What Stands in the Way of Reaching Your Goals?

Updated on November 6, 2018
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok writes about personal growth and emotional well-being that he learned from his studies of social behavior and from experience.

Do you have ideas of a future you'd like to have, but you find yourself doing other things and not working on your goals? Maybe you don't really want what you dream of having.

You may need to put a little effort into analyzing where you're headed and what’s important. I’ll help you refocus your energy and recognize what’s important to you.


Determine If It's Important to You or Not

If you feel that something is missing and your dreams are unfulfilled, you need to put a little effort into analyzing where you're going and what’s important.

If you don't fully understand the reason why you want something in life, you may not be motivated to get it. Sometimes we just need to determine that it's not that important—and move on.

I find that when I focus and put my attention to it, I can make it happen—but only after I've determined that it truly is important to me.

Some of the things you procrastinate about may not be important to you anyway. Maybe it's time to let go of those goals because they're not significant.1

Do you really want to do whatever it is you're thinking about? You may be in denial and fooling yourself, using up mental energy constantly thinking about those things you never really intended to do. This wasted energy could be better applied elsewhere.

Some things are just not that important. Don't waste your energy holding on to a plan if you know you really don't want to put effort into it anyway. There are more important goals to achieve.

Recognize the Difference Between Needs and Wants

Do you know the difference between needing something and wanting something?

  • "Needs" are necessary to live a healthy life. They sometimes tend to be dismissed or placed on a low priority basis, but they really should come first.
  • "Wants" are desires or cravings that are usually for enjoyment. They are usually on our mind more often than our needs.2

Many people overlook the things that are important and tend to focus on what they want instead. It's only natural, because that’s what is enjoyable. You would find it easier to make a choice if you recognize why your needs are important to you.

However, it gets complicated. Your desires may be much more involved than just having them for simple pleasure. They might be important life plans, such as choosing a lifetime career, wanting to get married, raising a loving family, buying a house in the country.

So, which is which? Are they needs or wants? Sure, you want them, but look at it this way:

  • A career might be a need because it sustains your future (sometimes).
  • Getting married and raising a family might be a need because it leads to happiness (hopefully).
  • Buying a house might be a need because it assures security (maybe).

Note that there are no guarantees in life. The best you can do is focus on what's important to attain a future with a positive outcome.

Set Your Priorities

I’ve noticed that among the people I know, those who don’t have their priorities set right end up not achieving their goals. Work on meeting your needs first. Desires are nice, but should come last.

  • Our needs are mandatory. We can't live without them.
  • Our desires are things we want, but not life-threatening to be without.

An important point to understand is this: If something is necessary for a comfortable life, it's a need.

Take some time to sit and think about all this. Once you get in touch with your feelings you can start to do something about choosing the right goals and changing what's missing.

Just try to determine what's more important to work on as a goal. Don't hold onto a plan if it's not an actual necessity, especially if you find yourself avoiding it anyway. If it's not important, let it go.

Once your priorities have been met and you already took care of your needs, if you really care for something that you classify as a desire, go for it. Go and get what you really care for. Don’t hesitate. Just do it without giving it a second thought. Otherwise you will get in the way of your own dreams.

Build Your Confidence

Think about the times when you really needed to get something done, and think about something important that you’ve already completed.

Now, analyze in your mind what it was that made it work. Did you just do it without thinking? Sometimes thinking too much makes us procrastinate. Sometimes it’s best to just do things without further judgment.

Give yourself credit for your prior accomplishments and know that you can do it again.

"All too many of us only dimly perceive even where we want to go with our lives, much less how to get there."

— George L. Rogers, editor of Benjamin Franklin's The Art of Virtue³

Visualize Your Future

You need to really focus on the outcome you want for your future. If you only dimly perceive where you want to go with your life, you will have less chance of getting there.

  • Is your life not turning out the way you expected?
  • Are you feeling a sense of failure because you keep procrastinating?
  • Do you feel you’ve taken a wrong road and wish you could get where you originally dreamed of being?

Lack of focus and not visualizing your future can hinder your progress. You have no idea how much you can accomplish until you allow yourself to see what it’s like when you get there. You just need to put your mind to it.

Place yourself there in your mind. Focus on the way you feel about it. This can bring it closer to reality. Next thing you know, you’ll be getting it done. You will be reaching your goals and living your dreams.

The trick is to visualize your future in your mind as if you are already there.4 See what it's like. See how you feel with it.

Take It One Step at a Time

I always found it easy to avoid procrastination by taking things one small step at a time. We may not have all the options available to immediately get where we're going, but we can start with whatever options we have.

In addition, our vision of our future might bring on stress because it’s unfamiliar to us. This is another reason why taking it one step at a time has an advantage. Every step closer allows us to gradually get used to the new reality. That is how we can get somewhere without feeling stressed.5

Pursuing our goals in any way that works is important in order to be successful with any endeavor in life. If taking small steps makes it doable, then do it that way. Start by taking that first step.


  1. Shoba Sreenivasan, Ph.D. and Linda E. Weinberger, Ph.D. (Jun 15, 2018). Procrastination Can Be Viewed Two Ways. Psychology Today
  2. Values and Goals; Needs vs. Wants. University of Illinois
  3. George L. Rogers, editor (1996). Benjamin Franklin's The Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living [Pg 14]. Eden Prairie, Minnesota: Acorn Publishing
  4. Aldo Civico Ph.D. (Sep 17, 2015). Champion Novak Djokovic Reveals the Power of Visualization. Psychology Today
  5. Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. (Oct 16, 2013). Use Small Steps to Motivate. Psychology Today

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Glenn Stok


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      • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

        Glenn Stok 

        7 years ago from Long Island, NY

        Jo_Goldsmith11, Well, actually I have not been so good at that as you say. I have let ships pass in the past, and I regret it now. This is one reason why I write about these types of things, with hopes of saving someone else from making similar mistakes. I try to reflect on how I missed certain opportunities and look for ways to improve myself going forward, so as to still achieve goals that are not yet met. It's never too late. The best time to start is "now." Thanks for your kind words and for your vote up.

      • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


        7 years ago

        You are so right in every thought you have perfectly written here. I have saved this and will reflect on it when I have the doubts that sometimes come into my life. It appears you are not letting any ship pass you by. Good for you! I shared and a definite vote up! Thank you for this useful, awesome and interesting piece of art. :)

      • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

        Glenn Stok 

        7 years ago from Long Island, NY


        That is a very enlightening comment that you made and I thank you for that addition. I actually never gave thought to that concept. That over controlling our lives can interfere with being open to new ideas. 

        Not controlling our lives at all is definitely a bad thing. But over controlling is clearly bad too, as you had indicated. 

        We definitely need to have an open mind to new paths and concepts that may come along. So keeping a middle ground on our control is very important.

        I'm glad you like my concept of crossroads. You added an additional thought to my idea however. And that is that the crossroads may bring us to a better path than we had before. I like that. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Always good to see you around.

      • Sue B. profile image

        Sue B. 

        7 years ago


        I really liked this hub. I too ponder these things!

        I find myself in a situation now where I am making important decisions and what you wrote really spoke to me. I tend to be the person looking for a new way to move closer to my goal. I think it takes a lot of patience and perseverance not to give up.

        Your hub made me think about the thoughts I have had about determining our own destiny versus over-controlling our lives. Realizing you have more power over your life is great but too much of something is usually a bad thing. You describe people who have let go of their controls and gave up their power. The flip side is the person over-controlling their lives and not allowing new paths and new options they did not originally think of to unfold.

        I like what you wrote about the crossroads to get back on the path you want. What I find interesting is sometimes this crossroads, or alternate route, that brings you back to the original goal may even be a better way to get you to where you want to be.


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