Here we are again.
Here you are again.
Reading yet another article about overcoming obstacles, reaching your goals, doing all the things you’re afraid to do, all the derivatives of the same basic concept.
Here’s the good news. I’ve been you. I’ve been the person who’s read constant self-improvement articles, read books, watched videos, listened to podcasts, all of it. And, it does work. But of, course, it only works for a select few.
Why is that?
Is there any real difference between people who overcome obstacles and follow through with their goals? Can’t be innate talent or intelligence because there are people across the spectrum who do well and who fail. Nassim Taleb wrote an article with a graph showing that IQ has no correlation with real-world success.
Is it circumstances? Sure, that’s part of the story, but I’ve seen enough people come from dire circumstances that have become successful and enough who had everything set up right only to fail to understand that’s not the end all be able variable either.
Are some of us just more naturally tough, ambitious, and able to persevere? Is grit something you either have or you don’t? Well, I spent the first five years of my 20’s being an absolute failure and the latter half building enough self-discipline to transform my life. Same guy.
Short answer, there are a ton of variables involved in becoming successful and even overcoming obstacles.
At the end of the day, you can only control you. If you think you lack discipline, you have no choice but to build it to get what you want. If you feel weak, you have no choice but to be strong. Life deals you shit cards, you have no choice but to play them.
I can give you angles, strategies. Here are some of my favorites.
The number one obstacle in your way is…you.
That’s it. You just can’t get out of your own gosh darn way. It’s funny, you have this odd relationship with yourself with so many contradictions. If you don’t have the outcomes you want in life, that’s proof you don’t exactly know how to properly manage your own life.
Deep down you know this, but then you don’t like confronting it so you get defensive. You fail and defend your own failure. Part of you just wants to maintain this image of who you are and who you could be instead of just changing.
Why? Because change involves humility, submission, surrender, acceptance.
Until you fully admit to yourself “Damn, maybe I need some help, maybe I should listen to someone else fully, maybe I should let go of my need to be right all the time,” you’ll stay stuck. But once you do admit this, the world opens up to you.
We sacrifice our dreams because… we want to be right.
You see this in people who have the answers to complex socio-economic-political questions but don’t even have their own life together — armchair experts on everything except themselves.
Where does this all come from? The need to control. When your life feels out of control in many areas, you try to grip hard on the things you think you can control, even though you can’t really control them.
You can’t really control anything.
Once you understand that you don’t have all that much control over anything except your attitude, the plans you make for your future, and the effort you put into making that future come true, you’re free.
When you have a goal in mind, obstacles will pop up. You will look at the entire journey of what you need to do and it’ll feel overwhelming. You’ll look at all these obstacles as giant roadblocks.
One simple thing you can to do overcome said roadblocks? Genuinely analyze and question them.
Think about that. How often do you actually take time to consciously break down the steps you need to take towards a goal? How often, if ever, do you question the severity of the obstacles?
Say you want to build a freelancing business. You have no clients. You need to get clients. Then, you think to yourself, “how the heck am I going to get clients? I don’t know anyone.” “If I reach out to people, I will get rejected.”
Ok, let’s break this down. What does the process of getting clients look like? Maybe you find a place like LinkedIn to get them. Ok, now you have to reach out to them. This involves sending a pitch, a crafted note.
Have you ever sent a crafted note before? Sure you have — from emails at a white-collar job to filling out a resume or C.V., to writing a letter to your local PTA, whatever, you’ve used written words to try to persuade people to do something. Not all that different from a pitch to get clients.
You might have to talk to them on the phone to land the client. Ok, have you ever talked to anyone on the phone before? Yes? Did you die? No. Ok. On that call, you’ll have to convince them why you’re worth working with.
Have you ever done that before? Oh, yeah, that’s right, it’s called a job interview. Did you get hired from one hundred percent of job interviews you ever had? No? Oh, so you have been rejected before. Did you die? Also no.
Maybe you get rejected. But what is rejection? Rejection is just an interpretation of an event. No one can reject you, you can only feel rejected.
When you break it down to its components, what is embarrassment, really? A little heart fluttering feeling, some blood rushing to extremities, simple physiological responses that you forget about on a long enough time scale.
I’m not immune to worrying about future obstacles, but I always ask myself questions. How difficult are these obstacles? Is it really that hard? Am I going to die if I try this? What’s the big deal anyway?
Question not only your future obstacles but your entire negative self-talk narrative, to death. When negative thoughts pop up, ask yourself “Is this real?” “What is this, really?” “Are these thoughts even slightly true?”
Odds are, you’re BSing yourself. You know this. But learn to know this.
Unless you are a total loser, which I highly doubt you are, you’ve had some moment in your life where you’ve overcome an obstacle before. Sure, maybe the obstacle wasn’t in your way of some magical dream life, but you’ve overcome some of them nonetheless.
Maybe you graduated from college, which can fraught with obstacles. How’d you accomplish that if you lack motivation? The end goal was clear to you and the structure was laid out for you, that’s why. Here’s the thing, accomplishing a non-conventional dream like starting a business isn’t that different from a structured goal like going from college to corporate.
Business has “rules” so to speak. There are patterns to what it takes to be successful. Maybe you won’t become some millionaire, but there are enough simple business models out there to find a predictable path to replacing your job income. You just have to change the way you think.
In your life as a whole, you wouldn’t be here today if you didn’t overcome some obstacles. Learning to walk was a damn obstacle. Many of us are parents. Think of how much strength, patience, and persistence it takes to be a good parent. Most figure out how to do that. Why? Because you feel like you have no choice. By default, you’re supposed to be a good parent. Why not take that same attitude with your dreams and carry over that same strength?
See what I’m getting at here?
Throughout your life, you’ve been successful at many things, but as soon as it comes to this self-improvement realm, you just delete all evidence of past success and distort what it takes to pull off a dream.
You don’t need more motivation. You’re already motivated. Just point it in the right direction.
You don’t need a magic formula for success. Just apply what you’ve done to other goals in your life to the new ones you want to achieve now.
The goal is to remove all of the ‘magical thinking’ context to achieving a dream. Maybe we should just stop using the word dream altogether. Too fancy. Too much pressure.
You’re simply trying to achieve an outcome that you want.
Stop romanticizing it and start piecing together the steps it takes to achieve the goal, understand the obstacles upfront, de-construct those obstacles to understand their true essence, overcome them by not making your obstacles out to be more than what they are, achieve your goal, and repeat the process all over again for new goals.
This sounds simple. And it is. But of course, it’s not easy to implement.
So what do you do?
This could happen to you in the future and I hope it does.
One day, you just say to yourself “Screw it. I’m going to do this.”
You just…stop BSing yourself. You let go and surrender to the now. Instead of adding all this extra resistance to your life — anxiety about your future, hesitation, second-guessing — you just fully accept that you are at square one.
As much as I wish I could give you the perfect trick, the perfect sentence, the insight that finally does it for you, I can’t promise or guarantee that.
Self-improvement is a strategy that, when fully followed, tends to work. No one can guarantee that it will work.
The closest thing you can guarantee is making that guarantee to yourself that you won’t quit and you’ll work on overcoming obstacles until you, overcome them. Maybe it takes one hundred tries.
Oh well, the time will pass anyway, right?
What’s in your way right now?
Do yourself a favor. Just for today. Try to tackle that obstacle right now.
Maybe do it again tomorrow.
Then see what happens.