What’s Getting in Your Way?


Have you ever felt stuck, like you’ve hit a wall in terms of reaching a particular goal? This frustration can be your friend or your foe depending on how you use it. If you let the frustration get you down, you’re likely to procrastinate or even quit. There’s no need for this to happen. In fact, frustration should be celebrated. Why? Because it means a breakthrough is right around the corner…if you look for it.

Using the Power of Frustration

Frustration occurs when your energy to move forward is blocked. That blockage could be another person, a ineffective strategy, a change in circumstances, constraints on time, or any number of other hurdles to achieving your goal. This bottleneck of energy needs a place to go. The power behind frustration is strong. All it takes to redirect this power to your advantage is to dedicate some time to analyzing and identifying the root problem.

Identify the Real Problem

So, what is truly blocking you? Like most people, you may need to take some time drilling down to find the true root cause. To find this nugget of truth you simply keep asking WHY until you get to the root problem. Once you discover the real root problem, you can plan to overcome it.

Example of The Process

Let’s say that your goal is to exercise everyday. You write down your goal, you sign up for the monthly challenge at Zen Habits, you establish a place to track your progress, and still you’re not making any headway on your goal. So you start by asking “Why am I not taking action on my goal?”

Your first answer might be something like, “I have no discipline. I have no motivation. I’m a loser.” Now, are those good reasons? No, we all struggle with discipline and motivation. What we all need is a compelling plan to ensure success. So, once you get those negative answers out of the way you will need to dig deeper.

So you ask “Why am I really not taking action?” Your answer, “Well, I wake up too tired because I go to bed too late.” Ok, now you’re getting somewhere but you must keep going. “Why am I staying up so late?” So you analyze further and determine that there’s 2 reasons. One is that you are spending time on unproductive things like TV or aimless web surfing. The other reason is that you are working on a side project. Aha! Now you’ve really hit on something.

You can now see that you are spending time on another goal and leisure activities that are stealing time from the mornings when you planned to exercise. What to do? Now is the time to evaluate your goals and your planning. You review your goals and realize that you weren’t acknowledging the priority of your side project and you were dedicating more time to leisure than you need. Your root cause is a matter of priorities and time management. So, you come up with a new evening schedule that includes a set time for your project, less time on leisure, and a target bedtime so that you will have the energy to get up in the morning for exercising.

Set a Course of Action

Once you’ve identified the root blockage, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals and their order of priority. Be realistic about the amount of time you can dedicate to each one. Map out that time. If you find that you are not sticking to your schedule then you probably are not being honest with yourself about the priority order of your goals.

Know Your Motivations

It may be that you need more motivation to make one of your goals a higher priority. If that’s the case, focus on the benefits you’ll receive from working on that goal. So if your goal is exercise, focus on how good you’ll feel and look. If your goal is writing a book, then you might focus on how the extra income from that book will help you. Ask yourself why you have this goal so you can focus on that for motivation.

The Power of One

Keep in mind you may need to put some of your goals on hold. It’s really OK to do this. See my post over at ZenHabits on “The Power of One” in goal setting. It’s better to succeed in little bits over time, than to fail because you tried to take on too many goals at once.


By redirecting the energy behind your frustration into a more effective course of action, you will be able to reach your goals. This is called a breakthrough! And this is why you should welcome frustration. Out of frustration will emerge your biggest leaps in success if you recognize what is happening, analyze the real problem, and then take action on a new strategy for reaching your goal!

Please Share

Please share your Breakthrough experiences that started with Frustration. All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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