The four obstacles to achieving your goals


And why it takes courage to confront your dreams

What’s stopping us from realising our dreams? What drives one person to go after what they want, desire or need and another to settle – make do.

Why do some of us ask for more out of life, question why we’re here, and whether what we have achieved is what we even wanted in the first place?

And, while I’m at it, why do some people know what they really, really, REALLY, want, and others have no clue, or simply never ask?

Interested in exploring this with me? Come on in.

I’m reading (actually re reading) Paulo Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, a fable about following your dream. Santiago, the Shepherd boy who dreams of travel and treasure, is talking to the Crystal Merchant who started his shop thinking someday he’d be rich and be able to fulfil his calling to go to Mecca. He has long made his money but admits he still hasn’t travelled because he can’t bring himself to leave anyone in charge of his shop. Santiago asks:

“Why don’t you go to Mecca now?”

His answer:

“Because it’s the thought of Mecca that keeps me alive. That’s what helps me face these days that are all the same. I’m afraid that if my dream is realised, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”

And later he also adds:

“I don’t want to change anything because I don’t know how to deal with change. I’m used to the way I am.”

We then hear Santiago trying to convince himself:

“Who knows…maybe it’s better to be like the Crystal Merchant, never to go to Mecca and just go through life wanting to do so.”

Hmmm. Sound a little tragic to you? Does me. I think we all get to a point when we want to convince ourselves that following our dream is just too damn hard. That we will suffer more if we go for it, than if we don’t. That we are ok the way we are. (There’s that denial creeping in right there).

But, here comes my next question, why should it take courage to follow the path that we are most driven to pursue? We love the very idea of it (whatever it is). It gives us our energy, passion. If it lights us up, what’s to fear and why do we have to experience any kind of suffering to achieve it?

Turns out we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dreams because of four obstacles, which Paolo covers right at the start in his Author’s Note. Our challenge is to overcome these obstacles at the risk of intense, unexpected suffering that passes quickly, or trade that for a suffering that a lot of people (like the Crystal Merchant) seem to find more bearable –  the kind of suffering that goes on for years and years, eats away at our souls, and stays with us forever.

Ouch! Recognise that kind of suffering? Want to trade for the intense, passes quick option? Let’s check out these obstacles first before we start ripping off any plasters.

Obstacle 1: From childhood we are told that everything we want to do is impossible. Over time we believe it and our calling becomes buried in our soul. But it’s still there. So, overcome your past conditioning, recognise you are, at your core, pure potential and you get to move on to…

Obstacle 2: The second obstacle is love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us. We often have to abandon everything to pursue our dream (Santiago has to sell his flock and give up his livelihood before he can travel to Africa). The message here is that love should really be the impetus and what drives us on. And those that genuinely want us to be happy support us and maybe even take the journey with us.

Obstacle 3: Fear of the defeats we meet on our path. Once we put our stake in the soil, announce our personal calling to the world, it leaves us a little open to the public pain of making mistakes, falling down, things not working out as we think they should, within the time frame we want it to. And because everyone now knows what you gave up or invested in pursuit of your dream, you can’t fall back on the excuse that it didn’t mean that much to you anyhow. Which gets us to the part where we have to practice patience, detachment and have faith. In the Alchemist, the Old King teaches Santiago that: “when you want something, all the world conspires to help you achieve it.” If patience is not your strong suit, this one can be tough – the universe doesn’t seem to work to any schedule – particularly yours.

Obstacle 4: More fear – this time the fear is about having the dream we have been fighting for all our lives, come true. Paulo says the mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We feel we don’t deserve it, we’re not worthy and forget all the obstacles, the knock backs, the suffering, the things we had to give up to get so far. But if we overcome this obstacle, we understand we absolutely have proved ourselves worthy (that’s the purpose of the obstacles) and suddenly notice what we wanted is there, ready, waiting. And we reach our goal. We become an instrument of the world, fulfil our destiny, live in Dharma and fully understand why we are here.

Shining a light on what might be holding you back (any of these obstacles being one of them) can sometimes help you make your next move. The Alchemist makes for a great torch. And like me, you can reach for it anytime, and probably more than once.

What’s stopping you from realising your dreams? Do you recognise these obstacles? How are you/or how could you overcome your fears? Join the conversation. Leave a comment right here. Never stop dreaming.