O is for Obstacles

Obstacles are there to make the plan great!

There will almost certainly be Obstacles stopping you getting from where you are now to where you want to be. If there were no Obstacles you would already have reached your Goal. The key is to define your Obstacles as factually as possible rather than getting lost in judgments or beliefs about the situation.

It is important to identify ALL the obstacles that stand in your way. At this stage, don’t consider ways to overcome them. Neither must you get disheartened! Think of this as an exercise for someone else. You know that there are very very few things that simply cannot be overcome, and you want to collect every obstacle so that you can work out a solution that will not fall at the first hurdle.

Don't let these imposters stop you dead!

Some of your obstacles will be justifications, only pretending to stop you. These are the things like “I’m too old” or “the market is too competitive”. These universal statements will only stop you if you accept that they can stop you!

If you change then to be accurate and unemotional, the way to overcome then will become clearer. You are not “too old”. Instead put that you are (say) 55, with a wealth of experience to offer, and some managers feel uncomfortable managing people their father’s age. Note – age may make finding the job you want harder – but not impossible.

The market is not “too competitive”, it is very “competitive”. Therefore I need to create a unique product with no direct competition, or choose another maketplace and product, or get a reputation or plug into someone elses (joint venturing). By being accurate, you can start to see solutions. A universal judgement blocks progress.

Obstacles can be found in yourself, others, the physical environment or a lack of resources.

Developing an Effective Obstacle Statement

Explore questions to help develop your Obstacle Statement, expand them to see the purpose of the question.

What is blocking me from achieving my goal?

At its simplest an Obstacle is something in the way of getting your goal

How do I know these things are really what is blocking me?

Sometime what we perceive as blocking us is not what is really blocking us – it is the difference between a true Obstacle and a justification of your position. A justification is:

  • a global statement
  • there is no way around it
  • it is not clear how it stops you moving forward with your Goal.

So you can test your Obstacles against these three criteria to see if they are genuine. See also the examples below

What else could be blocking me? (There are usually multiple Obstacles to difficult problems)

It is important to keep asking the question until you feel you have found all the real Obstacles

How would I have to change personally to achieve my Goal?

There are usually personal obstacles to achieving a Goal

What is preventing me changing?

Asking this questions will give you more information on what the real Obstacles are

How much do I trust myself to achieve my Goal?

It is important to know the real reasons if you do not believe you can achieve your Goal

What risks or threats would I have to face that I do not want to, in order to achieve this Goal?

Left to our own devices our minds will leave things vague but fearful. Once you know the risks or threats you might have to face it is much simpler to plan to deal with them

Are the risks or threats real or a justification for inaction?

It is important to be honest about whether the risk is real

Am I doing anything directly or indirectly to contribute/maintain the situation?

This question clarifies our role in keeping obstacles in place.

Do I have any expectations of how I should achieve this Goal?

Expectations of how you ‘should’ handle a situation can create an Obstacle

Am I considering the current situation or being influenced by past experiences?

Sometimes we do not see the situation we are currently dealing with because we are remembering situations in the past

Are other people part of the Obstacles? How specifically are they obstructing me?

Other peoples attitudes or behaviour often create an Obstacle to our Goal

What stops them giving the cooperation I want?

It is important to understand the reason why they are not cooperating

What needs to change in the environment so that I can achieve my goal?

Get clarity on what needs to change and you are half way to changing it

What else might get in the way?

This question asks you to think a little more widely

What resources do I need that I do not have now?

This could be a lack of time, money, support or knowledge. Be as clear as you can about what you need

What skills and abilities do I need to achieve my goal?

Sometimes a Goal will need a particular skill or ability you do not currently have

Examples of Obstacles Statements

Explore some statements ‘Less clear ones’, below and then expand them to see the clarified statement.

'I am too old'

A classic justification. Compare to ‘I have applied for 4 jobs over the last year. In one case they said my age was against me’

'My husband will never let me go'

Again a justification. Compare to ‘When I talked to my husband about a divorce in the past he has become angry and that scares me as I do not know how to respond’

'I have no time to do this'

‘I currently do a full time job and I am looking after my son three evenings a week. My weekends are free’

'I can't rebuild the engine'

‘I have done minor repairs on my car but I will need specialised tools, detailed manuals and some expert help to rebuild the engine’

'My boss obstructs everything I try and do'

‘When I do routine work my boss seems OK but when I ask him to help me with special projects he is unwilling to give me the time and explanations I need’

'My personal organisation is hopeless'

‘I have not sorted out the papers on my desk for over 3 months. It is very hard to find anything when I look for it’

'I am not motivated'

‘Most days I don’t get out of bed until 10.00am and then waste the time until lunch playing on the Internet – if I have something important to do I leave it until the last minute’

While creating his reality statement, Ian had identified a lack of time, lack of contacts and lack of IT knowledge as obstacles. To these he now added his typing was poor and his handwriting was worse. He did not have any specific programming skills.

He visited the library and found that the advertisements for IT jobs, were not for trainees anyway. In fact he found no adverts for trainee programmers at all! He dismissed any idea of using adverts to find his post. He had to find an employer about to create a trainee position – before it was advertised!