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Personal development obstacles are inevitable. No matter what path you’re on.
So if you’ve faced (or are currently facing) obstacles while attempting to improve your life, don’t worry, it’s completely normal and happens to all of us.
If you’ve attempted personal development, personal growth, self improvement, or to better your life in any way, you know this to be true.
This means you have either:
- Read books
- Read blogs
- Bought programs
- Taken courses
And you’ve tried to integrate (and adapt) that information into your own life situation.
Throughout that process you’ve undoubtedly faced obstacles that have prevented you from making the changes and achieving the transformations that you were hoping for.
Those obstacles may have confused you, frustrated you, overwhelmed you, slowed your progress, or made you change directions altogether.
“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”
– Michael Jordan
The good news is that the obstacles you’ve faced are common and solvable. Meaning, they don’t have to be a deterrent or a road block.
Once you know how to overcome them, you’ll be able to use the same method to overcome them if they pop up again.
You care about reaching your goals and transforming your life. And I’m sure you already have an intimate ‘why’ behind those goals.
This means you shouldn’t have to let obstacles stop you from making your dreams come true and getting what you want.
I wholeheartedly believe that.
We’re All in This Together
This is a topic that affects me too. As a matter of fact, I’m going through it right now. First it was the pandemic but lately it’s been a combination of digestive issues and anxiety attacks that interrupted my sleep, interfered with my daily plans, and caused me to lose about 10 pounds.
I chose to write this article because I need to solve these problems to move forwards in my own personal development journey. My hope is that the solutions I uncovered will help you out as much as they have helped me.
I get it that your problems are your own and can make you feel like you’re the only one who goes through them. And that may be true for some of them.
Those intensely personal obstacles could be a sign of inner resistance. A defense mechanism coming from within you. Causing you to slow down on purpose. If so, it’s usually an attempt to protect yourself from the risks and discomforts that come with change.
But lucky for you, most of the obstacles you encounter are common, meaning we’ll all face them at some point of our personal development journey.
What are these common obstacles to personal development?
Keep reading to find out what they are. But first, let’s define personal development just to make sure we’re both on the same page.
What is Personal Development and Why is it Important?
“Personal development refers to those activities that improve a person’s talents, potential, employability, consciousness and ability to realize dreams and create wealth. In short, it’s what you do to improve yourself and your prospects in life.”
Personal development can also defined as:
“..the conscious pursuit of personal growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills.”
So as you can see, personal development is any effort to better your life. It can mean:
- Reading books to learn new skills
- Changing your morning routine to get more done throughout the day
- Learning new job/career skills so you can make more money for your family
- Budgeting and improving your financial literacy so you can have a better relationship with money
- Setting goals
- Working on your self-esteem and confidence
- Improving your networking and relationship skills
- Working on your decision making skills
- Practicing meditation and mindfulness
- Improving your time management and organizational skills
What Personal Development Means to Me
For me, personal development is the next step after developing self-awareness.
Once you figure out why you are currently the way you are, why your life has been the way it has, and how you want your life to change from here on out, you can move on to developing into the version of yourself that can make that future happen.
7 Common Obstacles to Personal Development (and how to overcome them!)
Personal Development Obstacle 1 – Which Path to Choose?
[How do I decide which personal development strategy, system, or technique to follow?
Or should I combine the best parts of each?
How accurately can a beginner make these decisions?
Whose personal growth information is right for me and my unique situation?]
You have to start somewhere. Getting stuck in analysis paralysis or decision paralysis will waste too much of your time.
It’s better to try something than sit still … even if it turns out to be the wrong choice in the long run. At least you took action and learned something by going through the process.
More often than not, what you learn from your first attempt will be able to be applied to future attempts. And they will go quicker since you’re not starting from the beginning.
In this way, you will be combining the best parts of each. But not only by theory, you’ll have direct experience of which parts worked for you and which parts didn’t.
Don’t let indecision or perfectionism keep you from taking calculated risk and educated guesses. You’ll never feel 100 percent ready or know everything you need to up front no matter how long you take to start.
Courageously move forward. Learn and adjust as you go.
How can a beginner judge?
A beginner can’t confidently judge these things because they don’t have the experience yet. They haven’t learned by trial and error yet. This is why coaches are hired.
A coach does (should) have the experience and expertise that a beginner doesn’t have. So they can help you bypass some of the beginner mistakes that you’re likely to make. Due to lack of experience and novice judgement.
Have compassion for yourself. It’s ok if you don’t get it right the first time around. Try again. This is how you build confidence and resilience.
Feel out the situation as best as you can. Do some research on the creators and products. Read the reviews to see if any of the people who have benefited from the program or course sounds like they started from a similar place as you. Read their About Me page and see if you can relate to them.
Personal Development Obstacle 2 – There’s Too Much Information Available
[As much as i want to read and buy it all, I have limited time and money to spend on their products and information.
How do I decide which products to choose, which order to read them in, and which ones to ignore completely?
How do I find the time to read everything I want (and feel I need) to read to progress?]
Follow your passion and curiosity. Let that inner excitement guide you.
When you trust and nurture it, it’ll pull the right information to you at the right time.
You’ll experience ah-ha moments and synchronicities. Meaning, everything will seem to just fall in place.
If you haven’t learned how to trust your intuition yet, you can start by developing your self-awareness skills.
How do you find time to read everything?
I mean, you can increase your reading speed, learn to speed read, or even photo read … learning to learn quicker is always a beneficial idea … but you still only have 24 hours a day.
You have to let yourself off the hook. Accept that you won’t get to read everything you feel like you need to. Because that’s what it is … a feeling. Or more specifically, a belief.
The belief that you don’t know enough and won’t know enough until you read every book or blog post and complete every course on every personal development area that you feel you’re lacking in.
The truth is, you never know what you’re going to need to know until you need to know it. And you can’t prepare for everything. There will always be something that comes up that you’ve never even heard of … so how could you study it when you didn’t know it existed?
You couldn’t have! But I bet it’ll spark your curiosity when it does happen. That’s part of the mystery and excitement of learning.
Personal Development Obstacle 3 – Changing Too Much Too Fast
[It feels like I’m trying to change too many areas of my life at the same time.
How do I decide which to focus the most effort on? How do I improve one area without letting the other areas fall behind from neglect?]
You can prevent this by using a personal development plan. A plan will help you set which areas you’ll focus on, the order you plan to work on them, and measurable goals in each area.
“When you create a personal development plan, you create a clear path to achieving what you want. This type of clarity allows you to focus. Then, you can prioritize what’s essential and say no to the rest.”
It’s ok for you to overlap certain areas. Just like you would with school subjects. You’d make small steps forward in each area.
In other areas you’ll progress faster by working on one thing at a time. Especially if it’s something that will take a lot of your time or energy.
For example, if you choose to take classes, courses, go to conventions or retreats.
The same goes for things that take hours of daily practice.
Will some developmental areas fall behind?
Maybe. But they’ll have their turn eventually. It’s up to you to decide which personal development areas will help you meet immediate needs and which are less urgent.
Review your goals list and personal development plan to determine which skills you need to improve on first. Look at your end goals and work backwards.
Do you believe you’ll be able to reach them just as you are now? Or are there additional skills you’ll need to develop or information you’ll need to learn?
Personal Development Obstacle 4 – The Personal Growth Process is Overwhelming
[What do you do when you get overwhelmed with personal development?
- By the amount of information.
- By decisions.
- By slow progress.
- By the obstacles that come up when you’re already taking action and trying to follow through on the steps or techniques that you’re learning about.
What do you do when obstacles come up that aren’t talked about in the original course or ‘how to’ post?
Obstacles that force you to stop all forward progress until you figure out how to solve those problems before getting back to what you were originally trying to do.]
Unexpected obstacles pop up while trying to learn almost anything new. Especially when you’re trying to follow instructions on how to do something you’ve never done before.
So naturally it applies to personal development books, programs, and to the courses you take (or blogs you read). New problems surprise you while you’re trying to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself.
In writing, the instructions seem so ‘easy’ … so specific. And you follow them, expecting everything to work out for your situation the same way it worked out for the author’s.
But it doesn’t, does it?
There’s always at least one unexpected obstacle that creeps up. Usually right when you’re getting the hang of things and making steady progress.
The obstacle halts your personal growth progress and you have to spend time learning something else to solve that problem before you can go back to what you were originally working on.
Long story short, the entire process ends up taking way more time than you expected it to. Which slows down your progress and causes you to feel disappointed with yourself.
For me this has happened more times than I can count.
- while learning to meditate and do energy work,
- when I started using a daily/weekly planner,
- while trying to change my morning routine,
- while learning copywriting techniques,
- and most recently when I started building my website with Siteground ($3.95/mo. web hosting), WordPress (free), and the GeneratePress theme.
Learn to accept that obstacles are a part of the personal development process, not just a distraction from the process.Learn to accept that obstacles are a part of the personal development process, not just a distraction from the process. Click To Tweet
Reframing it that way doesn’t stop personal development obstacles from being annoying … but it can stop you from expecting things to go as smoothly as in the books.
Learn to expect (and accept):
- Unexpected problems that can take hours to resolve
- Extra steps that require Googling (or YouTubing) up even more tutorials
- Problems that only a small percentage of people ever encounter (so it isn’t mentioned … anywhere). Meaning, back to Google.
- Times when the information just doesn’t seem to work with your particular situation and none of their examples apply to you. Think: square peg meets round hole.
- Your ‘finished product’ not being a Pinterest perfect representation of the transformation that the book/course/article bragged about.
Perfection only happens under perfect conditions.
Holding onto unrealistic expectations will slow your progress even further. Especially when it brings up self-judgement and negative self talk.
Go easy on yourself. Self-compassion serves you better than self-criticism when it comes to personal growth.
If you tried your best and pulled off some B+ work … then congrats, you nailed it.
Personal Development Obstacle 5 – Life Gets in the Way
[Sometimes things come up that are so serious they put a halt on plans indefinitely or force you to change directions completely.
Things that take your development in a different direction (an unplanned direction).
World events, accidents, and surgeries for example. Having to deal with recovering from injuries, traumas, the quarantine, PTSD, panic attacks, mindset work, inner child work coming up, buried emotions coming up. Anything unexpected basically.]
“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
The personal development journey isn’t a straight line.
Some of the events that happen in our lives are unexpected and unavoidable. No one can control everything. So you have to learn to accept uncertainty and how to adapt when it happens.The personal development journey isn't a straight line. Some of the events that happen in our lives are unexpected and unavoidable. No one can control everything. So you have to learn to accept uncertainty and how to adapt when it… Click To Tweet
That might mean taking a break from an online course you’re working through to research stress management techniques or productivity habits because your plate is too full. It could mean taking a break from the gym to deal with a family crisis or heal from an injury.
Flexibility takes practice. So don’t expect to be perfect at it right away.
One thing to remember is that growth comes in many forms. Just because you can no longer grow in the direction you wanted to doesn’t mean that growth isn’t going to happen in some other way.
That’s where the adapting comes in. But first you have to get past the anger and reach the acceptance stage. Otherwise you won’t welcome new growth opportunities. You’ll most likely reject them because you won’t be able to recognize them for what they are.
What does the obstacle/opportunity process look like in real life?
It took me a month or so after my patellar tendon surgery (and being stuck on the couch) for me to accept my situation and new limitations. Once I was able to let go of the way I expected my life to be, I came across new opportunities which led to a different direction to grow in.
I couldn’t go to the gym or anywhere that required a lot of walking or a long car ride. So I had nothing better to do than read, research, and write.
An audio book reminded me of copywriting and internet marketing. They were passions I had in my early 20s but had set aside when I lost vision in one of my eyes and had to stay away from computer screens for months at a time.
I decided to spend my time reading and researching everything I could about those subjects. And finally get some sort of online writing business up and running.
Fast forward a year of studying copywriting, marketing, problem solving, psychology, human behavior, selling, communication related subjects and taking online courses.
I finally made my “life purpose project“ a reality.
I did eventually make it back to the gym and within 4 months, I was stronger than I’d ever been in my life. But my new passions became a bigger priority in my life and where I’m most focused on growing.
It just goes to show that some setbacks are a blessing in disguise.
Always ask yourself, “What else could this lead to?”
Personal Development Obstacle 6 – Trouble Following Through
[How do you guarantee that you’ll follow through on what you say you’re going to do?
How do you commit to the plan and process even when life gets in the way?
What if you can’t trust yourself to do it no matter what comes up or how you feel?]
“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.”
– Tony Robbins
This is one of the most difficult obstacles for me. During my research I’ve found (and tried) quite a few different techniques to help me stay motivated and committed. Here are a few of them.
■ Learn (and practice) self-discipline.
“Despite what many may think, self discipline is a learned behavior. It requires practice and repetition in your day-to-day life.”
Self-discipline in this context is the ability to consistently do what you need to do to get where you’re trying to go. In other words, it means showing up and doing the work daily, even when you’d rather be doing something else.
A great side benefit of improving your self-discipline is it also builds up your self-confidence.
The more you trust yourself to solve problems, stick to your goals, and do what you say you’re going to do, the more you’ll grow to believe in yourself too.
■ Change your habits.
This one is easier said than done. As you know if you’ve ever tried to quit bad habits or adopt better habits before.
There are a lot of different opinions and approaches when it comes to changing habits. Most seem to agree that success requires addressing more than just the habit itself.
You have to take into account things like:
- Your environment
- The people around you and their habits
- Your mindset related to overcoming the habit
- Psychological triggers
- Physical triggers
- How you feel the old habit benefits you
This is why trying to force yourself to change rarely works. You have to address your mindset, Psychological issues, and figure out ways to make the new habit more desirable to you than the old habit.
A great book that goes into depth on the subject of habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear.
■ Find an accountability partner.
You can call, text, or email each other daily, weekly, or monthly to check in on the progress you’ve made towards your goals.
This motivates you to keep up with your work because you’ll want to have something positive to tell them when they contact you. Otherwise you’ll feel like you’ve let them down.
Just make sure your accountability partner is someone you can trust to do their part and is someone who won’t demotivate you by being judgemental or critical.
■ Set up a reward and punishment system for yourself.
This depends on your personal tastes and what motivates you. But some examples are:
- Rewarding yourself with a splurge purchase or a night out when you reach a certain number of words in a book you’re writing or when you’ve stuck with your new eating habits consistently for 2 weeks straight.
- Punishment could mean not letting yourself watch a Netflix show if you didn’t read, exercise, or meditate that day.
Whatever works best for you.
■ Break it down into smaller steps so you can track progress.
Small wins can help motivate you to keep moving forwards. This is another way to gain confidence and build self-belief.
■ “Sell yourself” on what it means to you and why it’s important for your life.
Remind yourself what problem it will solve and how your life will end up if you don’t solve it. Then paint a picture of how your life will change if you do. Using as many benefits and benefits of those benefits as you can.
Do this for as long as it takes for you to visualize it … feelings and all … as if you are living it in this moment.
Personal Development Obstacle 7 – The Information Didn’t Stick
[You’ve read the book, learned a lot, but never really put the information into practice.
Mainly because you forgot the exact details, steps, and techniques that were described in the book. So you only solve bits and pieces of your problems.
But never get the big changes or make the big leaps forward that you hoped for.
How do you get the benefits you were supposed to get out of the material?]
■ Take notes throughout the entire book, course, etc.
Write down everything that jumps out at you as important or interesting.
You can use a notebook, a binder, or simply start a Word/Google doc. The goal is to have it all organized in one easy to access place.
■ Highlight different parts with different colors.
This won’t work for every type of medium. But it will for books, other printed out materials, and for anything you can copy over to a google (or word) doc.
Select the words you want highlighted and use the highlight feature to change the color.
■ Write a summary (in your own words) after each chapter or section.
Write whatever you can remember. And then go back through the material to see how well you did and to fill in whatever you left out.
■ Practice using the information as you go … and before you move on to the next section. This is the same way you used to do homework in school.
In other words, treat each section/chapter/part as its own independent lesson. And do your best to master it before moving forward.
■ Practice teaching the information to someone else.
It’s been proven that the process of teaching someone else improves your memory and your understanding of the material.
■ Read the book a second time.
You’ll see it differently and learn things that you didn’t learn the first time.
■ Commit to practicing the material for 30 days straight.
The more you consistently use it the more likely it’ll become a part of you and feel habitual.
■ Pick only a handful of ideas from the book/course that you can implement into your life right now.
That way you won’t get overwhelmed by trying to do too much at once.
■ Make changes to your environment.
Place reminders related to the new habits in easy to see locations around your house, car, or workplace.
For example, putting healthier foods at eye level in the fridge so you’ll reach for them more often.
And you can move reminders of unwanted habits further out of sight, like hiding junk food in a cabinet (or in a different room).
For habits that revolve around ideas, you can look for posters or make print outs with reminders of the new thought processes and ideas you’re trying to adopt. Place them around your room or house so that you see them often.
You can also set alarms and reminders on your phone to remind you throughout the day.
“Environment design is powerful not only because it influences how we engage with the world but also because we rarely do it.
Most people live in a world others have created for them. But you can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your exposure to positive cues and reduce your exposure to negative ones.
Environment design allows you to take back control and become the architect of your life. Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.”
– James Clear, Atomic Habits, page 87
I hope that this list of common personal development obstacles (and their solutions) will help you reach your goals a little quicker and easier.
But keep in mind, these aren’t the only obstacles you might come across during your personal development journey.
Some other obstacles that might creep up are:
- A lack of support from the people around you. They might even try to discourage you.
- Negative self-talk that results in you talking yourself out of attempting positive changes.
- Feeling directionless and goal-less as a result of not really knowing yourself or what you want out of life.
- Second guessing all of your decisions and never feeling “ready” to take the big steps.
So what do you do if obstacles that weren’t on the list do pop up?
You can still use some of the strategies above and do your best to adapt them to your unexpected situations.
Accept your circumstances, remember that obstacles are a normal part of the journey, look for a bigger picture (hidden opportunities), and solve them one step at a time.
As a recap, the obstacles we talked about in this post were:
1) Which path to choose?
2) There’s too much personal development information available
3) Changing too much too fast
4) The personal growth process is overwhelming
5) Life gets in the way
6) Trouble following through
7) The information didn’t stick
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