9 Barriers to Achieving Your Most Ambitious Goals

9 Barriers to Achieving Your Most Ambitious Goals

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Are you having trouble attaining your goals? Perhaps you want to lose weight, start a business, or amass a certain amount of money. Although you’ve been at it for a while, perhaps you don’t feel like you’re making progress.  If any of this sounds like you, this post might be just what you need.

Charlie Munger is famous for his problem-solving advice of “Invert always invert”.  By that he means that often the best way to start doing things right, is to first build a list of ways you’d be doing it wrong. Once you have your list, simply don’t do the things on it.

Here’s my personal list of 9 barriers to achieving your most ambitious goals. If you stop doing these things, it’s practically impossible to not make progress.

Barriers to Achieving Your Most Ambitious Goals

"Invert always invert”.  Often the best way to start doing things right, is to first build a list of ways you’d be doing it wrong.

1. Your Goal Isn’t Specific and Doesn’t Include Milestones

How specific are your goals?  Let’s say you have the goal of losing weight. You set the goal for yourself of “I want to lose weight. I’m going to achieve this by exercising more.”  If you re-read that statement, it’s very nebulous.  

How much weight? When do you plan to reach your target weight? What’s your specific plan for losing the weight? How will you know that you’re on target?

A better goal statement for weight loss might look something like this: “My goal is to lose 30 lbs by the end of this calendar year. I’ll do this by committing to a morning-exercise routine of 45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of each week. I’m going to check my weight on Sunday morning of each week and add an additional day of exercise if I find I’m not on track.”

This is a good goal statement. It’s specific, time-bound and measurable.

2. Procrastination

I’ll do it (later, tomorrow, next week).” Few things kill goal achievement more quickly than the habit of procrastination. When you procrastinate you’re essentially saying that whatever you’re currently doing is more important than working towards your goal.  With very few exceptions, this is almost never true. If your goal is truly important, you have to constantly take steps to move forward towards it.   

Ask yourself why you procrastinate. Perhaps you’re guilty of the first barrier.  That would certainly make it difficult for you to constantly take positive action. Having a solid plan of action with milestones will help you beat this one.

3. Time Management

4. Lack of Focus

When you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing. In your journey towards achieving your primary goal, stay focused. Most people have trouble sticking with anything new long enough to begin seeing results. An easy life hack to ensure this doesn’t happen to you is to carve out a bit of time every day to do something towards your goal. Consistency wins out every time with this one.

Realize that anything worth doing is going to require work and some measure of grinding. The fact that it’s hard work is actually a good thing. Means you’ll have less competition. Don’t consider a major change in direction until you’ve been at it for at least 6 months. During that time, you’ll have made enough mistakes and gained enough knowledge to adjust your approach in an intelligent way.

When you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing. In your journey towards achieving your primary goal, stay focused.

5. The Story You Tell Yourself

The story you consistently tell yourself is among the most important actions you can take towards achievement.  I am a firm believer that can’t is among the most dangerous words in the English language. When tell yourself that you can’t do something you are disabling all of your brain’s creative and problem-solving abilities.

You are telling your mind that you lack the ability to solve the problem you’re currently facing.  That’s a pretty big barrier to overcome. Can’t is best replaced with “I need to learn how”.

Pay close attention to what you say to yourself about yourself. What your mouth says, your mind believes.

"Can’t" is best replaced with “I need to learn how".

6. Listening to the Naysayers

If you’re attempting to do anything worthwhile, expect to receive criticism. It’s par for the course. An unfortunate aspect of human nature is that we often dislike when people we consider to be our peers are reaching for new plateaus. Those who cannot do, or more accurately (choose not to do), criticize.

Let’s return to the weight loss example from earlier. If your friends are saying things like “Well I could do that too, but I don’t want to deprive myself.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.  It’s not like you’re going to be able to maintain that crazy workout schedule long term.” Their negative comments are often nothing more than a poor attempt to hide their envy.

Haters are like crabs in a bucket; they can’t help but try to pull the one brave crab trying to climbing out back down to their level.

That leads us to our next point.

7. Environment

The people you regularly choose to surround yourself with matter. A lot. If you’re the only person in your close circle of friends that is trying to do anything of substance with their life, you need to work on finding new friends. This may sound like harsh advice, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Ideally, you’d want to have a few friends that are already ahead of where you currently are. They can serve as positive mentors and steer you away from some of the mistakes they made along the way. Under no circumstances should you surround yourself with negative people. They’re like a cancer; infecting and killing everything of value around them. Answer the following question honestly: “Are the people I surround myself with helping me achieve my goal or are they hindering me?”.

Pro tip for identifying negative people, they’ll often start their sentences with “You can’t do…” when you share your goal, idea or dream with them.

Achievement can be challenging enough even when things are going your way. There’s no reason to make it harder by regularly introducing negative influences. Don’t allow defeatist thinking to influence your mindset.

"Are the people I surround myself with helping me achieve my goal or are they hindering me?"

8. Education

Have you considered that you might not have the knowledge necessary to accomplish your goal? If your goal is weight loss, have you done the research around the most effective strategies? Have you sought the advice of a nutritionist and fitness professional to ensure your plan makes sense for your body type? Are you tracking what eat?

While it’s important to not suffer from paralysis from over analysis, there’s nothing wrong getting the education required so that you’re making intelligent decisions. Only very foolish people insist on learning everything the hard way. Seek the council of others in the form of books, hiring professionals and seminars.  They’ll be able to steer you away from common mistakes which will reduce your frustration and increase your chances of success.

9. Lack of Patience

Patience is a very important aspect of achievement. Remember the first time you tried to ride a bicycle? The first time you roller skated? The first time did a new workout?  

Did you do any of them perfectly your first time around? I certainly didn’t. It’s been said that mastery in any area takes somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 hours. If you spread that out over a few hours per day working on your craft, figure that it will take 9 – 10 years before you’re truly world class.  This is why it’s so important to focus more on the journey and the lessons learned along the way than the end result.

Ask anyone that achieves any great measure of success. They will tell you the journey is much more rewarding than the result. For example, say your goal is to amass 1 million dollars within the next 10 years. I can assure you that you’ll feel much better about the money if you earned it through successful execution of your strategy than if someone were to just hand it to you.

For those striving for accomplishment, it’s is in our DNA to do what’s challenging even if it takes time. It’s the reason why climbing a mountain results in a much greater sense of accomplishment than simply being dropped off at the top. How you reach your goal matters.

Patience is a very important aspect of achievement.


Tying it All Together

Often in life the best ways to win is to ensure you don’t lose. I hope my list serves you well in your journey. I’d love to hear from you. Is there anything I missed?

What do you think are other barriers to achieving your most ambitious goals? What would you add as the 10th barrier?

Comment below!

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