You can have well-planned, daring, or exciting goals and still get knocked off track. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it. When obstacles sneak in, you might feel confused, frustrated, deflated, or mad. Fear not! Pulling together a mixture of tools, strategies, and awareness can help you get past those obstacles so you can do what matters most.

In my experience as an executive coach, stumbling blocks show up primarily in three different ways:

  1. You know you’re stuck and know why but can’t seem to fix it.
  2. You know you’re stuck and have no clue as to why.
  3. You don’t know you’re stuck but know something is amiss.

You’ve probably felt all of these at some point. I sure have. The difference for me now is that I’m more aware of how I feel when I sense a block in front of me (visible or invisible), more willing to see what’s really in my way, and have more tools to help myself.

There are two different ways to think of obstacles. Internal: getting in our own way. External: something or someone on the outside getting in our way. Here are four tips for removing the obstructions in your way.

Internal Obstacles
What’s going on inside you can control what happens on the outside. The main culprit is your saboteur voice. This internal voice may be the most dominant, invisible obstacle of all!

I like this definition of saboteur from Positive Intelligence, “Saboteurs are the voices in your head that generate negative emotions in the way you handle life’s everyday challenges. They represent automated patterns in your mind for how to think, feel, and respond. They cause all of your stress, anxiety, self-doubt, frustration, restlessness, and unhappiness. They sabotage your performance, wellbeing, and relationships.”

Your internal saboteur lives to construct obstacles! Here are three ways to deal with that mean inner voice from the book Taming Your Gremlin.

  • Simply notice. These phrases can indicate the saboteur voice is at work: you can’t, you’re not enough, you shouldn’t. When you hear these, simply notice. Don’t argue with it. Don’t negotiate with it. Simply notice. This improves your self-awareness and even though it’s happening on the inside, this skill makes a big difference in what happens on the outside.
  • Play with options. “Play” is the operative word here. When you’re playful and curious, your saboteur voice goes into hiding. It likes you to be serious as a heart attack and scared.
  • Be in process. This will take hiring someone like a coach or counselor depending on the topic. A professional can take you deeper to get at root causes.

External Obstacles
What’s on the outside of you that might be blocking you? Here are some areas to explore.

Knowledge
You might want to take on a new project and berate yourself for procrastinating when really, a crucial piece of knowledge may be the missing link between you and your goal or dream. Do you need to learn something new or reach out to someone who’s an expert to get rid of an obstacle?

Environment
Look around you. Is there something that’s bothering you? For me, this is often clutter. When my space is messier than normal, my mind is more chaotic. When I’ve saved too many documents on the desktop rather than building a good filing system for them, I get frustrated when I can’t find things. These seemingly small bumps in the road can be blocks.

Action
Think about your habits, systems, patterns, the action you’re taking, etc. What are you doing that no longer serves you or is tripping you up? Consider letting that go and replacing it with a new action that will move you toward your vision. For example, I’ve had clients who didn’t have a system for setting and tracking their goals. By designing a system that works for them, they knock down obstacles and achieve more meaningful goals.

Think about an area you feel stuck and then, think of one tiny habit that will get you moving in the direction you want to go. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear shares a story about a man who wanted to exercise. The first habit he developed was going to the gym for five minutes. After he became a person who goes to the gym, he started adding time in small increments. I love this because even taking baby steps in the direction you want to go sparks momentum.

Obstacles happen. Don’t let them stop you from reaching your well-planned, daring, or exciting goals! You can get past what’s blocking you. Start with some of these tips and add some of your own to build strategies that work best for you. I’d love to hear what you do when obstacles pop-up! Send me an email to [email protected]

Note: This is part seven in a series of nine blog posts exploring a blueprint for self-leadership. You can read the previous post here.