Obstacles are what turn simple things we want to do into difficult things.  Obstacles can be caused by external forces, like time and money, or by internal ones such as our own habits and fears. They require us to change, and that is universally something that we human beings struggle with and resist. You may remember the well-worn axiom, “If it was easy, you would have done it by now!”

There are
hundreds of thousands of people who have overcome both internal and external
obstacles to become successful doing work they love; finding long-term lasting
relationships; and reaching other significant life goals.  If people can cultivate self-respect,
confidence and a commitment to their own talents, they can rise above many
limiting beliefs and other obstacles to achieve true success in life. 

I am a life
coach and you may have wondered, “What do coaches do when a client comes to
them for help in overcoming obstacles?”  For
example, a client may enter coaching with the stated goal of overcoming their
procrastination.   A trained coach knows
that all behavior has purpose and takes care of something important to the
client. Thus, resolving procrastination will 
involve addressing the hidden obstacles that are hampering progress,  such as learning to stand up to others and say
‘no’ to demands; or learning to focus energy and minimize distractions; or learning
to finish less rewarding duties first before engaging in more pleasurable

I am going
to share with you five strategies that coaches use to help clients overcome obstacles.  As you read through them, you may want to
consider how you might use them to challenge your thinking, your assumptions
and your fears in the same way that a coach might.  Think of a real life situation you are
involved with, and see if these approaches can help you expand your options and
create new solutions. 

Strategy One: 
Ask Good Questions

Coaches have many tools
with which to help clients, and asking questions is one of the most
important.  Here are some questions that
a life coach might ask a client in order to help identify external obstacles:

“What makes this so hard
to get done?”

“What might you need that
you haven’t had in order to reach your goal?”

“If you could identify one
primary obstacle you could conquer that would make all the difference in
reaching your goal – what would it be?”

“When you have tried in
the past to overcome this what got in your way?”

Coaches also ask questions
to help clients identify internal obstacles:

“When you think about
making this change, what kind of feeling, physical sensation, or other reaction
do you have?”

“Even though you really
want to make this change, what do you gain by staying stuck and not changing?”

“Relax for a moment and
pay attention to what is going on inside your body as you consider the obstacle;
where do you feel the pressure or stress from this situation?”

“Not that you know for
sure, but just take a guess:  What is the
critical voice in you saying about making this change in your life?”

 Strategy Two: 
Engage Imagery and the Power of Imagination

Coaches may direct their
clients to imagine that the obstacle is gone, and that they are free to act in
a new way to attain the desired future they want.  For example, a coach may say something like

“Let’s imagine that the
obstacle no longer impacts you –  it has
been completely taken care of and is gone – how does that change things for
you?  How does that make you feel now
that you are no longer held back from using your full personal power?  What dreams or goals might you now pursue?”

This strategy is related
to advice that coaches sometimes give clients to “act as if.”  Acting as if they are competent in the face
of an obstacle requires clients to suspend beliefs and fears associated with
it, and to see, even if only for a brief period, how that feels. The insights gained
from a “taste” of success can be revealing and the feeling of empowerment can
be highly motivating.

Strategy Three: 
Learn from the Past

By reflecting on their past
successes, clients build courage, and self confidence; they can be encouraged
to see that previous obstacles were overcome when they took certain risks or
actions that could be duplicated with present challenges.   Coaches may instruct clients to think back
and reflect on their past actions in this way:

“Tell me about a time when
you faced the fear of failure and chose to move ahead anyways, and succeeded –
maybe even to your surprise or to the surprise of others.  What specifically did you do?”

“When you were struggling
earlier in your life and overcame an obstacle blocking your path, what was the
turning point for you?  How can you apply
that learning to this current challenge you face?”

 Strategy Four: 
Face the Fear and Take a Baby Step

Obstacles have the
greatest power over us when we let them live in darkness, unexamined, and
unchallenged.  By bringing them into the
daylight, giving them a name and talking about them with a coach, they lose the
power to control us.   A coach might help
a client face fear by asking:

“What is it about this
obstacle that makes you feel the most afraid? 
What’s the thing you are most afraid will happen?”

“If you were to give your
fear a name, what would you call it?”

“I’d like to give you a
homework assignment.  This week, take a small
step each day toward doing the thing you fear; pay attention to how taking that
step makes you feel.  Then give yourself
10 minutes to write down a few notes about the experience to track what is
going on in your thoughts, feelings and awareness.  Bring the notes with you to our next session
and let’s explore together what you’ve identified.”

 Strategy Five: 
Change the Perspective

Coaches help clients gain
a new perspective by helping them see the Big Picture, by using emotional
detachment, by seeing circumstances through a different lens, and by building
the assurance to act with confidence. Coaches reframe issues for clients by
asking questions such as these:

“What will this look like
to you in ten years? What will seem the most important part of this challenge to
you then?”

“Think about the
importance of this obstacle in relation to your health, family, and spiritual
growth. How important is this in the overall scheme of things?”

“What if this obstacle
were placed in your life to prepare you for what you were born to do; how would
that change your perspective on it?”

“How is your response to
this obstacle affecting your family and friends?”

“If you had all the time,
money and resources to overcome this obstacle, how would it change your

 As you can glean from
these strategies, once we become aware of what is really holding us back and
how we participate in that self-limiting process, we are then free to change
and that freedom leads to more freedom. 
gives in us, fortune
smiles on us and luck, providence or coincidences happen as if a dam has
broken, and our authentic life comes rushing to meet us.  The choice is always ours:  to feed our attention to our obstacles or to feed
our attention to our desire for happiness in life.  The first will bring us more obstacles; the
other brings us the courage to change.