5 Tips for Overcoming Obstacles

Are you stuck in a particular area of your life?  Are you procrastinating with regard to a project?  Do you want to write, exercise, or reorganize your closets, but find yourself putting everything else first?  Do you have a vision for a new career, but can’t take action on your ideas?  Are you in an unfulfilling relationship, but don’t know how to leave?  Here are some tips for getting unstuck.

1. Don’t’ criticize yourself for being stuck.

Obstacles are natural.  They are not the enemy – and you are not wrong or ‘bad’ if you are blocked.  Obstacles remind us of our humanness, that life is light and shadow, ease and dis-ease, ebb and flow.  We’ve been conditioned to only value times of flow, productivity and the bright side of life.  We always want it to be springtime. Blocks remind us of the cyclical nature of life.

2. Discover what the block is trying to convey to you.

Blocks are the psyche’s way of informing us that something needs our attention.  Perhaps you’re trying to move in a direction that truly isn’t right for you.  Or your timing is off; you may need to yield and listen rather than pressing forward.  Your resistance may be a signal that you need to address a deeper issue before you can take the next steps.

Sentence completion is a simple technique for getting to the source of blocks.  Create a sentence stem, such as “I’m not working on my resume because…” Keep completing the sentence for five minutes without censoring or thinking about your responses.  Keep your hand moving.  You can create additional sentence stems for deeper exploration, e.g. if you discovered in the first round that you’re avoiding the resume because you’re afraid, you can write, “What I’m afraid of is…” And on it goes.

3. Don’t wait for fear to disappear.

A friend of mine,  David, is a fantastic teacher and lecturer; students rush to sign up for his classes.  He is 62 years old and told me that, to this day, he experiences stage fright before every presentation.  He said that after two years of trying numerous techniques to overcome his fear, he decided to simply accept this block and do the work that he loved in spite of it.

If you have experienced serious rejection before, it’s likely that fear will be an aspect of your stuckness.  In addition, when we approach anything new or unfamiliar, some degree of discomfort or anxiety is to be expected.  Fear doesn’t have to stop you from taking action.  You can practice holding your fear by the hand, as you would a young child, and take your next step.

4. Think small.

I’m a strong believer in baby steps.  Many people believe that big leaps are the only way to make big changes. I’ve worked with people who have procrastinated on projects for months, sometimes years, begin to achieve their goals by creating small, attainable action steps.  How does this work?  When you establish small goals, then follow through on them, your psyche gets a new message from you, i.e. you become someone who means what you say.  You believe yourself.  You are building a solid internal foundation of accomplishments slowly, but surely, which increases your confidence and prepares the ground for the bigger goal you are leading up to.  After a week of spending 15 minutes a day on your project, then 20 minutes/day the following week, etc., you will follow through on your intention to spend 2 hours/day on it because you’ve been following through on your intentions  for 6 weeks.  It works!

5. Celebrate your successes.

Take the time to acknowledge every accomplishment related to your goal, no matter how large or small.  Many of us quickly skip over our successes and move on to the next problem to solve or mountain to climb.  Acknowledging your achievements in a concrete manner is a way to anchor them in your body/mind.  Your self image will change as you  start seeing yourself realistically – as someone who accomplishes a lot rather than someone who never does enough.  You can start an ‘I Did It!’ Journal in which you give yourself a gold star for every success.

In the words of Helen Keller, “The world is full of suffering.  It is also full of overcoming.”