5 Common Obstacles to a Life of Wonderful Change, and How to Get Around Them

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”
Arnold Bennett

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Anais Nin

Why are you reading this blog?

Probably because you want to make a positive change in your life. Perhaps you want to improve your social skills, simplify how you work or change your attitude and how you think.

Now this is great. But it is seldom that easy. There may be obstacles outside of you. There are almost certainly obstacles inside of you.

In this article I’ll explore some of those common obstacles that can make change so hard and how to get around them.

You don’t want to change.

Maybe you think you want to change something. But is it really your wish? Or is it the wish of your parents, boss, partner, friends or society?

If you don’t really want to make the change deep down then it will be very hard to go the distance. Yes, you can begin but if there is no inner drive to do it then you will lose motivation easily and feel like giving up all the time after a while.

What to do about it: Sit down and really think about whose goals you are working towards. If they are not yours then think about what you can do to stop working on them and spend more time on your own consciously chosen goals instead.

If you still have to go on with may have started as someone else’s goal – perhaps your boss has told you to do something and you can’t just ditch that if you want to keep your job – then find your own reasons for working on that goal. Brainstorm and write them all down. Review that paper and make the goal into more of your goal and know why you are working towards it for you own sake.

Your environment is holding you back.

If you are for example trying to lose weight then it will be a lot harder if the people around you are eating junk food every day. If you are trying to think more positively then it will be a lot harder if you hang out with negative people all the time and watch the news and negative and fear-inducing TV-shows too much.

What to do about it: Change your environment in a ways that will support you. That’s doesn’t mean that you have to take drastic measures like never talking to some friend or family member again to cultivate a more positive attitude.

It may just mean that you cut down on seeing the most negative people/TV-shows etc. that much and replace that with more time with positive people and positive media consumption. By doing that the process will be so much easier.

If you are trying to lose weight then find people with similar goals that you can spend some time with each week. Even if it’s just via an online forum of some sort.

Carve out some time and a space for yourself with people and motivational and educational information – books, blogs, magazines etc – that will support you as you move towards your goal. Also, by involving more people and/or for example signing up for courses somewhere you will feel commitment to people you like and a bit of positive social pressure to actually go there when you are supposed to instead of slacking off on the sofa.

One common problem with the social environment is that you perhaps fear what people may think if you make change. Well, in my experience people are seldom as harsh as you think they will be. They are most often supportive or simply not that interested/neutral to you making changes.
People are most often focused on their own goals and challenges in life. Or what other people may think of them. You are not the center of the universe.

You feel like giving up after one or three failures.

When you are really young then you probably don’t build failure up to be this huge thing. You learn to walk, fall down and ding your head and get up again. The same goes for learning to ride your bike.

But through influence from school and society failure becomes this increasingly more frightening thing. Sure, as you get older the stakes become higher and you can lose more if you fail. But I do think people often exaggerate the effects failure will have simply because they feel frightened.

What to do about it: Most of the time the sky will not fall if you fail. People will not mock you. Life just goes on. But you have to do things to gain this understanding. You will not get it just by reading these words and all the other things by people who have said the same thing for centuries.

Your mind has to experience failure – or the possibility of it – over and over to make the fear of failure to lot smaller. That has at least been my experience.

You may however find motivation in that failure teaches you things books/blogs cannot. By changing your perspective to a more curious one and seeing failure more as a learning experience than something to fear it becomes easier to handle.

You don’t feel enough pain yet.

Why do people change? Oftentimes I think they have simply had enough. The pain of staying as you are becomes too big and you seriously start looking for a positive way forward.

What to do about it: Besides waiting until the problem becomes pretty much unbearable you can try to see your future self vividly in your mind.

Ask yourself: What will this lead to in 5 and 10 years? Where am I going?

Towards massive debt, a heart attack, serious illness and severe restrictions in your future? Do you want go to that place where it is very likely that you will wind up if you don’t make a change? Then see your future self where you have made the positive change. What positive and awesome things has it brought you in 5 years and in 10 years? See it all in your mind. And remind yourself of the positive and negative consequences by writing them down and reviewing them whenever you feel like quitting and going back to your old ways.

Vividly seeing the probably very real future consequences of not changing can be that nudge you need to get serious about improving something in your life.

You don’t know how to practically make the change.

This is a common obstacle. Fortunately, nowadays we have the Internet so it’s a lot easier to find practical solutions to the problems many people have faced before you.

What to do about it: Ask yourself what have other people before you or around you have done to improve their situation?

Talk to people who have made the change you want to make (lose weight, quit smoking, improve the social life etc.). Or if you can’t find anyone, read the top rated books on Amazon.com on that topic or read blog articles.

But make sure that you take advice from someone who has actually been in your shoes and gone where you want to go. Find a way that suits you. It may not be the first method or system you try. So be patient. Keep moving forward towards the things you want most in your life.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehack, The Huffington Post and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jen

    I like where you talked about how “the sky will not fall if you fail. People will not mock you…” I think one of the greatest lessons growing up taught me was how LITTLE anyone really cares what I’m doing. There’s a phenomenon in adolescence called “the spotlight effect” – teenagers literally feel like EVERYONE is looking at them. I think a major part of growing out of adolescence is growing out of that ego-centric perspective – not just because it’s silly, but because knowing people really aren’t watching will free you to be exactly who you want to be.

    • Ali

      Jen, This is the first time that I have heard of the “spotlight effect” but I fully intend to use that term on my own once I look it up. I just began my own blog (on overcoming adversity and finding happiness) last month, but have found that one of my biggest fans is my 13 year old daughter. I have made several references to bullying and have made it known that I strongly believe that our youthneeds to locate a sense of self love and acceptance. I think that is the surest way to eliminate the problem of bullying.

  • Hi Hendrik,

    Change is indeed not so easy and the way to it is full of obstacles.

    The hardest for me is: ”Don’t feel enough pain yet”‘

    It is true: people go away from pain and go to pleasure. If you really want to change, it is a good idea to associate massive pain with not changing. The reality is that in 5 to 10 year it can become painful when not changing, but making the vivid picture of this painful event is not so evident. It requires focused attention.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for the article. :)

  • Aisha Quinece

    When I resist change it often has to do with wanting to stay the same because it’s comfortable, easy, and I know what to expect. But then circumstances change. And I want to hold on. So I knuckle down, hold on real tight, until… As Anais Nin stated, “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” …I have to let go. There is no other choice… :)

  • narinder

    Nice self motivational lines

  • This article has so many good points in it that speak so many truths but the one that’s most relevant to my current situation is the part about ‘not feeling enough pain yet.’ This area has confused me and made me want to understand this more because it’s true that we should be grateful with what we have now and not to want things in the future. For a while I’ve become so grateful for what I ‘am’ and ‘have’ that i’ve lost some of that drive to correct the situation I had before. It was only a few days before reading this post that I realise you need to create at least a little drive by feeling a bit of pain.

    So i thank you Henrik for reaffirming this point.

  • For me “Your environment is holding you back.” is VERY true…I mean, I know someone who’s perhaps the most ambitious person I know. However, he lives in an environment where he cannot expand and realize his dreams and I’m pretty sure if we could only change this, he would bloom!

    But changing an environment is not easy. It sometimes means moving, stress, uncomfortable feelings, time, routines changed, etc.

    Nice “how to” article Henrik, thanks!

  • Geraldine

    Great minds….My Word of the Week this week is Change. It’s interesting that this time of year seems to be a time to reflect on change and the power of change in our lives, for many people. Thanks for another great post Henrik. You always leave your readers with “food for thought” for days to come.


  • The article fit perfectly to the transition period that started on 28th October. I also value the practical advice. Thanks for that!

  • Thanks for your advice!

  • Another excellent blog – and I agree with the comments above regarding resisting change (as the old place is at least familiar) and – sometimes – the need for enough pain in the old situation to motivate us to give up the familiar place. But I want to come back to your point of sometimes not knowing how to do the new thing. Sometimes it is very mortifying to ask for help. I have always struggled with tidying up, finally my partner taught me these questions:
    “Is the item needed?” if not, bin it.
    if “Yes” – “Does it have a place?” and, “If not, create a place.”
    Sometimes we need somebody to hold our hand and point out the basics, to help the overwhelmed ‘little young people’ in us to make that leap, no matter what our physical age might be. ;-)

  • Thank You Henrik.
    I would like to mention another obstacle that stops many people from making a change. It is fear. Fear from failure, fear from the unknown, fear from losing something (security), etc. Many people have dreams of a better life, and are wishing that maybe one day something would happen, but are afraid of committing to do it now.
    One “solution” could be trying to visualize what you would gain and what would you lose by making the change and by not making the change. Consider the consequences and the impact on your quality of life and then decide how important is that for you. Are you willing to stay where you are and let life goes by or are you ready to take the leap?


  • Thank you everyone for adding your own awesome thoughts and insights on this topic! :)

  • Hi Henrik!

    I think it is possible to change anything if you have enough emotional leverage. By having enough emotional leverage you can break out of the old habits and form new ones. So pain is a good thing. So is good imagination! This lets you picture better future vividly and again have more leverage.

    Internet is great place because it is possible to create your resources where to get energy when feeling like giving up. Its possible to have support from other like minded people and really transform your life. Still I think it is a dangerous way of living if one thinks that in the future I will be happy. Self acceptance together with goals concerning better future is crucial to avoid burning out when life gets tough…and life is short! Its not the destiny, its all about the journey. Happiness comes from who you become during that journey.

  • Thank you. This is so true. Change can be so difficult and yet so fulfilling when you achieve even the smallest change.