“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.” Thomas Carlyle

What factors are holding you back, slowing you down or preventing you from achieving your goals? Almost all progress toward a goal or series of goals comes up against a limiting factor of some kind.

It is crucial to identify these limits or obstacles in order to eliminate them. Progress at the pace you’d like and in the direction of your goals requires the systematic removal of obstacles that undermine advancement.

Identifying the true obstacle to progress takes honest reflection and analysis. Obstacles may be entrenched within organisational structures or culture. Conversely, obstacles may be embedded in our own mind, in the beliefs that you hold and the behaviours that you routinely perform.

By reflecting honestly on the obstacles within your own mind, you become better equipped to focus your energies on removing or eliminating the most appropriate obstacle. This of course is preferable to spending valuable time removing external obstacles that are inconsequential to your progress. 

Personal obstacles consist of any belief, thought or action that may sabotage your progression towards your goals. They may include:

The attitudes you hold about change and progress - Do you think change is a process that is controlled by you or controlled by something external, such as luck or destiny? This is the concept of locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the extent to which a person believes they are in control of their destiny. An individual with an external locus of control attributes change largely to forces outside of themselves such as fate, good fortune or bad luck.

Conversely, those individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to see change as a function of their own doing. Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to be more comfortable with change and consequently make smoother, more efficient progress.

Self-limiting thoughts - Self-limiting thoughts are ingrained processes of thought that impact on the way in which we appraise, interpret or analyse a given situation or event. Self-limiting thoughts can take many forms, such as:

  • Black and white thinking – The tendency to interpret events in extremes (no shades of grey). This means that anything less than perfect is interpreted negatively and limits our ability to see the positives.
  • Unrealistic expectations – The tendency to pre-empt an event with unrealistic ideas of what should occur. This is a clear sign of setting yourself up for failure.
  • Selective thinking – This is the tendency to hone in on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any of the positives, leading to an unbalanced perspective.
  • Catastrophizing – Imagining the worst possible outcome. This can discourage action and stall change.

Lack of assertiveness - Assertiveness is the ability to communicate self-assurance to those around you. It involves being direct and clear about what you want without aggression or hostility. An individual lacking assertiveness may miss opportunities and may be taken advantage of by others.

A lack of assertiveness can interfere with the achievement of your goals. If you suspect a lack of assertiveness may be an obstacle to you, it may be useful to focus on assertiveness training and communication techniques to assist you in eliminating this obstacle.

Vague time management - Vague or unfocused time management can impact greatly on the achievement of tasks and can ultimately impact on the quality of your performance. If you find that time slips away from you and meeting deadlines is difficult, you may benefit from focusing on your time-management skills.

It is possible, however to have well-developed time-management skills, but find difficulty prioritising tasks. Sometimes guilt and expectations can distract us from concentrating on our self-focused goals. If this rings true for you, it may be helpful to review the section on self-limiting beliefs.