How To Overcome 15 Major Obstacles To Achieving Goals For 2023

Woman jumping hurdles representing obstacles to achieving goals

Be aware of the major obstacles to achieving goals

Setting meaningful goals is a great first step to experiencing success in your life. In fact, a popular research study shows that you have a 42% greater chance of reaching your goals if you write them down. However, the majority of people who have goals for their life will never actually achieve them.

Why is this? Because the path to reaching your goals can be blocked by multiple obstacles. The trouble is, these potential obstacles are not always physical. Many times, they can be deep-seated beliefs, or poor habits that you’ve become too comfortable with.

If you struggle with accomplishing your ambitions, it might be time to identify the common barriers that are holding you back. Once you know what’s preventing you from creating positive change, you can create strategies to remove these roadblocks and get on the fast track to living your dream life.

In this post, we’ll go over 15 obstacles to achieving goals, and practical ways to overcome them. Let’s get started.

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15 obstacles to achieving goals

Even if you’ve struggled in the past with fulfilling your life ambitions, you can learn more effective ways to achieve your biggest goals. 

The secret may just lie in knowing how to recognize the obstacles in your way. Some of these hurdles could be created by external circumstances, but many are often produced by our own limiting beliefs and unproductive habits.

The first step is knowing what you’re up against. Because it’s not *if* you come across obstacles – it’s when. And, even if you don’t have control over what they are, you can choose how to respond to them.

So, don’t give up! Your past failures are not an indication of your future, as long as you’re willing to try something new.

Let’s go over 15 obstacles to achieving goals that might be getting in the way of your best life. Then, some strategies to get over these hurdles or eliminate them altogether so you can start making real progress.

1. You procrastinate

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving goals is procrastination. You may not be reaching your goals because you just keep putting them off until tomorrow.  You have good intentions, but these aren’t enough to make any progress.

People who achieve their goals take consistent action. They move forward – little by little, one step at a time – whether they feel like it or not. They don’t wait until they’re inspired or motivated or until all of the perfect circumstances fall into play. 

There are a million excuses you might have. Maybe you believe you don’t have the time, the money, the talent, the knowledge, etc.

But, if the ultimate goal is important to you, you’ll make a way. So, stop putting off your dreams. Take action today.

ACTION PLAN: Create a timeline to achieve one of your goals. Set specific dates to complete certain milestones. Add daily tasks to your calendar that you can check off when completed. Organize your time so you can make space to work on your goals.

2. You haven’t prioritized your goals

You may believe your goals and dreams are very important to you. Maybe you even tell others all the things you’re going to accomplish someday.

But, are you committed to doing the work it will take to achieve them?

If you don’t make your goals a priority in your life, you will have endless reasons to not work on them. Small, daily tasks that are less important will always compete for your attention. 

Also, having too many goals will keep you from making significant progress in any of them. Prioritize 2 to 3 goals that you can focus on before you add more to the list.

ACTION PLAN: Write down a list of 2 or 3 current goals you have and put them in order of priority. These could be financial goals, annual goals, business goals, career goals, etc. Then, dedicate a block of time in your schedule every day to work on one of them. If you can, do this in the morning. This is typically the best time to focus and you’ll ensure that it will get done.

3. You have unrealistic expectations

A key obstacle to achieving goals for many people is having unrealistic expectations. Some of these include:

  • Getting results quickly
  • Not anticipating any obstacles
  • Thinking it will be easy
  • Believing you can take on too much, too soon

If these expectations aren’t met, you could be tempted to give up. Don’t do this.

Instead, adjust your expectations to include any possible setbacks you might encounter. Accept the possibility that reaching your ultimate goal might take longer and be harder than you imagine.

ACTION PLAN:  Brainstorm potential hurdles to success that you might face, and come up with a step by step process for dealing with each one. This might mean extending your goal timeline, adding new tasks, or breaking down a goal into smaller steps. Also, try to find others who have accomplished a similar goal, and find inspiration in their experience.

4. You don’t know your why

Sometimes we can get too caught up in the “how” and the “when” with our goals. How am I going to achieve my goals? And, when will it happen?

But, if you aren’t firmly connected to the “why”, you will be more likely to give up.

Your “why” is that deep purpose and emotional connection behind any ambition you have. It’s typically *not* the most obvious reason you want to achieve a goal.

For example, let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. At first thought, you might think you want to lose the weight so you can … well … weigh less and fit into smaller clothes.

Hint: this is not your why.

Thinking a little deeper, you may discover you want to lose weight so you can feel more confident, which will help you apply for more promotions, so you can build the career you really want.

That’s a good “why”. One that is meaningful and represents powerful change in your life.

ACTION PLAN:   Take some time to journal about your life dreams. Write down all of the reasons they’re meaningful to you, and how they’ll benefit you. Keep writing until you find the powerful “why” that you feel strongly connected to. 

5. You don’t have cheerleaders

Encountering major obstacles to achieving goals can be disheartening and disappointing. This is why it’s critical to guard your mindset from naysayers.

Unfortunately, there are more people in this world that will tell you that you can’t than those who will cheer you on. If you want to reach your goals, it’s critical that you surround yourself with friends and mentors who will support you through the setbacks.

If you don’t have your own personal cheerleaders, look to books, blogs and podcasts. There are many content creators out there who believe you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and they’re happy to tell you.

ACTION PLAN:  Take an inventory of your social circle, and be purposeful about who you share your goals with. From those you expect even a hint of passive criticism, avoid sharing your efforts with them. Seek out those who believe in your big dream and will cheer you on through the difficulties.Also, you can go to the library to check out motivating audiobooks, or find podcasters that inspire you to keep trying.

6. You have no accountability for goal completion

An effective way to do what you say you’re going to do is by telling someone else, and inviting them to follow up with you.

When you know this person is going to text you in a few days asking what progress you’ve made, you’ll be more motivated to actually make some.

Of course, this person needs to be trustworthy and dependable for this to work. You don’t want somebody to judge you if you’re not successful, but you also want them to be challenging in a helpful way.

You also need to be open to the feedback they give. This may require some humility on your part, but receiving constructive criticism from a trusted and objective source can be invaluable to reaching your goals.

You can even hold yourself accountable by creating trackers and visual reminders. These will both help you stay focused and on track.

ACTION PLAN:  Find a trusted friend or mentor that would be willing to hold you accountable. Share with them what you are going to do, and invite them to ask you about it periodically. You might even want to schedule an accountability meeting once a week. Also, create some visual reminders that you can place in locations where you’ll see them often. Use a goal tracker that you can update every week.

7. Your goals aren’t SMART

Your biggest key obstacle to achieving goals might just be a lack of clarity. Being too vague can prevent you from knowing how to move forward.

Setting SMART goals can help you create defined goals that you can measure and track.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific: goal is well-defined and clearly stated
  • Measurable: progress can be made by measuring certain criteria
  • Achievable: the objective is attainable and not impossible
  • Relevant: the goal is consistent and compatible with your life purpose
  • Timely: there is a starting date and target date 

Ensuring that each component is defined in your goals will give you the clarity that’s necessary to stay focused and achieve your objectives.

ACTION PLAN:  Take your 2 or 3 goals from #2 above, and clearly outline each SMART component for all of them. Get specific with the who, what, when, where and why. Identify criteria you can measure. Confirm that your goals are actually achievable and relevant to your life. Specify start dates and target dates.

8. You don’t have an action plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  – from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Writing down your goals is a great first step to making progress in your life. However, without a step by step process to accomplish them, you won’t get very far.

This is especially true for big goals that can take several weeks or months to achieve. It’s important to break down your major goals into smaller steps, and block out daily time to work on each one.

Your plans should be focused, but flexible. Create a system (printable tracker, app, spreadsheet, etc.) to measure your progress on a consistent basis.

ACTION PLAN: Identify the tasks that need to be done to accomplish your goal. Prioritize these tasks and give each one a deadline for completion. Determine what resources you may need, and how you will acquire them. Designate a daily block of time when you will work on these tasks. Review your plan weekly to ensure you stay on track, and revise when necessary.

9. You’re too distracted

We have never come up against so many distractions as we have in our current culture. Between that smartphone in your hands, social media, and Netflix, you could easily waste hours every day instead of working on your goals.

Not only do these things detract you from being productive, they also zap your motivation and confidence. Browsing Instagram or Facebook may lead you to fall into an unhealthy spiral of comparison and discouragement. This mindset has the potential to kill any motivation you have to achieve your dream life.

ACTION PLAN: If possible, try to dedicate the first part of your morning to goal tasks. This will ensure that you accomplish your daily objectives, before you get distracted with other things. Find a room in your house without a television or other electronics. While you’re working on your goals, turn your cell phone off so you’re not tempted to check emails, messages, news, etc. If you need to use your phone to work, try using a “focus” app (like the Freedom mobile app) that will block distracting apps for a specified period of time. You can also install a Chrome extension on your laptop, such as Self Control, that will block access to set websites. 

10. You don’t believe in yourself

This may be the most powerful obstacle to achieving goals. If you lack the confidence in your ability to fulfill your dreams, then you’ll stay stuck in a “good enough” life.

Our thoughts can become so real to us that we accept them as facts. When we allow negative thinking to explain our circumstances, this becomes a limiting mindset that hinders success. So, whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re absolutely right.

Building confidence takes time and intention. You can help yourself by filling your mind with positive, encouraging, and inspiring input. This can come from trusted friends or mentors that support you in your goals. If you don’t have someone you can talk to, seek out books, podcasts, blogs, and YouTubers that inspire you to greater things.

ACTION PLAN: It’s important to identify limiting beliefs so you can replace them with empowering ones. Spend some time journaling about the beliefs that are holding you back. Determine if these beliefs are undeniable facts, or just your opinions. If they are actually opinions (which they probably are), then you have the choice to change them. Write down replacement beliefs that will help you build more confidence in yourself, and keep this list with you so you can look at it often. Find friends, authors, and content creators that will speak encouragement into your life, and limit time with those who don’t build you up. As you take steps toward your goal and start to see small successes, your confidence will gradually increase.

11. Your environment is working against you

Your surroundings can be a huge obstacle to achieving your goals. Maybe there are too many distractions (like snacks in the kitchen or Netlix on the TV), or you’re just not inspired by your environment.

Here are few ways your environment can work against you:

  • there’s a lot of clutter in your home
  • you keep too many unhealthy snacks in the pantry
  • there are stacks of dishes in the sink and piles of laundry on the floor
  • that huge big screen TV on the wall is always tempting you
  • your white walls and lack of home decor inhibits your creativity
  • your kids are listening to loud music, practicing the piano, or playing video games
  • your home environment is often tense with conflict and arguing

All of these situations can keep you from being able to fully focus on your goals. The best thing you can do is find a quiet space (with a door) where you can work alone when you need to. Or, you can find an external location where you won’t be bothered by clutter, noise, and family members.

ACTION PLAN: Find a room in your home (with a door) where you can spend time alone for a certain period of the day. Some good spaces include your basement or attic, a home office, a spare bedroom, or even your walk-in closet. Let your family know when you will be using this space, and that you do not want to be disturbed while the door is closed. It may take some time for them to get used to not walking in whenever they need you, but keep reminding them that your own space is important for you to get important things done. Put a sign on the door if you need to! Also, fill this space with things that inspire you – like pictures, candles, music, a nice desk and chair, etc. Make sure all of the materials you need stay in this room, so you’re always ready to work.

12. You lack motivation

One of the most common obstacles to achieving goals is simply not having enough motivation. It’s easy to check off a to-do list, because you get the instant gratification of getting things done. But a goal that takes longer to achieve can fall off your radar quickly because you don’t see any obvious progress.

You may also lack motivation because you’re too comfortable in your current circumstances. You’re not uncomfortable enough to make a change, so you don’t feel any pressure to take action. If you have a roof over your head, a steady job, and food on the table, you might lull yourself into believing that it’s all good enough. This leads to laziness and a lack of desire to take action.

So, how do you muster up enough motivation to start achieving your goals? There are many ways to do this, but one effective strategy is visualizing your future self. Think about the impact your eventual success could have on your career, your relationships, your finances, and your health. Using your imagination to see yourself in the future as someone having already accomplished your goals can be very motivating.

ACTION PLAN: Watch yourself in your mind’s eye as though you’re living out your dream life. Write down how your success has changed your life and made it better. Create a vision board that reflects what you want your life to look like in 5 or 10 years. Keep your goals in front of you, and read them out loud every day. If your goal feels too overwhelming, break it down into small, daily steps for a more immediate sense of accomplishment.

13. You’re not willing to change

Sometimes achieving a goal requires significant sacrifice. This might mean selling your home, changing jobs, or letting go of a relationship. Or, it might call for a deeper transformation within yourself.

Change is the result of progress, and you’ll need to decide if it’s worth it. 

Are you willing to downsize so you can retire on time?

Are you open to ending a friendship that is unhealthy and destructive?

Are you ready to find a therapist to work through enduring issues that are holding you back?

If you’re not willing to make the necessary changes, you may never achieve your goals. The choice is up to you; just be sure you’re willing to accept the consequences.

ACTION PLAN: Being open to change is a big hurdle for many people to reach their goals. One way to get some perspective is to create a list of pros and cons for making a big change in your life. Compare the good and the bad, and decide if the sacrifice is worth it. It’s important to be fully aware of the outcomes for both, so you can make the best decision for you.

14. You’re not willing to fail

I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” – Thomas Edison

Failure has a bad rap in American culture. Most people believe that failing at something is a negative experience and indicates a lack of ability. Many give up if they fail the first time they try.

You may be discouraged because of past failures. Or, you might be stuck in a perfectionist mindset, where you need everything to be perfect before you take any risk. Both of these limiting beliefs will prevent you from making progress.

The truth is, failure is a huge part of success. It’s how we learn what *not* to do the next time we make an attempt. It also lets us know what areas we need to improve in. These two lessons are what will ultimately lead us on the path to achieve our goals.

ACTION PLAN: It’s essential that you expect some failures and setbacks. Let go of the idea of perfection. Be prepared to take some hits and experience a few disappointments. The important thing is to keep the end goal in mind. As long as you don’t give up, you’ll reach your destination. With this mindset, you’ll begin to accept failures as helpful lessons on your way to success.

15. You’re afraid of success

One of the unexpected obstacles to achieving goals is a fear of success. Although this sounds contradictory, it’s a very real issue for many people.

This is obvious when you see someone sabotaging their efforts right before they reach their goal. They’re so close, and then they make a decision that keeps them from crossing the finish line!

If you struggle with self-worth or lack confidence in yourself, you might believe you don’t deserve to be successful. You have big dreams, a long-term vision, and you take steps to move toward them. But, the closer you get, the more afraid you become of actually making it happen.

Thankfully, this is mainly a mindset issue that you can control. You already have the ambition and motivation, you just need to adjust your beliefs so you can accept the success you deserve.

ACTION PLAN: Self-sabotage is a flashing red light that lets you know you’re afraid of success. As you get closer to your goal, try to increase your awareness of any behaviors that are working against you. This could be negative language, laziness, procrastination, or missing deadlines. Then, practice some self-coaching by telling yourself that you’re not going to fall for it. Reach out to someone who can encourage you, or listen to an audiobook or podcast that will get you in a more productive mindset. 

How to overcome obstacles to achieving goals

The first step to overcoming obstacles to your goals is being aware of what they are. Many people never achieve their ambitions in life simply because they don’t understand that these obstacles aren’t permanent or insurmountable. They can be overcome, and even removed; you just have to know how to approach them.

Here are 5 strategies to overcome those obstacles that are holding you back.

Take responsibility

There will always be obstacles to achieving goals, so it’s critical to accept the responsibility of confronting and overcoming all challenges that you come up against.

Seeing circumstances or other people as immovable barriers to success will only keep you stuck, and doesn’t help to create progress. Sure, there might be difficulties that could easily be attributed to forces beyond your control. You might not be able to stop certain things from happening, but you can always choose how you respond to them.

Don’t let obstacles decide your destiny, and don’t fall into a victim mentality. Decide that you are the only one who is responsible for your success, and you will do whatever it takes to achieve it.

Stay in a positive mindset

Have you ever heard the phrase, your perception is your reality? This simply means that, as humans, we tend to believe that what we perceive (based on past experiences) is factual.

So, if you tend to be pessimistic, you will likely interpret most things in a negative light. For example, if you’ve been rejected, bullied, or mistreated in the past, you may believe most people are against you. This could lead you to respond in a defensive or contentious way in relationships.

The good news is, your perception is your *choice*. It’s not factual, nor is it absolute truth. 

So, you can change how you see your circumstances. You can choose to interpret the obstacle in front of you as impossible to go through. Or, you can decide that you have the ability to figure out how to get around it. Are both true? Yes, based on your perception.

Our minds are very powerful influencers, and yours can work for you or against you. Be intentional about protecting your mindset from negative perceptions, while letting positive and encouraging beliefs get stronger.

This will make all the difference in whether or not you ultimately reach your goals.

Focus on the future

A powerful strategy to endure challenges is keeping your focus on the future. Being shortsighted can kill the motivation to overcome hurdles to success.

You can try a daily exercise to stay focused by using your imagination. Simply close your eyes and envision what your life will look like once you’ve achieved your goals. Where are you? What are you doing? What do you look like? What are you saying? What are you feeling?

Try to be as detailed as possible as you imagine what your life will be like. You could even write a letter from your future self, telling you all the things you’ve accomplished.

Then, create a vision board that encompasses several aspects of your dream. Put your board somewhere you’ll see it every day. Look at it often! Keep your dreams in front of you, so you don’t lose sight of what you’re working towards.

Build better habits

As fun as it can be to dream about future possibilities, the reality is that it’s going to take intention, discipline, and purposeful action to make it happen.

However, if you can develop the right habits in your daily life, your journey to success will be much easier.

Some productive and healthy habits that will support your efforts could include:

  • Schedule time every day to work on your goals
  • Measure your progress on a consistent basis
  • Meet with an accountability partner once a week
  • Read and review your goals every day
  • Stay healthy by eating right and exercising

Your habits are the building blocks to your future. Spend some time determining what negative habits are holding you back, and what positive habits you can replace them with.

Have a support system for when challenges arise

When you’re in the middle of challenges, it’s tough to see the forest for the trees. You could easily get discouraged and talk yourself into believing that your goals aren’t worth the effort. But, remember – this is just your perception!

Having people in your corner when the going gets tough can keep you from giving up. Sometimes, you just need someone to point out a different perception, and remind you that you have everything it takes to succeed.

Identify those family members, friends, co-workers, and mentors that you trust for positive input and feedback. You’ll need these people to help you walk your journey when the obstacles seem too big.

Don’t forget to grab the FREE 6-page Change Your Life workbook to start creating the change you want!


In conclusion: don’t let obstacles to achieving goals keep you from progress

Reaching your goals and fulfilling your dreams in life takes more than wishful thinking. You’ll need to have a detailed plan, take intentional action, and measure your progress. Along the way, you will likely encounter obstacles that must be dealt with.

As you look at your list of written goals, consider what those current barriers might be for you. Use the list in this post to stir up some ideas. Get in the mindset that the path to success is never a straight line, so you’re prepared when common challenges arise.

Then, think about how you would approach these obstacles. Do you need to develop better habits? Who will you choose to hold you accountable? How can you create an environment that will inspire and support your efforts?

Being prepared for the difficulties you’ll face when working toward a goal will be critical to your success. By expecting these obstacles and having strategies to tackle them, you’ll be able to continue moving forward and achieve even your biggest ambitions in life.

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How To Overcome 15 Major Obstacles To Achieving Goals For 2023

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