How to Overcome Challenges to Goal Achievement

Loyd Mears

I achieved a major goal in my life recently. It took me more than a year to do it. I lost 50 pounds by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet while counting calories.

I had to overcome challenges like finding time to exercise, getting myself to exercise when I didn’t feel like it, and avoiding underestimating calories when I ate out at restaurants.

I solved not feeling like exercising by rewarding myself with a chocolate protein shake or a single scoop chocolate ice cream cone (300 calories) any time I exercised in spite of not feeling up to it.

No matter what you are working to accomplish, there will be roadblocks and problems that pop up. I give you here tools to help you plan for how to overcome your challenges to achieve your goals.

You overcome challenges to goal achievement by developing a growth mindset and focusing on solutions, not on problems. You need to attack problems by defining them, listing possible solutions, seeking expert guidance, and implementing the best solution right away.

The two major types of challenges to your goal achievement are: 

  1. mental roadblocks and
  2. external events. 

The most difficult of these is mental roadblocks because it takes more time and effort to solve habits that are deeply embedded in your brain. However, external roadblocks may be more difficult to identify or predict.

If you have set clear goals, you begin with the mental challenges to achieving goals.

Overcome Mental Challenges to Achieving Your Goals

How to stop worrying.

Worry is a real drain on productivity and it doesn’t have to be. Just remember that most worries never happen and when they do they’re usually not as bad as you imagined. This is a case where your imagination is your worst enemy.

Do this when you find yourself worrying about something.

Woman sitting at a desk writing
  • Write down exactly what you’re worried about. 
  • If it’s something that you don’t have control over, then plan how you will respond if it happens.
    • You may not have control of what happens, but you do control how you respond.
    • Have a positive mindset.
    • Make it an opportunity to learn or gain in some way.
    • Prepare yourself to accept the circumstance and persevere.
  • When you have some control, write down what you can do about it.
  • Decide what you will do and start right away to carry out your decision.
  • Above all remember that about 80% of the time things you worry about don’t happen and then if they do, half the time it’s not as bad as imagined.

How to overcome fear of failure.

One problem with fear of failure is that you may not actually be aware that it’s affecting you. Here are some indicators to evaluate and see if you might be affected by this

  • Are you reluctant to try new things or get involved in challenging projects?
  • Do you engage in self-sabotage by procrastinating a lot or failing to follow through with plans?
  • Do you feel bad about your abilities or say things to yourself like “I’ll never be good enough to X X X,” or “I’m not smart enough to X X X” ?
  • Do you hold back from doing things unless you know you’ll finish perfectly and successfully?

If you are affected by this, here is how you handle it.

  • Create the worse-case scenario, act as if it has happened and then consider how you will respond. Most of the time the worst case never happens and people magnify fears irrationally. Use the steps for dealing with worries to help with this.
  • Have a contingency plan  – If fear of something is paralyzing you, then, having a “Plan B” in place can help you feel more confident about moving forward. Be very cautious not to let “Plan B” be a stupid excuse to quit.
  • Analyze all potential outcomes – People often have fear of failure because they have a fear of the unknown. You can reduce that fear simply by listing all of the potential outcomes of your actions. 

How to solve a lack of knowledge and skills.

This has to be the easiest challenge to overcome because there are literally infinite free and inexpensive sources for learning.

Many resources are available for you to learn whatever you need.

Whatever you need to learn, there are books you can get on Amazon for a few dollars. There are courses on Udemy that regularly go for $10 – $11 when they have discounts, which is almost all of the time.

Skillshare is loaded with courses from real experts who do a great job. Then, there is YouTube, which has hundreds of thousands of training videos.

How To Overcome Challenges To Goal Achievement

You can join forums and Facebook groups to get help as well. Here is the order in which I look for help when I don’t know how to do something.

  1. Google
  2. YouTube
  3. Udemy (for full courses about major subjects)
  4. Skillshare

I find that the best way to operate is to learn as I earn. I plan to do something and I get to work. When I run across something I don’t know, I find out how to do it when I need it.

How to stop procrastination.

There are some motivation tricks I sometimes use to overcome procrastination. They are very effective.

  • According to research findings 1, it’s more compelling to ask yourself “Will I” [do something]? than it is to tell yourself “I will” [do something]. To increase your internal motivation, use the words “Will I” instead of “I will.”  

So, when you begin to procrastinate, ask yourself, “Will I [your thing to do here]?

  • Use what I call the Isaac Newton Trick. Get momentum by starting on just a small part of the task that you’re procrastinating about. Once you finish the small part you can go do something else.
  • Getting started puts you in motion and you’re very likely to remain in motion and momentum will cause you to continue working beyond the small part of the task. 
  • Break your tasks into very small parts to make the Isaac Newton Trick work. For instance, if you need to write a 1,000 word article, reduce it to writing only the introductory sentence, title or first paragraph. Then just get started on that piece.
  • Another momentum trick is the 5-minute trick.  It works by you committing to working on a task for just 5 minutes. You set a timer for 5 minutes and get started on the task. When the timer finishes, you can stop and do something else. You’ll find that the task is not as bad as you thought and you’ll go on for more than 5 minutes.
  • The Seinfeld Calendar is a way for you to see when you’re not working towards your goals as planned. It’s easier to put things off if you’re not paying attention.
    1. Set a deadline for completing your goal. Deadlines (even self-imposed ones) generate a sense of urgency to start working. 
    2. Get a calendar and a marker. Mark the day when you plan to finish your goal with a big “X” on the calendar. As you approach the deadline, the “X” will be a visual reminder that motivates you to work harder. 
    3. Put the calendar in a place where you are forced to see it everyday. 
    4. Break down the steps to reach your objectives and set a daily measure of completion. It can be results-based like writing 3,000 words or time-based such as “spending 3 hours writing.” Daily goals will motivate you to work towards completing them. 
    5. Every day that you meet your objective, cross the day off on the calendar with a large X. It won’t be long before you have a consecutive series of X’s. Your goal is to avoid breaking that series of Xs. Seeing the chain of Xs get longer is satisfying and motivational. Now your desire is to keep the series going.

How to overcome a lack of clear goals.

Confused man. What should I do?

Vague goals will torpedo your success. You can easily overcome a lack of clear goals by making your goals specific and measurable. 

To make your goals specific you have to put numbers on them and set a deadline. Losing weight becomes a clear goal if it’s to lose 20 pounds by June 1st. And it’s measurable by stepping on a weight scale and looking at a calendar.

You can break it down even further to losing 1 pound a week or 5 pounds a month. You make it specific by adding measurement and a time period.

Writing a book is a vague goal. Writing a 50,000-word book about gardening in the next 6 months is clear. Compare these examples to your goals to check that they are clear.

How to overcome setbacks and failures.

Never quit, NOT EVER! Every single person who ever had great success failed multiple times before succeeding. They achieved great success because they refused to quit. There are so many examples that a person could fill a whole library with the stories of people who achieved great success only after failing over and over again.

It’s as if failing repeatedly is a feature of reality that nature has set up for all who want to succeed. Anyone who wants to achieve a worthwhile goal must pass through the fire of failures. There is no other path.

Do this whenever you face a setback in your efforts to achieve your goals.

  • Let yourself feel bad and give yourself a little time to get over it. Feeling bad about failing is good. It means you care enough to succeed.  Just remember failing does not mean you are a failure. You are only a failure if you stop trying.
  • Remind yourself once again that there is no success without multiple failures, problems, setbacks and challenges. 
Hooded man sitting with head bowed and hands on head.
  • Watch the beginning of this video: In the face of complete rejection by his heroes, this is how Elon Musk responds.

I don’t ever give up! I mean, I’d have to be dead or completely incapacitated [to quit].

Elon Musk
  • Ask yourself the right type of questions to direct your mental focus the way champions do.
    • What can I learn from this? 
    • What opportunity might come from this? 
    • What can I do differently or better from today forward?
  • Develop a growth mindset, which means focusing on your efforts and process and not focusing on judgments about success or ability. Research demonstrates that a growth mindset will help you learn from failures and keep improving2.
  • Seek advice from mentors.
  • Write down one thing you can do about the failure. Then do it right away.

Overcome External Challenges to Achieving Your Goals

How to solve problems.

If you’ve ever done anything you know problems of all kinds crop up all too often. You can stop them from interfering with achieving your goals by following a proven process of problem-solving.

  • Define the problem and make sure what you think is the problem actually is the problem.
  • If it’s something you don’t control, then you need to respond with a positive mindset and think about how to make the best of it.
  • Analyze and investigate to find what caused the problem. Then come up with as many possible solutions as you can.
  • Decide what the best solution is right now and act on it immediately. Just do the best you can for now.
  • Choose a way to monitor your solution to see if it actually helps.

How to plan for future problems.

Follow these steps to be prepared for future problems.

1. Look at your plans and identify potential problems.

2. Estimate how likely you think it is that each problem will happen and how damaging each one would be.

3. List the things you think might cause each problem.

4. Beginning with the most serious problems, come up with possible solutions that will either:

  1. stop a problem from happening 
  2. or at least reduce the likelihood.

contingency plans notebook and pen

5. Make a contingency plan of possible solutions and alternative ways to continue if a serious problem happens.

6. Seek advice from experts and people who have faced the same problems (Quora, Forums, FB Groups, experts, Youtube, Google Search).

Here is a good article that gives more details about planning and preparing for future problems.

Conclusion to How to Overcome Challenges to Goal Achievement

I know there is a lot of information in this article. What I like to do is just bookmark articles (Press Ctrl+d) and come back to work on actions piece by piece. Or, I just keep it for reference when I need it.

Action Plan for This Article

  • Choose one type challenge and work on integrating it into your goal plans.
  • Once you finish one type of challenge, choose another and work on it bit by bit.
  • Keep this article bookmarked and refer back when you have a challenge.

I hope you find this information useful. Best wishes in your journey towards achieving your life goals!



  1. Will we succeed? The science of self-motivation. (1274). Retrieved 23 June 2020, from uoia-wws052710.php
  2. Promoting constructive mindsets for overcoming failure in computer science education | Proceedings of the tenth annual conference on International computing education research. (2020). Retrieved 7 July 2020, from
  3. Using Goal Setting Assignments to Promote a Growth Mindset in IT Students