Overcoming obstacles can be difficult.
We define an obstacle as something that obstructs or hinders progress. Obstacles come in many forms, both at work and at home.
According to Kevin Daum, obstacles naturally fall into three categories:
1. External obstacles. External obstacles are those that are outside of your control.
Examples include the economy, natural disasters, physical limitations, and the actions of the surrounding people.
But just because these obstacles are outside your control does not mean you simply throw up your hands and give up. What is in your control is your own behavior and how you react and deal with the external obstacles that are thrown at you.
2. Internal obstacles. Internal obstacles are those that you have control over.
Some common internal obstacles include needing more money, wanting a promotion at work, trying to lose weight, and improving a strained relationship with your family member or other loved one.
3. Habitual obstacles. Habitual obstacles apply more generally in your life and may only be eliminated by making a global change.
Common examples of habitual obstacles include feeling constantly stressed out, getting angry too easily, or being prone to procrastination.
7 Proven Ways For Overcoming Obstacles
This guide will give you seven proven strategies to help blast obstacles out of your way.
1. Understand the obstacle
We naturally move quickly to a solution without first fully understanding the issue at hand. This is an easily understandable impulse.
Your to-do list is a mile long, and you want to finish this task quickly and move on to the next one.
Let’s say you are trying to complete a project and an obstacle arises that must be dealt with before you can go on to the next step. Your typical thought process probably goes something like this:
a.) You evaluate the problem briefly.
b.) You think you know what to do, and with little further thought, you implement your solution.
c.) After some significant period, you realize that you have been doing this all wrong as your solution is not working.
d.) Back to the drawing board!
A better understanding of the obstacle will help you save time
Our goal is to help you avoid this. It may sound obvious, but taking the time when first faced with a new obstacle to consider the best resolution carefully is critical and is a step that most people skip.
Why do we skip this step? We think it is because we don’t want to face the hard reality of a daunting problem.
But it is an investment of time that typically pays off very well in terms of overall savings in time and expense spent.
After all, if you don’t completely understand all aspects of the obstacle you are trying to overcome, how can you ultimately be successful?
2. Craft a plan
Obstacles can come in many shapes and sizes, both abstract – What should I do with my life? – and concrete – How do I solve this math problem?
Fortunately, there are many ways to solve problems. The hard part is choosing the best strategy that will most appropriately deal with the situation you are facing.
Different strategies that you can employ include:
a. Guess and check. Also known as trial and error, this strategy is best employed systematically when you really do not know where to begin.
b. Make a list of tasks and work through them one by one. You may have also heard of this strategy described as divide and conquer.
Instead of facing down one monumental, difficult task, try breaking down your task into more manageable items and working through them one at a time. Try creating specific deadlines for each task to keep your progress on track.
c. Eliminate possibilities. If there are several routes to the solution, this strategy states that you consider each one on its own and eliminate what does not work.
d. Work backward. We all know that sometimes it is easier to start at the end and then work backward to a solution.
e. Many of us tend to take on everything ourselves. Imagine what would happen if every individual just did what they were best at – it would lead to great efficiencies in work and more professional results.
Each person’s expertise would grow rapidly since they spend all of their time doing and excelling at that one thing.
Consider all aspects of your project, the best use of your resources, and where hiring an expert would be more efficient and lead to a better result than if you did it yourself.
What happens when your plan hits a snag
f. Avoid reinventing the wheel. If you have a method that you know works on a smaller scale, consider how you can tweak that process and apply it to your larger scale problem.
g. Try reinventing the wheel. Some problems require a novel approach.
Try applying ingenuity, creativity, and innovation to plan a unique solution instead of blindly using the same approach.
h. Still stuck? Try bouncing a few ideas off of a few colleagues or trusted friends.
Brainstorming is a spontaneous process that promotes thinking outside of the box and harnesses the power of a group.
Ask open-ended questions and make sure that all ideas are welcome. No idea is immediately discarded, which helps to encourage to think freely and expansively.
Normally brainstorming takes place in a fast-paced session where all involved parties throw out ideas quickly, so it is important to keep track of every idea the group comes up with.
Finally, after all ideas have been generated and written down, the group can then analyze together the merits of each one and decide upon the best course of action.
3. Carry out the plan
Easier said than done, right? It may surprise you to find that if you have created the most appropriate plan, putting that plan into place may be less difficult than you think.
Create a realistic timetable and chart your progress to completion.
4. Take time to reflect. Learn from any failures and celebrate your successes
After you have overcome your obstacles, take some time to evaluate what you did from top to bottom. Consider each of the following questions:
a.) Were you successful in meeting the challenge?
b.) Were your resources used effectively and efficiently?
c.) What strengths and weaknesses have you identified in your process? How can your strengths be enhanced and your weaknesses eliminated or mitigated?
Remember to think positively and constructively about your results. If you feel that any aspect of your project was a failure, do a careful assessment to work out where you went wrong, and you can fix that the next time around.
Remember to consider your successes as well, congratulate yourself and try to emulate them for the next project. Anything you can learn and take away from your current experience will only improve your future efforts.
5. Be self-disciplined
The most obvious answer to how to overcome an obstacle is? Work at it.
But often, we put off what needs to be done, and the more important or difficult it is, the more likely we are to put it off. Does any of this sound familiar:
a.) You have a long to-do list filled with urgent and time-consuming items, but instead of diving right in, you waste time doing low-priority, less time-sensitive, and easy tasks that could easily wait.
b.) Using any excuse to avoid beginning your work (going for another cup of coffee, making a phone call, reading e-mails, or browsing the web mindlessly).
c.) You wait endlessly for just the right moment to work.
Procrastination is a time thief
If you can identify and then deal with procrastination, you have increased focus and time to do your work. The best way to combat procrastination is to develop your time management skills. Try:
a.) Avoid distractions and interruptions by keeping a neatly organized workspace and only checking emails at set times during the day.
b.) Take regular, structured breaks with a preset time limit, which will help cut down on unplanned breaks, which waste more time.
c.) Set realistic goals with specific deadlines that are achievable.
d.) Remind yourself that the best time to tackle the most pressing item on your list is now. Try to persevere and push through even if things are not going according to plan.
6. Keep a positive attitude and visualize your success
It is easy to get bogged down mentally and brood over the many obstacles that are blocking your path. The most successful people use positive visualization techniques.
Jack Nicklaus has said:
“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.”
As a preliminary matter, they first visualize themselves overcoming an insurmountable obstacle in their mind before even attempting to tackle the problem. Picture yourself coming up with the perfect solution in the most efficient way possible.
The challenge here is not to allow obstacles to become so larger than life in your own head that you cannot think of anything else. Take your positive mindset and affirmative visualizations and allow those to propel you forward.
7. What do the experts say?
a. Temptation can actually help some of us focus.
Take the example of going on a diet. Chocolate is your downfall.
It is not surprising to hear that when an unsuccessful dieter sees chocolate, they succumb to temptation and eat it.
However, Ayelet Fishbach, Ron Friedman, and Arie Kruglanski also discovered something else—that when a successful dieter sees chocolate, it serves as a reminder and reinforcement that they are on a diet and actually may help them stick to their diet. This applies more universally than dieting, of course.
Generally, those of us who see temptations as a reminder to get our work done, and save temptations as a reward for later, are more successful. Unfortunately, it seems like more (or even most) of us fall into the category of allowing temptations to be distractions.
Research conducted by Floor Kroese, Marieke Adriaanse, Catharine Evers, and Denise DeRidder.
The conclusion to draw from their research is that forming a specific plan on how to deal with an obstacle will increase your chance of successfully dealing with that obstacle when you actually encounter it.
So continuing the example of dieting and chocolate, you will be much more effective if you plan out, before seeing chocolate, what you will do when you encounter it.
Will you turn it down with a polite refusal? Leave the room?
Tell the person offering it you are on a diet?
Planning what you will do when faced with an obstacle and visualizing yourself doing it increases your chances of overcoming that obstacle when you are actually confronted with it.
Experiments conducted by Janina Marguc, Jens Forster and Gerben Van Kleef.
According to this trio of scientists, approaching obstacles with a global problem-solving approach is the key.
They conducted an experiment where study participants were asked to navigate through a difficult maze. Researchers displayed the maze on a computer screen which could track the movements of the eyes of the participants as they tried to solve the maze.
Then they blocked the progress of selected participants through the maze with an obstacle. The computer tracking eye movements showed that these participants then searched the entire maze looking for paths around the obstacle.
The obstacle forced these participants to think globally to find a new path to the end of the maze. The remaining participants did not experience any obstacles.
They then gave the same group other tasks to do, and the group that had been forced to think globally to solve the maze challenge continued to think globally in their approach to completing these tasks and could solve the new tasks more quickly.
The lesson here is twofold. First, thinking globally helps overcome obstacles.
Second, once you can adopt this type of mindset, it sticks and becomes a habit.
We hope you have found this guide helpful in clearing obstacles out of your path. Remember that it will not be easy, but the reward will be worth it.