5 Psychological Barriers to Success

All of the psychological barriers which keep people from achieving their goals can be reduced down into five main stumbling blocks. You’ll be familiar with some of these, but others may surprise you.


1 – “I think I want to achieve this, but I have deep objections which will sabotage it.”

There are so many objections within ‘want to’ that I’m just going to list them:

More here: Why am I motivated at first but after a while procrastinate the same goals I believe in?

Even more here: How can we achieve life goals?

2 – “I’m not completely sure this is possible to do (or possible for me to do)”

It’s true – some goals just aren’t possible. However, it’s good to stretch your sense of possibility once in a while. This is a place where we find many standard objections:

  • “I’m too old”
  • “I’m too young”
  • “I’m not qualified”
  • “I’m not smart/strong/tall enough”
  • “I just can’t!”

When you find yourself using any of these objections (or similar), you’re stubbing your toe against ‘possibility’.

3 – “I want this but don’t think I really deserve to have it”

Deservingness is often buried under other concerns. However, if you don’t think you really deserve something, you’ll probably sabotage the outcome.

¨I deserve to have £1,000,000 if I work hard for it.¨
“I can have that if no-one else wants it.¨
“I can be the best if I sacrifice my personal life.”
¨I can change if it doesn’t require will-power”
¨I deserve the man/woman of my dreams if I’m:

  • good enough.
  • confident enough.
  • of high enough status.”

See how those qualifiers work? This is how you can end up trying to achieve something difficult with one hand tied behind your back.

If this is you, consider who else might benefit when you succeed, then rethink whether you might, in fact, deserve it after all.

4 – I’m not sure this is safe to do (or safe for me to do)”

Fear and safety are interlinked when it comes to getting anything done. And fear can be seriously inhibiting unless you understand it.

You might want to check this out too: How do I not to let my fear affect my goal or dream?

5 – “If I change this, will I still be me?”

This final one sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But consider how often you hear this:

“I’m not the sort of person who…”

People can wrap their whole identity around what they do, their habits, their occupation and their past track record.

“I’m not the sort of person who…

  • can be my own boss
  • can ask for a raise
  • can ask someone out
  • can leave this awful job/relationship/country”

Basically, they’re saying that they can’t change because of who they are .

That’s why “I’m not creative / artistic / clever / confident / heroic / a ‘do-er’” will play into this stumbling block too.

One antidote to this one: Find an example in the past where you did do that thing. You’re still you, so there’s no problem any more.


I advise you to use this like a checklist for your goals – check for each of these stumbling blocks in turn.

Take your time with this – it’s important – and go through these one by one. That’s right. They’re in order, with the easiest to spot at the top of the list.

If you identify one that is related to your goal, what do you do?

That’s too big a question to answer in this space, but here are some tips:

First, see if changing your plan in some way will remove the block. The problem may not be about your goal, but how you intend to achieve it. Would a different route to the goal help?

Second, see if some further research can alleviate the block. This may help with possibility and safety concerns.

These are highlights from chapter 8 of Goal Mastery. If you found this answer helpful, you might want to check it out.

5 Psychological Barriers to Success by
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