Overcoming obstacles can be difficult. By definition, an obstacle is defined 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:
a. 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 people around you.
But just because these obstacles are outside your control, it 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.
b. Internal obstacles. Internal obstacles are those that you do have control over. Some common examples of internal obstacles are 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.
c. 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 7 proven strategies to help blast obstacles out of your way.
1. Understand the obstacle
We naturally tend to 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 quickly finish this task 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 that you know what to do, and without much further thought, you start to implement your solution.
c.) After some significant period of time passes, you realize that you have been going about this all wrong as your solution is not working.
d.) Back to the drawing board!
Our goal is to help you avoid this. It may sound obvious, but taking the time when first faced with a new obstacle to carefully consider the best resolution 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 the truth is that 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 all manner of 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 in a systematic manner when you really have no idea 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 work 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 possible routes to the solution, this strategy states that you consider each one on its own and eliminate what does not work.
d. Work backwards. We all know that sometimes it is easier to start at the end and then work your way backwards to a solution.
e. Many of us have a tendency to take on everything ourselves. But 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, as each person’s expertise would grow rapidly since they spend all of their timing 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.
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 really do require a novel approach. Try applying ingenuity, creativity and innovation to formulate 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 that 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? You may be surprised 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 as effectively and efficiently as possible?
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 for the next time around.
Remember to take account of your successes as well, congratulate yourself and try to emulate them for the next project. Anything you are able to learn and take away from your current experience will only improve on your future efforts.
5. Be self-disciplined
The most obvious answer to how to overcome an obstacle? Work at it. But often we find ourselves putting 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 very 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 find yourself waiting endlessly for just the right moment to begin working.
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 the following:
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 tend to 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 working out exactly 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 to not 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 actually can 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 the chocolate.
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 speaking, those of us who see temptations as a reminder to get our work done, and save temptations as a reward for later, are obviously more successful. Unfortunately it seems like more (or even most) of us fall into the category of allowing temptations to be distractions.
b. Turn to the 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 greatly increase your chance of successfully dealing with that obstacle when you actually encounter it.
So to continue the example of dieting and chocolate, you will be much more effective if you plan out, in advance of seeing chocolate, what you will do when you do encounter it.
Will you turn it down with a polite refusal? Leave the room? Tell the person offering it that you are on a diet?
Planning what you will do when faced with an obstacle and visualizing yourself doing it greatly increases your chances at overcoming that obstacle when you are actually confronted with it.
c. Finally, consider the 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 they key.
They conducted an experiment where study participants were asked to navigate through a difficult maze. The maze was displayed on a computer screen which could track the movements of the eyes of the participants as they tried to solve the maze.
The progress of selected participants through the maze was then blocked with an obstacle. The computer tracking eye movements showed that these participants then searched the entire maze looking for paths around the obstacle.
In other words, the obstacle forced these participants to think globally in order to find a new path to the end of the maze. The remaining participants did not experience any obstacles.
The same group was then given other tasks to do, and surprisingly, the group that had been forced to think globally in order to solve the maze challenge continued to think globally in their approach to completing these tasks and were able to solve the new tasks more quickly.
The lesson here is twofold. First, thinking globally is helpful in overcoming obstacles. Second, once you are able to adopt this type of mindset, it tends to stick and become 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.