Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Sarah McCubbin
How can we go about overcoming obstacles to achieving goals? After all, we all have goals but something stops us from actually doing what we set out to do.
Is it time…money…education? Sometimes…but often it is much smaller mindset obstacles that set us up for failure.
According to Brian Tracy an author and communicator on the topic of motivation and goals, when we identify what prevents us from achieving our goals, we can then systematically take steps to overcome those roadblocks.
As a mom of 9 kids, TIME is one of many obstacles to achieving goals. There are 9 people asking me for things…10 if you add my husband. You can probably relate…someone needs lunch, a form filled out for school, driven to practice, or help with homework. Having young children increases the frequency of interruptions. Older children seem to increase the length of the interruptions.
Learning how to juggle the responsibilities of parenting AND do things that you want to do is probably the greatest challenge.
Every family has their unique situation, but before we had children, very few of us realized how consuming parenting would be. I remember saying things like...”When I have kids, my bathroom is never going to smell like THAT.” Or…”When I’m a parent, my toddlers will listen and not scream.
I would never stand for that.” Hahaha….yeah…I learned. Nothing before parenting prepares you for all the ways you will need to constantly pivot to keep moving forward toward a goal. But that constant change is harder for some people than for others. I’m a planner…and it is hard to plan for change.
Before having kids, I think the biggest goals that I accomplished were finishing college and buying a house. Neither was spectacular…but we did them. And the process for both of these things is pretty straightforward. If you Google, “Steps to Go to College” or “How to Buy a House,” tons of helpful articles pop up with step-by-step instructions.
What I could not appreciate before children were the undistracted amounts of time I had to work on my goals. I had no idea. I refer back to days before parenting as our “Cruise Days.” We were on a self-indulgent cruise but we didn’t know it…so we really didn’t appreciate it!
Now, with a house full of kids and responsibilities, I find myself looking back and wondering what I could tell myself. After all, it is still possible to accomplish goals when you have children…but it requires a bit more strategy and playing the long game if you will.
What Difficulties to Achieving Your Goals Might You Face?
1. Lack of Planning Prevents Goals
Think of any goal you have ever accomplished, no matter how small and it is usually easy to think of the steps you took to actually achieve that goal. A simple goal would be something like planning to make a special dinner on Friday evening. In order to actually make that dinner, you would need to first look up recipes and make a shopping list. Then you would drive over to the store for those items and go through the steps to prepare each menu item.
After all these little steps, you could serve this special dinner. Simple analogy yes…but it illustrates that even basic simple goals require planning.
When we have goals…big or small…we need to start by making a plan. The planning period is often MUCH longer than the actionable time to do the goal. But skimping on planning can lead to a lot of extra cost and time in the process.
2. Lack of Education
Having goals is wonderful, but in my experience, they are often cramped by a lack of actual knowledge in that area. My brother has co-owned title companies and a real estate company and lots of properties.
Whenever we need to do anything related to real estate or renovations, I call him to ask for his advice. I’m hoping that getting an education from him in this area shortens the learning curve for us and saves us time and money.
Whatever your goal is, it is worthwhile to consider what education you do and don’t have that will lead to your ultimate success. Today it is easier than ever to acquire knowledge inexpensively through books, blogs, and courses.
While going back to college may be the path you need to your goal, there are many other kinds of education to help us much more quickly and inexpensively.
When I set out to start a blog, I actually quit 4 times because I thought it would be easy. It’s not. What has changed this time and why I’ve stuck with it much longer this time is that I decided to invest in education to learn how to do the things I didn’t know how to do in blogging. Now obstacles are only temporary speed bumps.
Add any education needed to your planning process.
My Favorite Motivation and Productivity Books
3. Setting a goal that is too large (initially)
One of the obstacles to achieving goals is that we don’t actually know how difficult it will be to accomplish that task. For this reason, it is helpful, the break down a larger goal into much smaller goals. Doing this gives us benchmarks to celebrate and gives us the motivation to continue working toward that larger goal.
If my goal is to “make a million dollars” but I have no idea how to do that, I might play the lottery and then quit on that dream if I don’t win. In order to meet the goal, I need a plan, some education, and manageable smaller goals that move toward that larger target.
4. Not prioritizing your goals correctly
As a mom, I find it very difficult to prioritize goals correctly. After all, the goals of every other member of my household get mixed in with mine. February is particularly difficult for me in this area.
Between working on taxes, education and financial applications and planning for spring, I’m usually buried in paperwork. (For this reason, I’m glad it is cold and snowy in Ohio in February…so I don’t miss spring doing paperwork!) During this season, a lot of other tasks are set aside and not prioritized. Some of that is fine…but there are some things that I need to keep doing even in this busy season.
How do we decide what should be prioritized and what should be set aside?
In his book, “Eat That Frog,” Brian Tracy reviews the 80/20 principle. He says that “20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results….20 percent of your tasks will account for 80 percent of the value of what you do. This means that if you have a list of ten items to do, two of those items will turn out to be worth much more than the other 8 items put together.”
By looking at those things that we need to do with an eye toward the long-term value, it helps prioritize time toward those items while choosing NOT to do other things on the list…or making those things wait. In my case, I like paperwork…so I will almost gladly do it over something like writing a blog post.
Paperwork seems easy…writing is less easy. If I get up early, I’m tempted to start on the easy finite task of paperwork…but in reality, most of the time, I can do that after I work on my most important task. If I write first (in my case), I can usually get to work on paperwork or whatever later in the morning or in the afternoon.
Use the 80/20 rule to overcome obstacles to achieving goals.
5. Trying to juggle too many goals at once
Similarly, focusing on too many goals at one time makes it difficult to accomplish any of them. If the goals are related, it will help to write them up into one goal plan with each of those goals happening as part of the larger one. If the goals are unrelated, it will be helpful to choose only one or two to focus on at a time. Most of us are familiar with goal overload right around the New Year. My resolution list has looked something like this:
I want to:
- Eat Better
- Lose Weight
- Exercise Regularly
- Read more Books
- Get up Early
- Have Dinner every Night
- Play More Games with my Kids
This is just too much to start all at once! For someone who is completely out of shape…trying to start exercising AND eating right at the same time can be really hard! I tried over and over again! In this case, these 2 goals are related, so focusing on eating better first jumpstarted weight loss and then I added exercise. Picking one new or two new goals at a time keeps things manageable and before you know it will propel you toward bigger goals that once seemed unattainable.
If you need ideas on how to meet your goals, check out 10 Steps for Accomplishing your Goals.
6. Wrong Timing
My sister-in-law has 6 kids…I have 9. February in Ohio was OVERWHELMING for both of us when we homeschooled all our kids!! When our families were at home…inside…with not much to do and really cold weather outside, it started to feel kind of desperate. We both have lots of boys and by the end of February, everyone was going stir-crazy.
It’s easy to start making all kinds of unrealistic plans based on that desperation. She and I would laugh about a piece of advice her mom gave her. That advice….”Never make big life decisions in February.” It’s funny advice…but probably really good advice here in Ohio. Because that month skews the rest of the year here.
In February it would be easy to think you need a bigger house, a car with better features, a job in a warmer place, a school that is closer, or any number of other things. Goal-making can be skewed by the current temporary circumstances. Maybe any of those things would be fine, but the urgency of the situation accelerates a decision that might not be the best right now for many other reasons.
It is helpful to view our goal-making through the filter of life to decide whether right now is the time to start making progress on those goals or whether now is still part of the planning. Don’t undervalue planning as it can lead to a much smoother action stage of any goal. Intentional planning gives us purpose while we are waiting.
7. Demotivating Negative Self Talk
If you scroll through Instagram or Facebook, intermixed with content from friends are a wide variety of advertisements usually tailored to your personal interests. I don’t know about your feed but mine has ads that look something like this, “I was a mom doing life but wanted to make money.
Then I found this simple system and when I did it transformed my life. Now you too can have this system for the rock bottom price of $27.” I don’t know what it is about $27…maybe that’s the number that the algorithm thinks I might pay….but 90% of the ads are that price. Haha…I digress! Sorry about that!
Anyway, have you ever found yourself looking at those ads and thinking, is that really possible? Maybe it is possible? Then you click the ad to learn more. It sounds interesting and $27 isn’t that much money BUT then you think, “Nah... it’s probably too hard. I don’t have time for that. I don’t think I could do it. My life is fine right now etc.”
These thoughts are like little bolts of lightning…super fast…super fleeting. And if you are like me, it happens nearly instantly when you start to dream and give up on them almost instantly.
I’m not saying click on every $27 ad…you would go broke!! But I am saying…hey, pay attention…what messages are you listening to in your head? They are quiet and subtle.
And if they are telling you that you can’t do something…probably something good, something that would help you, bless your family, and change the course of your life, pay attention. Squash those thoughts that tell you that you can’t, you don’t have enough education, enough resources, or enough time.
As a follower of Jesus, when these thoughts “pop up,” I am reminded of what the Word says. I Corinthians 10:5 reminds us to “take every thought captive and made it obedient to Christ.” That means that when we have thoughts that discourage us or make us want to quit, we need to get quiet and ask ourselves what God says about our situation…what His word says. And then we get to choose…what will we believe…what will we do?
You are so valuable that God…Jehovah Jireh (the God who Provides) created YOU. He made you so special and has a good plan for your life. And all that junk about not having enough time, resources, or education is much smaller than creating the universe. He has a good plan for your life…and when we partner with God, we have access to great blessings.
8. Quitting too soon
Ok, maybe you are like me and you paid the $27…or you announced to all of your family friends that you were starting something new…..or heck, you started a new job. Usually when we start something new, it’s so exciting. The possibilities are endless!
Starting Is Fun…You Need a Routine to Keep Going
I’ve started a blog 4 times (yes this is number 4…at least) and I love the start…picking the domain name, writing the first post, adding a few pictures, posting on Facebook, etc. It’s so much fun. And then life happens and it is actually hard to find time for this and I read about the “ideal” blog…and I realize, I’m not keeping up with someone else’s pace and before I know it, I’ve stopped.
I’m great at starting…not great at the routine needed to continue. So here is the deal..before we start, we need to plan for the inevitable slump. When the slump happens, we need to change what we are telling ourselves.
Instead of “This is too hard..I can’t do this,” we need to remind ourselves, “I’ve learned so much. What can I do to improve this process? What else do I need to learn?” My greatest accomplishment in life provides me with an example I can follow for repeating success….
When we became parents, it was SO exciting. Shopping for baby things, Our son Ian was a perfect little bundle and we were thrilled to bring him home.
But after a couple of nights of no sleep, things weren’t so fun. Then I had double tendonitis in my shoulders…no fun. And suddenly this parenting journey was a little less shiny. But parenting…unlike other “goals” is not something you can quit.
We learn how to have bad days…sometimes weeks and months…and then manage to pull ourselves together and continue on caring for our children and helping them become the best version of them they can be.
We don’t give up because we didn’t get enough sleep, our house is messy, someone else is a better parent…or whatever. We keep going. In some seasons, it doesn’t look like persistence gets us anything, but then there is a breakthrough for that child and it is AMAZING to see them blossom and accelerate and shine.
So, let’s not give up on our goals… let’s not quit too soon. Goals are hard…sometimes to the path to them seems impossible. But if you don’t quit, you will win.
9. Undervaluing What You Are Good At
In the pursuit of a new goal, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the things you don’t know or resources you don’t have. It can become enough discouragement to stop many people from even starting. But you are not that person! For everything you are lacking….you have another equally valuable quality or skill that someone else wishes they had.
So, it is important to take inventory. What education, skills, people skills, and experience do you have already? Write it down. In a separate column, write down the education, skills, people skills, and experiences you need.
Each one of those is a thing you can work on as part of your overall goal plan. You are not starting from zero here…you have a lot that you have already built and it is the foundation for your goal.
10. Poor Habits
It is quite possible that this one would be first if I were writing these in any kind of order. Poor habits can sabotage good intentions faster than almost anything. Without habits (personal disciplines), we are consistently needing to redesign the wheel…try new things, new diets, new planners, new workouts, and new apps to make us do something.
Habits are the simple patterns of our day that we do without thinking almost. They are the automated parts of our day. For some, it is making a pot of coffee first thing after rolling out of bed in the morning. For others, it might be setting their alarm, right before bed.
The more good habits…good automation…we have built into our day, the easier it is for us to focus our minds on the goal at hand. But if we have poor habits…or perhaps no habits…we can be working against ourselves and sabotaging all of our goal efforts.
My favorite resource for learning about habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear. He does a fantastic job of explaining how micro habits..things that take a minute to do can easily become the building blocks of positive change!
These 10 obstacles are just the tip of the iceberg. Many of us also struggle with plain old motivation. Sometimes the list seems so overwhelming, it’s hard to get started. Here are 25 Tips to Get Motivated!
As we create a plan to meet our big and small goals, it is equally important to look at the ways we can overcome obstacles to our goals. Your success is not defined by simply meeting the big goal. Celebrate every step of meeting your goal. After all, these steps are micro goals and by recognizing and celebrating these, you motivate yourself to continue.