top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael McEntee

Ways to overcome obstacles

Skills for the wise consideration of obstacles

1. STOP. This is a good time to use the STOP skill from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. STOP stands for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, and Proceed mindfully. Take a step back and observe your emotions. Let your emotions calm. Then observe the obstacle as you would if it were someone else facing it. What would you tell someone else to do?

2. Practice radical acceptance. Whatever goal you want to achieve will include overcoming obstacles. Expect obstacles and accept them as part of achieving the goal. Of course, you don't want that. No one does. And most often the truth is there will be obstacles.

3. Accept your emotions. When you encounter an obstacle, you'll experience emotions. Of course, you will! That's normal. Take a break and spend some time soothing yourself. The idea is to not let your emotions stop you from doing what you can. Get into "wise mind," which is able to think clearly to consider the emotional costs of pursuing a goal (Is it worth it?) and the facts of the situation.

4. Use your "wise mind." Make decisions about obstacles with your wise mind: Your emotion mind will urge you to quit, act impulsively, rage, or give up when faced with obstacles to your goal. Wait for your wise mind to be in charge. Your wise mind can take in new information, be flexible in considering alternatives, and be creative in thinking of solutions.

5. Be willing to consider different ways to reach your goal. A flexible mind is open to new ideas and new solutions. Knowing what doesn't work to get you to your goal allows you to think of alternatives that might work. Learning that the path you originally chose doesn't work is disappointing, but at least you know what doesn't work. That's important information.

6. Find meaning. When we experience difficult situations, it's certainly uncomfortable, to say the least. At the same time, you can often find meaning in the obstacles you face. Ask yourself: What lesson can I learn from this? Does this add to my life or my understanding in any way? When you first learn about an obstacle, it may seem more overwhelming than it will after you have thought about it. Once you know and accept that a problem exists, then you can work on solving the problem or on radically accepting the situation. The overwhelming feelings go down. Lack of acceptance keeps you from working on the solution or on accepting what you can't change. Look for what you can learn from the obstacles you face or have faced.

7. Be willing to ask for input. Asking for ideas from others is an interpersonal skill. Getting information from other people can be very helpful in overcoming obstacles. Other people are likely to know resources that you don't, and they will have ideas that you may not have thought of. They also see the world differently than you do and may see solutions you don't. Ask more than one person.

8. Set small goals that lead to the overall goal. Obstacles can be complex and difficult. Achieving goals can be challenging and overwhelming with all that you need to do. It's hard to keep motivation high over time. Break down what you need to do to overcome the obstacle into small steps. Focus on one step at a time. For example, if you want to learn to make more friends, then small goals could start with spending more time around people.

9. Mistakes are normal. As surely as the sun rises every morning, you'll make mistakes as you work toward your goal. It's just part of being human. If you find yourself judging others or yourself, or blaming others or yourself, just notice those thoughts and let them go. Remember non-judgmental thinking. Acknowledge the mistake is there, and look at what you need to do next. Blaming discourages you, wastes your energy, and isn't helpful in solving the problem. Don't let making mistakes stop you.

10. Re-evaluate. Sometimes what you think you want turns out to not be right for you. It's normal to work toward a goal and then change your plans along the way. Part of working toward a goal is getting more information and learning more about what you are working toward. You might decide you want to run five days a week. As you work toward the goal, you learn that you actually prefer to do different activities and that you are bored by running every day. You change your goal to doing something physically active or to taking dancing lessons instead.

11. Celebrate! Recognising your accomplishments is so very important. Celebrate the small steps you take. This helps you to stay motivated and to realise that you can do things. It helps you focus on what you do accomplish, not just on the obstacles or what doesn't work out.

Extracts taken from Karyn Hall, from

28 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page