It doesn’t matter how much we want to achieve a certain goal, everyone has a barrier to it. Sometimes it’s a speed bump, at other times it’s an entire mountain range. Every so often you’ll find a speed bump that feels like a mountain, too.
Recognizing those barriers can sound depressing, and even demoralizing. The way I’m going to suggest you do it isn’t going to leave you feeling either way if you’ll see it through. First, get into the right mindset. The first person over a mountain didn’t have a cleared path with comfortable rest stops along the way. They moved forward, backed up, changed direction, and tried again. That was how they found the route. Others followed, and by the time you got there, it was well-traveled.
We’re going to attempt to not have so many direction changes, but sometimes they’re necessary, and once again, I’ll use myself as an example.
Second, name your goal. Put a short, defined title to it. It may be far more complex than the title, but we’re going with the K.I.S.S. method right now.
My goal: Be a Project Manager.
Now, before you go breaking it down into smaller tasks, look at that goal. What’s in the way of it? What keeps you from reaching that goal? Be sure to include your own thoughts, feelings, and the ways you trap yourself. The one thing you may NOT do is write in negative self-talk. You can’t write that you’re lazy. You’re not. There’s an internal barrier there. Look closer and find it.
My barriers: Experience, fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear of not knowing what I’m doing, unsure how to have a successful interview, unsure how to handle productive job hunt, unable/unwilling to relocate right now, age (even though legally it shouldn’t be one), wanting to not work on anything/depression/anxiety (because that’s a big ol feedback loop I’m stuck with.), health issues.
Well, my list has a lot of fear. How about yours? Money problems? Lack of supporters? Overdose of the “don’t wanna?”
The next step is to list out all the ways you can overcome those barriers.
Experience: I can ask my boss to let me use my skills at work so I can build up a portfolio and experience for my resume. (And I have asked, and he does, quite gladly.)
Fear of rejection: I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. I have to trust that if an interviewer doesn’t decide to hire me, there’s a reason. It’s probably not personal. It may be that they don’t think I’d be happy with their company. It may be that there’s something they’re not telling me and one of my answers revealed that I wouldn’t stay very long.
Fear of not being good enough: Ah, yes, impostor syndrome. I can fight it in this case because I have my bachelor’s degree and my project management certification. I have papers to prove I’m good enough.
Continue through your own list. Name a way you can overcome each barrier. If you have multiple ways to beat it, name all of them. Depending on your goal, you may need them. You can ask a friend or a mentor for help in this stage, too. A mentor will have already climbed that mountain and can guide you around the pitfalls.
Some barriers you’re seeing will look much smaller at this point. Some will look larger. If it looks larger, investigate your barrier. You’re missing something about it.
Now that you have all this information, what do you do with it?
Look at your goal again. Break it down into smaller tasks and place each barrier under the task it applies to. Barriers to the entire process should go under the goal. As you approach a task, be aware of the barrier and of finding a way through, or around it.
Experience is a hard one to beat, especially when the problem is the lack of it. I discussed the need for experience with my supervisor. I explained that I feel frustrated by not being able to use the skills I’ve trained and studied, and want a chance to do so. We talked about my long-term goals, where I am right now, and how to put some of the project skills into place. We also discussed career options within the company.
Sweet! I have had forward progress on the overall goal since then! I even did a job hunt and learned how to interview for the positions I applied to. I learned how to write my resume differently, so it showcases all my skills.
And then, as you’ll find yourself doing, I hit another barrier. I wasn’t getting hired by anyone. I don’t know why, I didn’t get any real feedback on that. The lack of progress was stealing my motivation. I evaluated things and realized I was missing a specific skill set I’ll need. I also realized that while my supervisor is doing his best for me, the projects I’m working on right now aren’t things that will help me with a job hunt outside of the company I’m in.
So, just like that first person up the mountain, I have found myself back-tracking. I eased up on the job hunt. To get the skills I keep finding myself lacking, I enrolled in a graduate program using the tuition assistance through my employer.
This path will have other challenges and barriers, I’m quite certain. But, when I find them, I can repeat this process and forge ahead… or to the side… or backtrack and go around another route… but I’ll get there.
So will you.