What’s Holding You Back?

Figure out what's keeping you from reaching your goals

It’s almost that goal-setting time of year, but before you begin thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions consider this: Have you ever said to yourself, “Oh, I really should do ______” (maybe last year?) but then you don’t follow through?

The blank could contain pretty much anything, but usually it’s something we know would be good for us. For example, we may know we should stop carrying a balance on our credit cards, stop spending so much money, or start living on a budget.

But something holds us back.

Figure out what’s holding you back

I have that problem with exercise. I know I should do it, and I know it’s good for me. I even want to do it, intellectually. It’s just that I haven’t been very good at following through consistently on a long-term basis.

Well, you know what? I’m tired of holding myself back.

So I sat down and figured out what the barriers were.

In other words, I indulged in a huge whine-fest, but instead of just whining and feeling bad, I actually listened to what I was whining about and then looked for solutions.

Break it down

For example, I find exercising really, really boring. Why is it boring? Because it’s in a gym. I do not like exercising for the sake of exercising. Give me a treadmill and I’m ready to quit after 5 minutes. It’s torture. Give me a city to explore and I can (literally!) walk around for 10 hours and love it. (Although my feet may not agree at the end of the day.)

So I need to find something to do that holds my attention and gives me a workout in the process. That’s one barrier down — one that won’t hold be back any longer. Rinse and repeat for each complaint/barrier.

Do the same thing

You can do the same kind of things for money-related “shoulds”. (It’s funny how similar money, diet, and exercise can be.) Let’s take “You should live on a budget” as another example.

What are the barriers to that in your life? For me it was an emotional one. I didn’t even like typing the words “live on a budget”. In fact, I still don’t have a budget. A budget makes me feel all controlled and restricted. But a spending plan is right up my alley. I enjoy planning out what I want to do with my money, and then doing it and making stuff happen. How fun is that? (Of course, that’s a budget. Shhh.)

Now not everything is going to be as easy as renaming “budget” to “spending plan”, but sometimes that’s all it takes — a little mental adjustment.

So get started

Figure out what’s holding you back. You’ll probably have to go beyond the first thing that pops into your head. Whine for a while, and write them all down. Then take a look at what they have in common, and what some possible solutions might be. Keep going until “yes but” no longer pops into your head. Then you’ll be able to make a resolution you can keep.


  • That’s actually a really interesting thought. I know I’ve had the “I should do this” thought enough. By actually breaking down the excuses of why I don’t though, I can figure out a way to start doing what needs to be done. At a certain point, I have to run out of excuses.

  • I did this last year with exercise. I finally convinced myself that walking for 30-60 minutes 3-4 times a week wasn’t just doable, but necessary. I did really well for nearly the whole year but am getting lazy again. I’m doing a beginning-of-the-year push again in a couple of weeks…

  • It may be a cliche, but I always believe that in the saying “if there’s a will, there will always be a way”. I guess what commonly holds anyone back from his plans or dreams is the lack of will to do it. If you really want something, you will try to meet ends just to achieve your goals.

  • Sometimes finding out what holds you back may make you realize that your goals are in the wrong place and don’t line up with your priorities. Maybe your having a hard time because you don’t really want what your are striving for. Maybe you don’t want to spend all your time at the gym, but you want to get in shape. Finding a different way to get in shape may be a better solution (which is why I go hiking so often!)

  • “Keep going until “yes but” no longer pops into your head.”

    Hmm… if all 3rd graders did this, the world would explode. : )

    I struggle w/ exercising too…. but a cup of coffee before the gym really helps.