Jeanine Cogan
Executive coach

Jeanine Cogan

Heads Cogan Coaching and is on the faculty of the Center for Continuing and Professional Education at Georgetown University.


Overcoming obstacles

Q: What's the right response when you come tantalizingly close to success but fail to achieve your goal? How hard is it to recover from heartbreaking setbacks like the ones the Washington Redskins have endured in recent weeks? How often have you experienced reversals that tested your own spirit?

My favorite writing about how to go for our dreams, and what keeps us from getting there, comes from a novelist. Paulo Coelho, in his book "The Alchemist," describes four common obstacles we often encounter on our way to achieving our goals.

Setbacks are par for the course when we go for something we really want. They help us: to determine whether we "really" want this; and crystallize our determination if we do.

I offer you a short summary from my Web site of Coehlo's four obstacles to attaining your dream.

Four obstacles to fulfilling your personal calling or life purpose.

1. It's buried. We bury our personal calling after a lifetime of being told that what we want is impossible, we can't have it, or is otherwise impractical. We need the courage to reconnect with and rediscover our dreams and life purpose. Begin peeling back the layers of "shoulds," "can'ts" and "have to's" to allow your true passion to emerge. A way to being in this process is to remember what really excited you when you were young. Did you spend time taking things apart and figuring out how to put them back together? Did you spend hours playing teacher with your friends, loving the chalk board and lesson book? Did you spend endless weeks concocting formulas and collecting intwerestin specimens of nature for a science project? Explore what your passions were as a child to help you tap into what you buried.

2. Love. We know our calling in life but are worried that pursuing it will hurt others in some way. We may have a fear of surpassing our father's success, or letting down the expectations of our mothers, or hurting someone else who matters to us in our lives. The antidote to this obstacle is to deepen your understanding of how love can be an impetus toward pursing your dreams. Those who genuinely want you to be happy will support you on your journey -- even if you are "marching to the beat of your own drum".

3. Fear of defeat. It may seem less painful to not pursue your dream than to pursue it and fail. When we go for our dream with 100 percent effort and fail, we cannot attribute our failure to not really trying - and so that is an enormous threat. Yet defeat, setbacks and challenges are part of any journey - -so we need to be prepared to bounce back and be resilient when we face defeat. As Coelho says: "The secret of life is to fall 7 times and get up 8 times." In fact, overcoming defeat builds confidence and is greatly satisfying. A journey with obstacles makes the reward so much more satisfying. Also obstacles can serve as a test for us -- do we really want to achieve this life goal?

4. Fear of success. The fourth obstacle is the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought our whole lives. "The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt." We compare ourselves with others and because they failed at their dreams we think it is unfair to fulfill ours. We forget about all the blood, sweat and tears we endured; all the hurdles we had to jump to get to this place. A lot of people who are within inches of their personal calling -- where they can practically touch it, taste it, and feel it -- then make a number of foolish mistakes and never reach their goal. This can be the most seductive obstacle because it has a martyr-like quality -- renouncing joy and the need for success.

Author Marianne Williamson captures this fear of success with conviction: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous talented and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be?"


Some may want to try this exercise --
Moving forward with the end result as your inspiration:
Step into your own magnificence by living in this moment as if you already reached your dream. Imagine you are at your end goal.

Be your success!
Do a freewrite ( free wheeling piece of writing) every day for a week describing what it is like to have manifested your dream. Describe in detail your life now, how it feels, the joys and triumphs. Keep the success of having reached the endpoint in your being as you go through each day. Enjoy the success!

Create your list of action steps.
What did it take for you to get there? Write those answers down. They are now your action steps. The action steps can be big and small.

Take daily actions.
Do one action from your above list daily toward realizing this goal. Live from this vision and your certainty that you will manifest it.

By Jeanine Cogan  |  December 10, 2009; 1:32 PM ET  | Category:  elusiveness Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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