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May 9, 2010

Stop Giving Obstacles Permission To Roadblock Your Goals

Some people keep track of goals in notebooks and others log them online, but most of us keep at least a few important goals in a special, time-honored place: the back burner.  These are goals we tell ourselves we want to attain, but somehow we never seem to make it happen.

It’s not that we fail to achieve these goals; more to the point, we don’t even try.  We just let them sit there, inert, and we kick ourselves every New Year’s or birthday or whatever event brings our lack of progress to our attention.

Why do we do this?  Usually it’s because of one single, action killing word … “Until.”

“Until” is the worst word you can allow into your vocabulary when it comes to your goals because it gives you a free pass to avoid taking action.  It’s easy to say you can’t get to something “until” something changes, like your finances, or your schedule, or some other external circumstance.

For example, it’s easy to say “I can’t start losing weight until I can get to (or afford) the gym,” or “until I can figure out a solid meal plan.”   In this case, you’re naming something as an obstacle – it’s either time, money or information.  You use this obstacle as an excuse, and you give it permission to roadblock your progress.

I say you “give it permission” because the very act of acknowledging this circumstance as an obstacle means you’re saying it’s okay for this to be a significant roadblock to your goals.

And once you give the “all clear” to the obstacle, it’s unlikely you’ll work very hard to change your circumstances.  That’s not a knock against you, it’s just human nature.  It’s just the way it is.  If something gives you an easy way out, you’re likely to take it if you haven’t conditioned yourself to push back against it.

This is especially true if we’re afraid of the true cost of taking action – maybe we don’t think we’re strong enough, or we’re just not sure where to start and the effort seems overwhelming. And because we don’t see how we’re going to finish on our desired timetable, we don’t see the point in starting.

As another example, it’s difficult to get excited about saving and investing if all you can save is $10 a month.  What’s the point in doing that if it’s not going to set you up for retirement?  Wouldn’t it be better to wait “until” we’re making more money?

No.  It’s far better to do what you can, with what you have, where you are.  That’s how the snowball begins.

But because we’re conditioned to want results fast, or to only take action in an “ideal” situation, we don’t push hard against these obstacles.  We let them be these big powerful forces keeping our goals on the back burner.

How To Strip Obstacles Of their Goal-Killing Power

The alternative to giving obstacles power is to refuse to see them as obstacles at all, and instead view them as simply life’s “usual” resistance to action that comes with any goal.  The key to this is to focus on progress towards your goal, and to consider that progress inevitable. Tell yourself that achieving this goal isn’t an “if,” it’s a “when.”

If you position progress as something that’s going to happen come hell or high water, you’ll find a way around the obstacle.  And you won’t even see it as a big scary obstacle anyway; you’ll just look at it as something to push through.

If you’re unwilling to see circumstances as obstacles, then you’ll be pre-conditioned to look for solutions, not excuses.  Instead of being “okay” with a challenging circumstances, you’ll find yourself being “okay” with getting a limited result to start.

Maybe you can only save $10 a month, so do it now.  And then push yourself to either find new ways to make money or stop wasting so damn much of it already.  Focus on your goal (saving more), and you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Maybe this month you’ll save $10, then next month, $15.  And as you continue to find ways to alter your cashflow and expenses, that number will grow – but it’ll never begin to snowball until you start. (And that’s on “until” you can live with).

Or maybe you can’t afford the gym (or can’t go due to scheduling right now).  So what?  Are you going to say “Maybe someday,” or are you going to go to and get started doing something?  Or are you going to start taking a 15 minute walk every day just to make something happen?

There’s Always A Way To Start If You’re Ready To Stop Making Excuses

I get it, you’re busy.  You can’t do everything.  But if a goal is important to you, do something to move forward on it and work around an “obstacle” even if it’s tough.  Just because you can’t go 100% full out doesn’t mean you can do 5% and get moving.

So often in life it doesn’t come down to can’t, it comes down to won’t, and if you’re honest with yourself you’ll see that’s as true for you as it is for me.  You can say you don’t have time for the gym, but you’re still watching LOST every week.  Couldn’t you take that time and do some exercise?  OR even do pushups during the commercials?

Maybe you can’t run a big business while you do a day job.  But can’t you set up a simple website and blog, and do phone consultations on your lunch hour to get an income stream going?

Maybe you can’t save money “until” you get out of debt.  But can’t you pick one necessary expense and cut it, funneling that savings into a credit card payment?

Of course you can.

The question is, will you?

It all depends on how serious you are about your goal, and about living a life where you don’t settle for weak action.

So let me give you some first steps to take, and then you can leave a comment and start making progress.

Ok, so how do we get the ball rolling on this?  Three simple steps:

  1. First, pick a back burner goal you need to make progress on and identify the “until” you’re hiding behind to avoid taking action.
  2. Next, decide you’re going to refuse to use that as an excuse.  If you had to make progress starting from where you are (and not your “until”), how could you start?  Brainstorm some ways to get started.
  3. Finally, write about it in the comments.  Tell me what excuse you’re going to give up on and how you’re going to push  back against it.  If you’re worried about giving personal details, put “Ass Kicker” in the Name field below, that’s plenty good enough.

The more of you who leave this kind of comment on this post, the more people you’ll inspire to take action.

Leave your comment.  Give up on your excuse.  Define your new action.  And then leave a comment.

Do it now.  You’ll thank yourself for it.

That is all -


P.S. – Once you’re done, hit that “retweet” button below & spread the word so others will be inspired to take action as well.  (And if you’ve come to this post via my Stop Settling newsletter, please forward it to at least one person today who needs to hear this!)

25 Responses to “Stop Giving Obstacles Permission To Roadblock Your Goals”

  • May 9, 2010 Catherine Caine

    One of the nicest things about making progress on my goals and my life is that I don’t wince guiltily every time I read your Monday posts.

    A year ago I would have been all, “Ah, ya got me.” Now? I know this. I DO this. And the only reason I haven’t done it to all my goals yet is because I also read your posts on the power of focus. :)
    Catherine Caine´s last blog ..Ignore your feelings My ComLuv Profile

  • May 9, 2010 Dave Navarro


    That’s a hell of a nice comment to read.

    You rock :-)

  • May 9, 2010 Chris Webb

    Nice article.

    I’ve been “perfecting” a product for 18 months (yes you read that number correctly) until it got past an arbitrary quality measure in my mind to be ready for release. Point being, there came a point where it started to get a bit of a joke telling people “it will be live in 3 months” after a further 9.

    So, how did I get round the obstacle? I put a stake in the ground with a release date, and told everyone it would be ready on that date. This got me to focus on what really mattered and stop adding bells and whistles and pixel-perfecting bullshit. It went live one week late (which wasn’t that bad) and it’s still got bugs (erk), but hey, you can’t sit on the sidelines forever.

    The next big obstacle is marketing it. Is it really ready? Will it fail and get harsh reviews? When do I start networking with all the great people out there who I could help and could help me rather than just read their blogs for 18 months?

    My action on that point has been to just do it, ready or not. I figure it’s better for me to spend the week dealing with priorities based on potential customer’s problems than what I dream up in the middle of the night.

    PS – You’re really giving Brian Clark a run for his money with these post titles ;-)
    Chris Webb´s last blog ..The Most Popular Blog Posts Of All Time (and What You Can Learn From Them) My ComLuv Profile

  • May 9, 2010 Dave Doolin

    Currently, I have a really cool opportunity to make a contribution to semantic web technology using WordPress.

    But it’s a stretch on the coding side. I can do it, but it’s time consuming and I have been waiting _until_ I get some free time to take care of it.

    Ain’t got no free time.

    A better idea would be to get somebody else (or several others) to pay for my time to code it. Which is easier said than done… but I haven’t taken any steps to get customers either.

    The next step I can do is start contacting users to build a community around that technology (microformatting recipes). That costs no money, and won’t take too much time, and just cannot hurt. It does involve a context switch, I’ll just have to bull through that. I can do that. I’m a bull anyway.
    Dave Doolin´s last blog ..DIY WordPress: How To Add A Copyright Notice To A WordPress Theme My ComLuv Profile

  • May 10, 2010 Brooke Yool

    Rock on! This is awesome. You know, I’ve been focusing so much on building my business that I have a few personal “untils”, sad to say.

    But I wrote up my own post on goals last week and set myself a goal (I’m also an amateur musician) of sitting down at my piano for at least *one* song a day. How hard is that? And one song usually leads to another… I’m good, so far!

  • May 10, 2010 Richard @ Lifestyle Design Unleashed

    I’m a little odd in this respect because I actually quite like obstacles when I am trying to achieve a goal.

    How so?

    Well my experiences have shown me that if there is an obstacle, and I overcome it, I actually feel even better when I achieve my goal. Obstacles up the ante, and increase the sense of satisfaction once you get there.

    Case in point. A couple of years ago I decided it was time to shed some weight. I had a hectic day job with lots of travel and long hours and relied too much on junk food.

    I decided that year that it was time to get in shape. So I bought some books to figure out what I was doing, bought some gym wear and so on and set myself a start date.

    Then I came off my motorbike, broke 3 ribs and could barely lift 3kg or even sit down without excrutiating pain for the next 3 months. Clearly I couldn’t be jogging like that when even walking made my eyes water.

    And yet, as soon as I was “better”, I got straight on with my goals.

    Then rather than saying I’d lost x pounds, I was able to say I’d lost x pounds *even though* I had suffered a nasty accident and broken my ribs.

    Result? Greater satisfaction. And even better, a feeling of control and that I could follow through on my goals against adversity.

    So try looking at obstacles as good things. Be the person who *doesn’t* quit – be one of the few people who really follows through. It’s a winners mentality.
    Richard @ Lifestyle Design Unleashed´s last blog ..Why Materialism Can Only Make You So Happy My ComLuv Profile

  • May 10, 2010 Matthew Ashcraft

    I’ve been making a lot of progress on building my web design and development business, but I still find myself putting off the two things I truly love writing and drawing.

    For the longest time, I’ve been telling myself that I’ll get to writing that weekly web comic once I have the time to polish my skills a little more. Of course the time never comes and I rarely write OR draw.

    It’s so much easier to convince myself to focus on business because others depend on me. The web comic stays just a hobby.

    Today, I resolve to write a little and draw a little every single day, even if I can only put in 5-10% and what I create sucks. No more untils.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  • May 10, 2010 Amy Harrison

    I don’t have a huge amount of “until” goals, but I do know, like Dave Dooiln that’s I’d get on a lot faster if I hired other people to help me.

    I guess delegation is my biggest until.

    Yep, it must be that one because as I’ve written it down I’m thinking of reasons to put it off!

    So. Okay. My search for a virtual PA begins today! ;-)
    Amy Harrison´s last blog ..Beginners: Essential Questions for writing your “About” page My ComLuv Profile

  • May 10, 2010 jennifer

    This post reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: “Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.”

    My back-burner goal is: start exercising again.

    I’m going to push against ignoring it by making a workout schedule each week and sticking to it.

    Thanks for the push Dave!
    jennifer´s last blog ..Free Download: The Un-Schedule Worksheet My ComLuv Profile

  • May 10, 2010 Holly

    This is interesting. I’ve actually been trying something like this, though not in such a conscious way. I recently started One Hundred Pushups and Two Hundred Situps. I decided to do it for a week before trying to add a dedicated gym time to my schedule, with the hope that if I stagger the start times of these, that I will have more success than if I tried to do it all at once.

    So, the things that I’ve had on the backburner that I’ve had back there an embarrassing amount of time and are or should be rather pressing are losing weight/getting fit and paying down my debt.

    I’ve done both of these things in fits and starts before, but have never quite looked at them as inevitable. In fact, I’ve always kinda viewed them in the same light as winning the lottery. “Wouldn’t it be great if” seemed to be the theme. But, while I have no contol over winning the lottery beyond buying a ticket, getting fit and paying down my debt are definitely in my purview.

    For losing weight and getting fit, I’ve used just about every “until” under the sun. The most common one recently is “until I find the time.” I know it is a silly one. I’ve overcome the time problem before, I just feel resentful, or like I should feel resentful, for having to use my time after work in such a non-restful way. Of course, this excuse doesn’t take into account that I feel better in so many categories when I exercise regularly and weigh less.

    As for debt, the “until” there seems to be “I can’t pay down my debt until I buy these things I want. Then I can spend all my extra money on debt.” Using this strategy, I’m finding ways to spend my money before I can even buy any items on my list and so I never get around to paying down my debt. The way that I’m hoping to get around this, though, is to start putting money in my savings that can go to both the items on the list, misc. items that come up, and to debt, with debt getting a guaranteed amount each month spent on it. Hopefully, that way, I’ll have a reserve and will be paying down debt each month.
    Holly´s last blog ..Spinning a Marled Yarn My ComLuv Profile

  • May 11, 2010 wbailey

    As in Catherine’s last blog post, my “until” is my feelings: “eh, I don’t feel… [motivated, interested, enthusiastic, confident, energized, excited, revved up, focused, etc.] right now, but I’ll do some [work, exercise, practice, etc.] as soon as I feel better.”


    Therefore I very much liked your entry about deciding to feel a certain way and how to get there. And for the record, it works!

    Now I gotta apply it again cause there’s nothing I’d like better than to spend the rest of the day messing around online, reading motivational blogs, instead of actually doing work. :D

  • May 11, 2010 Gilliauna

    Over the past six months I’ve been in the process of building up a fledgling business and I have to admit, there have been a few times when I have found myself with these obstacles. I’ve noticed, though, that in business they’re a bit more practical (ie: financially motivated) which might not be such a bad thing.

    In my life? I’ve noticed that I do this a lot more and as a new reader of your site, I have to say, the reminder is greatly appreciated. So many of the important goals in life are hard enough to complete without adding extra (useless) obstacles in your path along the way!
    Gilliauna´s last blog ..Artwork that’s both Unique and Extraordinary My ComLuv Profile

  • May 11, 2010 Shawn

    Mine was getting my blog up. I always told myself a hundred ‘untils’ and decided I just needed to Ready. Fire. Aim. the dang thing. It’s up, i’ll tweak it as I go, and that’s that.

    Next Big Back Burner Goal is waking up early. And I started making small adjustments to that thanks to your awesome More Time Now ebook. That is seriously, one of the best free downloads I have ever received. And those I’ve shared it with agree with me completely.
    Shawn´s last blog ..Suck It Up and Ask Them to Their Face My ComLuv Profile

  • May 12, 2010 Brad

    Interesting post. After thinking about it for awhile, I believe you have given me some good advice.

    For the past 8 years I have run a charitable foundation. A few weeks ago I was let go. I have sent out several resumes for non-profit jobs but have been rejected on some and haven’t heard back on others.

    Frankly, my heart isn’t really in it. While applying for these jobs, I have also been looking at starting my own business. I want to help attorneys and other professionals realize the value of social media marketing and get them involved. I want to help people write quality LinkedIn profiles and create Facebook and Twitter pages. I’ve had a few really good meetings, but no one has agreed to hire me yet. So, I’m slowly putting this dream on the back burner.

    I think I’m doing this because of an obstacle I’ve let get in my way which is I am just not sure where to start and the effort seems overwhelming. I was thinking “All I need is the first client, and then I’ll commit.” Maybe I just need to go for it.

    Your post certainly provided me with some food for thought. Thank you.

  • May 14, 2010 Heather

    i have been struggling with trying to figure out how to get into college. My parents aren’t helping me with finances, and I haven’t asked them to. But I have been trying to get a simple minimum wage job for over a year now and still no such luck.
    My until excuse is I can’t do anything with my life yet UNTIL I get a job.
    And although your article helped me with many little excuses in life, I can’t figure out my biggest one of all.

  • May 17, 2010 Tamarisk

    I can’t remember who said it but the quote is this – you can have results or excuses but not both.

    My “until” has been external. I’ve been waiting for other people to change. I’ve been waiting for these other people to stop doing that, start doing this. Rubbish.

    The only person I have any influence over is myself. So I have to change. If I don’t like the behaviour of others, I now make the choice to respond differently to them instead of passively waiting “until” they see the error of their ways!
    Tamarisk´s last blog ..How To Avoid Becoming A Highly Defensive Person My ComLuv Profile

  • May 18, 2010 Rhonda

    Dave, I love you thank you for hitting the right note at the right time. Excuse should be my middle name. Not aware how much I was doing it until reading your blogs. Thank you can you help with momentum building and stickability when excuse comes knocking on the door. Thanks again. Just thought read your blog more

  • May 21, 2010 Cheryl

    I used to love the word “until”. It was my favorite way of putting off anything that sounded like something I’d like to do but was too intimidated to give a real honest try.

    If I didn’t actually attempt to do it, how could I fail, right?

    Well, I finally realized by not trying, I was already failing to do it.

    That’s helped me a lot, but since I know this is a problem for me, I am going to set up my system to send me a link to this page once a month, just so I re-read it and keep myself from falling back into the “until” trap.

    This month, I’ll focus on posting regularly to my blog, instead of waiting “until” I find my personal style in writing or knowing how to take decent photos, every time :) Until I figure it out, I’ll be winging it, but at least I am doing something! :)

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.
    Cheryl´s last blog ..British Breakfast sans tomato My ComLuv Profile

  • May 28, 2010 Dipti

    Thank you! Most of your posts are really good and the wake-up call that we all need! :)
    Keep writing and all the best!

  • Jun 5, 2010 Lana

    Very difficult. I want to give up alcohol, but the short term payoffs are so sweet——-I am having a hard time doing what I know I need to do for a better life. Does anyone out there have any ideas to help me?

  • Jun 8, 2010 Calmato

    I’ll start fixing my rc plane, not knowing how to do it wont stop me this time.

    Tanks a lot

  • Sep 10, 2010 Dawn Wilder

    Dave, this is the second time I have read this, and it couldn’t be more appropos. Being limited by chemo and work in our two businesses, no money, etc., my frustration levels peaked this week until I actually let this soak in. Once my brain actually wrapped around it, I began thinking of all kinds of ways to get my dream business rolling. I had horrible “writer’s block”, for lack of a better term, and it came to me, finally, how I could make that work! Thanks for the light bulb moment – now I can move forward to bigger and better things:)!


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