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Have you encountered difficulties in putting your plan in action? Here is my favourite strategy for overcoming obstacles that threaten to stop you in your tracks.

When you are stuck, often the challenge is to think your way out of the situation.  Most of us will find we worry about the problem and our thoughts are going round in circles.  We can’t find a way out and this makes the situation feel worse and we become despondent.  There’s a good chance we will give up at this point.  Then you just feel bad as you had a goal in mind, which was exciting, but now you’ve tried and failed.  That feels worse as you are losing out on the exciting goal.

This strategy for overcoming obstacles is one you can do by yourself and self-coach your way through the difficulty to find a new solution.  It can help to do this physically, rather than just in your thoughts, so I’ll explain it that way.  You can also ask someone to help you, by asking you to do each step of the strategy for overcoming obstacles and helping you to think it through or record your answers.

  1. Step out of the situation and move away from it (i.e. if you’ve been sitting in a chair worrying about the situation, stand up and take a few paces away from the chair to distance yourself from that situation there in the chair).  By taking you out of the situation, you should be able to dissociate yourself from it and think more objectively about it.
  2. Reflect on the bigger picture, how does this situation and goal fit into your bigger picture?  How does your bigger picture fit in with those of people around you? Look at the bigger picture and the situation within it from various viewpoints.  You may want to move to different spots in the room  to represent the different viewpoints.  This is designed to help you see the connectedness and relative importance of the situation and should help you to feel differently about it.  You may find you feel more neutral about this situation – this is when your brain is ready to move into creative problem-solving.
  3. Identify your values.  Reflect on what is important to you in your life. These are the criteria for identifying a solution that fits with your way of being in the world.  If you haven’t thought about your values before, you may like to take a piece of paper and write down what is important to you.  Ideally prioritise these values, so you know what you would give up if you had to and what you hold most dear and want to ensure is in your solution.
  4. List your skills, what you are good at.  When you are enjoying yourself what are you doing?  List everything you can think of – these are the resources that are immediately available to you.
  5. Name 2-3 people you really admire.  They could be anyone from your grandparent to a celebrity or a colleague or a historical figure.  Write them down and against each one list the qualities you perceive in them that you admire.  These are your ‘mentors’.
  6. Now return to the problem situation – still looking at it from the outside.  You now have a number of resources to help you think through that situation.  I suggest you might like to start with a ‘mentor’ and ask, “How might xxx deal with this situation?”
    Generate ideas and when you find one resonates well with you, ask yourself, “How could I do this?”  You could find a slightly different approach that uses your skillset, which would overcome the obstacle just as well.  Generate as many ideas as possible using these resources – your ‘mentors’, your skills and values.
  7. Now refine the ideas and identify one or more that will work for you.  Step back into the situation and visualise yourself taking this action to resolve it.  Play out in your mind how it might work and check that it feels right to do this. Check also that the action generates the kind of result you expect.  If you notice it doesn’t feel right, tweak the action to get it right as you visualise yourself doing it.
  8. Do it: Plan how you will take action and DO IT!  can do, will do

Action beats thought any day, and both are necessary to make progress towards your goals.

Now you have a self-coaching method that you can use to help you in any situation.  Should you have any questions or comments on this strategy to overcome obstacles, please contact Amanda or comment below.

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This is the thirds in this series, see 10 tips for effective New Year resolutions and 3 strategies to stop procrastinating

One Comment

  • Amanda Bouch says:

    How are you using the self-coaching process? I have to admit that I’m not the best boss of myself and although I might think through the solution, I may be slow to take action. Working with someone makes me take action as I know I have to answer to them.

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