm—lightening killed all but Mary. Her parents’ little house by the sea was flooded, she couldn’t afford to go to school to learn to read and write, and yet she became one of the most renowned fossil finders of her era, influencing the science of paleontology at a time when women weren’t even allowed to go to university.

A client described the huge obstacle they faced: “Mandie, I feel like I’m looking at a huge wall and no matter what I do I can never get over it.” In less than two hours, we reduced that wall to rubble and that person is now achieving the things they didn’t think were possible. In this article we will explore how you also can start overcoming obstacles you face to get what you want in life.

Whatever you want to be or achieve, you’re going to need to find the obstacles in your way and get rid of them.

If you don’t, you are at risk of:

  • Constant frustration that success always feels elusive or gets delivered to someone else (less deserving than you).
  • Guilt that you should have achieved more, but you just don’t have the skills, intelligence, confidence or ability–that’s not your fault, right?
  • Sadness and overwhelming thoughts that say you can’t do it, which means you stop trying and fail.
  • Repetitive conversations that run in your head over and over again as you wish you could tell people what you really think and want to achieve.
  • Anger as everyone is more important than you and getting what you want out of life.
  • Stress that impacts your physical, emotional, and mental health as you never get where you want to go.

These are just a few ways that not dealing with the obstacles in your life can have a long-lasting, detrimental effect.

Let’s give you 6 highly successful strategies to overcome your obstacles in life and get the success you want (and deserve!).

1. Listen Very Carefully

We rarely listen carefully to other people, and we are even worse at listening to ourselves. Clients will often tell me how they are horrible at something, but rarely are they hearing what they know about themselves. They are choosing to only concentrate on the critical repetitive thought rather than everything else they know about themselves.

Before you start believing the good stuff, you’ve got to really understand what you tell yourself. And rarely do obstacles come with a neon sign saying “Obstacle here!” So how can you fix something that hides under another name or thought?

Here are some common thoughts that people believe that tell us obstacles exist in their life:

  • It’s just the way it is.
  • I’m not clever enough.
  • I can’t speak up to get what I want; it’s just not the done thing.
  • I’m not good enough to achieve what I want.
  • I don’t have enough hours to do it all.
  • I don’t know where to start, so I end up doing nothing.
  • I would never know what to say.
  • I’m not the kind of person that could achieve that.

Take a minute to think about the thoughts that are free falling through your mind that are less than positive.

How do they make you feel?

What does it cause you to believe is true?

(In my experience, what we hear and believe is often the root cause of stopping you from achieving more and overcome adversity and obstacles that life throws at you.)

What results do you feel are associated with these thoughts?

(These will fit nicely into the acronym F.E.A.R – F – feeling, E – Emotion, A – Actions, and R – Results.) If you follow the flow of your feelings, emotions, actions, and results, you can see the true damage your thoughts are having and how they impact on the obstacles in your life.

Remember, your ability to make good decisions, your health, your productivity, creativity and even your ability to make money can be impacted by negative thoughts. The Navy Seals ensure the first thing they do in a crisis is…breathe[3]. Not action. Breathe, because it puts you in a calm state. A calm mindset is essential for overcoming adversity.

2. Decide If It’s a Perceived or Real Obstacle

Some obstacles take time, perseverance, new skills, determination, and discipline to overcome, and others can be removed in one hour! I’ve seen many clients in tears who felt the obstacles were too big to overcome, only to leave at the end of our session with a completely different attitude, mindset, and belief about the obstacle that was insurmountable an hour ago. How is this possible?

When something feels big, we believe what it tells us.

  • If we think we don’t deserve that pay raise, the world will reassure us we are right.
  • If we think it’s wrong to speak up, then we will get reinforcement that this is true.
  • If we feel under-skilled, we won’t need to work hard to find the proof we are right.

Our minds like to prove us right. When we are proved wrong, it’s challenging in our head and can cause pain, anguish, and worry as we try to understand what this challenging thought means for the human we are:

  • How will it impact our actions and results?
  • Our conversations?
  • Our relationships?
  • Our careers?
  • Our ability to make money and live the life we want?

Changing a perception can be easier than we think.

Ask yourself, “What proof do I have this is true?”

This will help you start to see that some obstacles are actually a lot smaller when you challenge them.

3. Change Your Perceptions

If you want to change your perception of an obstacle, start with you.

What Do You Believe to Be True About Yourself?

Are you talented? Clever? Kind? Successful? Hard-working? Dedicated? Caring? What words would you use to describe yourself? Write them down right now.

Analyze and Review the List

Tick any words that are positive, and cross out any words that are negative. What are you left with? A page of positive reinforcement or a page of battering the human you are?

Another Viewpoint

Now ask friends, colleagues, family, and even social media friends – how would you describe me?

Compare Your List With the Words Given

Does it match up?

At this stage if you lack confidence, you will be able to justify your hard-held view that you’re right and “people were just being nice.” Trust me, they weren’t; you really are a good person that people like.

The disparity between what is known about you and what you believe to be true is one of the first tools to fight your obstacles. If you want to fight the things that hold you back, build your confidence.

A good level of confidence will help you overcome any obstacle, real or perceived.

4. Create New Beliefs

Whether you call them mantras, beliefs, mindsets, or attitudes, you need to ensure you have a powerful saying in your head that honors your new perceptions of who you are and what you are capable of before you decide to act.

If you want to overcome an obstacle and fight the difficulties in your life, and you only believe bad things about yourself, how likely are you to succeed?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. For one client, they had escaped an abusive relationship with no home, no money, and no future (in their eyes). They now have a business, a new relationship, a beautiful home, and a future. When they faced obstacles in life, they would tell themselves what they’d overcome. How powerful is that!

5. Plan Clear Goals

It’s not enough to think, know, and believe you are a great person. If you don’t have a plan, you will struggle to start overcoming obstacles. Likewise, when it comes to the obstacles that stop you, clear goals will always be your friend in destroying them.

Obstacles that struggle to survive around goals include:

  • Not enough time.
  • No support.
  • Too many responsibilities.
  • Not knowing where to start.
  • Not asking for what you want.
  • Being down trodden by other people.

These are just a few. So, if you want to override obstacles, look at the quality of your goals.

Are They Clearly Defined to You and Others?

It’s surprising how many times a client is frustrated that they aren’t getting what they want, and yet when I ask them who they’ve told, it turns out they’ve told no one! People aren’t mind readers; you do need to communicate to get what you want.

Do You Have a Plan of Action That Is Easy to Follow?

Break it down, and if it still feels too big, any action that feels harder to achieve gives your brain evidence that the original perception was right and that it can’t be done. If any action to your goal still feels too big, break that down into smaller actions.

Ensure Goals Have Tangible Steps

Your goal may be: “I will have moved to my dream home by January 2022.” That goal will include emotional goals aimed at securing your mindset, i.e., “I believe in my ability to get my dream home because I have all this proof of how I achieved what I set out to achieve.”

Measure Your Results

We don’t notice ourselves falling into a rut. At the start it can be just as hard to see the signs that you are escaping it, too. Keeping notes on how you feel, what you’ve achieved, what you are working on will help you keep fighting to overcome any obstacle, because you can and will do this.

6. Face Big Obstacles With Determination

There are some obstacles that are genuine. They rock up in your life and feel like they are taking everything you know, love and enjoy. Death, divorce, life-threatening illness, major accidents, and redundancy are just a few of the things we face when it feels like the world has come to an end.

However, even on these occasions, it’s amazing how some overcome these obstacles with finesse, discovering whole new levels of determination, carving out new careers, radically changing their lives for the better, and empowering and motivating others.

What Would You Do?

When you’re too close to an obstacle, it does look like a huge wall that blocks out the sun. In all the years of coaching clients with this strategy, I’ve never heard the same answer. The question is:

“If it feels like a huge wall, how would you like to get past it if you could using magic, super heroes, or anything else to instantly destroy it?”

I’ve heard people say they’d tunnel under it. They’d go along the wall until they came to the end. They’d climb over it, get Thor’s hammer and destroy it, or take it down brick-by-brick. But it’s never the same answer.

These crazy, impossible solutions to the wall give us clues on the best way to get over obstacles.

The person that wanted to tunnel under it realized they didn’t like to look head-on at obstacles. If they did, they felt it was too big, and they would procrastinate, fearing they’d fail.

For the person that wants to climb over it, they realized that, no matter what happened, they could overcome things that happened in their lives. They realized the sooner they started, the sooner they could get what they wanted.

The client who went along the wall appreciated that for them, they always found a way around the wall. Can you see how this client has assumed there is an end to the wall? Their perception (rightly or wrongly) meant they knew they could find a way around it. (And it would use a lot less energy strolling along a wall than trying to destroy it or tunnel under it!)

And what about the person that wanted to take it down brick-by-brick? This showed us they like a methodical way of achieving things. There had to be a plan. A process. Dates in diaries to ensure success, otherwise they would feel overwhelmed.

Concentrate on What You Can Control

A big problem with obstacles in life is that they create negative emotions and results. It’s hard to not feel upset, disappointed, pained, sad, and many other negative emotions, because the obstacle really has screwed up something in your life.

However, these are all things you can’t control. And when you try to gain control of things that can’t be controlled, you just get more frustrated, angry, and depressed, and you often give up.

Concentrate on what you can control:

  • If your body stops working and needs 18 hours of rest a day, you can control what podcast you listen to so you learn new things and stay motivated.
  • If you lose your job, you can control what you do with that extra time, re-educating, up-skilling and growing your network instead of staying in bed and watching Netflix.
  • If the person you wanted to spend the rest of your life with leaves, you can concentrate your thoughts towards all the people in life that love you instead of the one that doesn’t.

It’s not easy, and it takes practice, but concentrate on what you have, not what you don’t. One study[4] discovered that students in their first term who were asked to practice gratitude experienced less stress and depression, felt more socially connected, and the research suggested they were able to be more resilient in a time of great change.

So count your blessings.

Make Sacrifices

To overcome adversity and life’s obstacles, you will need to make sacrifices. To write a new book, I had to decide to not watch TV with the family but return to the laptop.

When someone tells me there’s not enough time to start a new business, we easily find plenty of time in their life that could be used for the new venture. Challenge yourself on what is essential and what is not.

There are more than a few young teens around the world who dislike my name because a parent has told me a big obstacle to their success is that their teens do nothing around the house. A few “on strike” days from the parents, and suddenly the parent has more time since they aren’t the only one that can empty the dishwasher or do the laundry.

Final Thoughts

If you want something enough, you will find the impetus to make those sacrifices, challenge what you believe, and overcome any obstacle.

Everyone faces obstacles, and sitting back and complaining about how unfair it is won’t change anything. Stepping up and deciding to do things differently is the first step to having the tools to always overcome obstacles, no matter what life throws at you. It’s now time to put this into action.

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