9 Obstacles That Keep You From Achieving Your Goals

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While you may have spent a lot of time working on your goals for the next year, there are plenty of things that are going to get in your way to achieving them.

Before we go any further let’s establish the use of language here. Goals can be substituted with objectives, targets, outcomes, achievements, resolutions, aims, ambitions and any others you can think of. For the purpose of this report, the writer will use Goal.

How often have you started off the year, or next phase of your development with good intentions, and some goals of what you want to achieve, only to find that somehow you never see to achieve them? What I will cover in this article is the 9 biggest obstacles that will get in your way. I will take each one in turn and explore what is behind it, why it is there, and more importantly the action you can take to put it to one side.

What I will also do is evidence this be using the responses of a survey conducted with Sole Traders, and owners of Small and medium Enterprises (SME’s), identifying the challenges they face in the coming year.

Although there are arguably hundreds of potential obstacles, 9 appear most commonly.

1. Lack of information

2. Lack of skill

3. Limiting beliefs

4. Well being

5. Other people

6. Own motivation

7. Time

8. Money

9. Fear

Why have a Goal?

If you needed more reason do set your own goals, in a study conducted on students in the 1979 Harvard MBA program, only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and 84 percent had set no goals at all.

Ten years later, the findings revealed that 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning up to 84 percent compared to those who had not set any. For the three percent who defined their goals and wrote them down, they were earning on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

Some set goals that are too general. These are, in reality, fantasies common to everyone. Goals, on the other hand, are clear, written, specific, and measurable.

What is a Goal?

Other names that are used, explore others use of language. Why do we have them? Different types of goal – towards/ away from.

Some goals are called away from goals. These are usually framed in the negative. Here are a few examples.

o I don’t want to smoke anymore

o I don’t want to be unfit

o I don’t want to be overweight

o I don’t want to be broke

Now let’s reframe them in the positive

o I am a non smoker

o I am fit and health

o I am at my ideal weight

o I can cover my bills

Notice the difference. They are stated in the positive and take on the assumption that you have achieved it already. By assuming “as if” your behaviour changes so that you are acting like to have already achieved what you wanted to do. What a great feeling to have even before you have got there. It also bolsters your motivation.

So now we have determined if our goal is towards something, or away from something. We have now stated it in the positive. This however is still not a very well detailed goal. We will now look at how we can make it more specific.

An ideal goal should be expressed in the positive, be time bound and specific. You may also like to consider, how will you know when you have achieved it, what will it feel like, what will the people around you be like? What will you do to celebrate it?

A goal must be time bound. When do I want to have achieved it? If that’s when I want to achieve it, then when must I start? What is the first step I need to take? Who should I tell? Should telling that person be the first step? What skills or knowledge do I need to acquire along the way?

Goal size, is the goal too big to achieve? If so then breaking it down into smaller bite sized pieces may be the right approach.

How serious are you about this goal. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being low and 10 being high), how committed are you to this goal? If your answer is less that 7 you are unlikely to follow it up completely. What would you need to do to this goal to move it from a 7 to an 8?

Now that you have really defined your goal you are ready to go. Aren’t you? So what’s stopping you?

I will take each one of the potential obstacles in turn, and elaborate.

Lack of Information

Information can have one of two effects. With too much you can be overwhelmed, and can stop you from making a decision or taking the next steps. With too little information you are not able to put things into perspective, or look at the bigger picture. Identifying where you have gaps in your knowledge, and including this as part of your goal will move you closer to achieving it. There are several ways to obtain new information. Research, planned reading, listening to CD’s, DVD’s on a specific topic or networking with individuals who have the knowledge to share with you.

Lack of Skill

In order to move forwards you may have to pick up skills along the way. This need not be an enormous challenge. As part of your goal setting, understanding what skills you need to acquire, and how you will acquire them will form steps of your plan. This does not necessarily mean that you need to enrol on a course, although that is a great idea. Other alternatives such as on-line study, planned reading, shadowing a colleague in the workplace, or seeking advice from a friend can also help you obtain the skills you need.

Limiting beliefs

We all have a set of beliefs by which we live our lives. These are set in our subconscious at an early age. Sometimes these beliefs can hold you back and limit your ability to achieve you goals. Some common examples may be familiar to you.

Indecision or Procrastination- should I do one thing or another? This often results in you doing nothing. The limiting belief manifests itself as “I am not able to make decisions”. Unable to make progress or stuck – when a way of working is no longer effective, you continue to use it and often forms a comfort zone, the limiting belief here could be ” I can’t/ won’t change”. Often people will state that “I don’t deserve to be successful”, or “that shouldn’t work for me”. Here we are seeing self sabotage and not valuing themselves and their own ability. These are only a few examples, but listen out for them and notice how many times you hear yourself saying things like this.

Well being

Despite your best efforts, there may be times when you are simply not able to pursue your goals. A sudden illness or injury can put set you back. When this happens you need to be realistic. Beating yourself up will not help, nor simply giving up. Take a little time to re assess your goal and consider what your options are now. How important is it that this goal is achieved within the original timeframe. Also consider how else you goal can be pursued, and who can help you during these times.

Other People

Quite often the people that are closest to us fear us achieving our goals. For them this means that you may change and that will also mean change for them. They may not be aware how important your goals are to you. If the people you share your time with for example family, friends, colleagues to not understand and support your goals, there is a chance that you may be influenced by this. If these people are adverse to change then they may well sabotage you plans.

Own Motivation

Although you may see out with the best intentions, after a while the novelty may wear off or there are other distractions. This may be down to a number of factors. Perhaps the goals that you set were too large, and needed to be broken down into smaller manageable chunks. Perhaps you are not getting the results, and need to consider what you doing that is are preventing you from moving forward. After continued effort you may feel that the goal is now actually something that do don’t want, or at least the outcome.

In this case the goal needs to be reassessed. If it requires modification because circumstances have changed, then change it. If it no longer serves you, then don’t waste your energy following up on something just because you started it.


We all live in a world where we don’t seem to have enough time. Many of us are “time poor”, which means that we do not manage our use of time to get the best results. Quite often I hear from the people around me “I just don’t have time to do x”. How true is this statement really? Have we taken on too much, overcommitted ourselves and are embarrassed to say no? Perhaps, but I have another view.

If we approach our use of time without any structure we may just leap from one thing to another in no particular order. Without priority we will move from one thing to the next urgent thing.

There is also the aspect of distractions. This can be distraction from others who do not have the same aspirations as you. There is the distraction of telephone calls and emails. Quite often we busy ourselves with those things that are nice to do, but do not take us any further forward to achieving our goals.


Money is a common reason for not pursuing your goal. Usually it is the lack of money that stops you. When you hear someone say “I can’t afford it” or “I just don’t have the money”. These statements are usually offered up without much hesitation.

While I agree that it may well be true to some extent, what alternatives have they really explored and how else could the money be found? If you are really serious about achieving this goal, what lengths would you go to in order to find the money (legally)!

Let’s turn this around and look at it from another perspective. What is it costing you to not have that goal in your life right now? For example being in that bad relationship or enduring bad health. If in achieving this goal it was going to get you that next job, or mean that you would get that 10% performance bonus at work, what efforts would you go to?


What do I mean by fear? There are the more straightforward examples. If you need to do something that takes you right outside of your comfort zone for the first time, which may well install fear into you.

Then there is the fear of failure. What will those around you think if you don’t achieve you goal. How will you face them and maintain your integrity. Better to quit now that to see it through right? That way no-one will be able to judge me.

Another type of fear is the fear of success. What if I actually do it, and people find out I am a fraud? Is this goal something that I really want anyway? Self doubt comes into play and you try to talk your self out of it.

What evidence supports this in a business context?

In a recent survey conducted with Small and Medium enterprises (SME’s) and sole Traders they were asked what they viewed as the biggest challenges facing them in 2010. All of those surveyed reported that they were partially successful in achieving their goals and objectives in 2009. 33% of these goals were significant, and the reasons for not achieving them were down to ill health, not asking for help, and lack of confidence in the economy amongst others.

Many of these goals were being carried on into the following year, some people carrying forward all of their goals. When asked what they were going to do in order to achieve those, 66% reported that they would try something different, and 33% would look for assistance.

So what is stopping these business people from moving forwards? Well from the sample surveyed the leading factors were Lack of skills, lack of knowledge, Health, Fear (of success/ failure) and Limiting beliefs.

Those that responded that they would look for assistance; it was equally split between others in their trade or profession, approaching a business coach, or contacting specialist suppliers. From those three options, certainly looking at what your competitors are doing may give you some clues. After all if someone in our sector is being successful look at what they are doing. Likewise specialist suppliers may be useful if the understand you goals and aspirations. However they may have another agenda, after all they are in business too.

However neither of these two approaches are focused on helping you achieve your goals, and neither of them hold you accountable in working towards them. This is where a Business coach can prove particularly valuable. They will assist you in defining and developing you goals, identify what is stopping you and develop strategies to help you deal with those obstacles when they come along.

The Business coach will also challenge you to check if you are working on goals that move you towards what you want, and keep you accountable to those goals. As a Sole Trader or SME often there is no one around with whom you can share your goals with, and discuss them.

One of the common objections to using a Business coach is the perceived cost, often saying “I can’t afford that” or it’s “too expensive”. It is sometimes useful to look at this from another perspective. What is it costing you not to use a Business coach? If you can attach a value to achieving each goal then the services of an effective Business coach can be quickly calculated.

Let’s go back to the survey respondents for a moment. Two of the challenges identified were lack of skills, and lack of knowledge. Suppose for a moment if a Business coach could help you identify what these gaps were, how to close them and then how to apply them to your Business what would that be worth? You may think that you can go it alone, but consider for a moment how would you clearly identify those gaps in skills or knowledge? How long would it take you? Which direction would you go? For example


In this report I have explained what a goal is and why it is important to have them. I have identified 9 obstacles that can potentially stop you from achieving those goals. These are:

1. Lack of information

2. Lack of skill

3. Limiting beliefs

4. Well being

5. Other people

6. Own motivation

7. Time

8. Money

9. Fear

I have evidenced how these manifest themselves, in a business context for Sole Traders and SME’s, and looked at what strategies can be can be applied. And finally I have discussed how a Business coach may support the achievement of those goals.

Source by Wulston Alderman

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