Goal Setting 103: Common Obstacles to Goal Setting

Learning Objectives:


What are common obstacles to goal setting in major areas of life?

Approach-Avoidance Conflict: A major factor in goal sabotage

How can common obstacles to goal setting interfere with accessing the transpersonal and the sacred dimension of life? 

Reasons that contribute to why you may struggle with setting realistic goals

Common obstacles or challenges you may encounter with each part of the SMARTER goal setting framework

Strategies to counteract various ways you can sabotage your goals

How can you use your team to support you in achieving the goals you set for yourself?

The obstacles to goal setting are so numerous and persistent that we can easily feel overwhelmed, throw up our hands, and give up. However, we cannot change what we are not aware of. Therefore, to set realistic goals we need to be aware of how we can be our own worst enemies and how others and our environment can collude to sabotage our best intentions and efforts. Once we become aware of all the ways we can potentially undermine our goals we can approach our goal setting with an awareness of these obstacles and develop strategies for addressing them when and if they block our path. 

What are common obstacles to goal setting in major areas of life?

Physical Health:

    • Lack of time for exercise or meal preparation.
    • Sedentary lifestyle due to work or other commitments.
    • Poor sleep habits or insomnia.
    • Temptation of unhealthy food choices or stress eating.

Mental Health:

    • Stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health issues.
    • Difficulty managing stress or anxiety.
    • Negative thought patterns or low self-esteem.
    • Lack of access to mental health resources or therapy.
    • Fear of ostracism.

Work-Life Balance:

    • Overcommitment at work or pressure to constantly be available.
    • Inability to disconnect from work outside of office hours.
    • Fear of falling behind or being perceived as less dedicated.
    • Limited flexibility or control over work schedule.


    • Communication barriers or conflicts.
    • Balancing time between work, family, and friends.
    • Difficulty maintaining relationships due to distance or busy schedules.
    • Unresolved issues or past traumas affecting relationships.
    • Societal norms.

Personal Growth:

    • Fear of failure or perfectionism.
    • Lack of clarity on personal goals or interests.
    • Limited resources or opportunities for learning and development.
    • Self-doubt or imposter syndrome.
    • Lack of Self-Discipline.


    • Conflicting beliefs or questioning your faith.
    • Lack of time for spiritual practices or reflection.
    • Feeling disconnected from spiritual communities or resources.
    • Existential crises or doubts about the meaning of life.

Leisure and Recreation:

    • Guilt about taking time for leisure activities.
    • Financial constraints limiting access to recreational opportunities.
    • Difficulty finding activities that truly bring joy or relaxation.
    • Overcommitment to other obligations, leaving little time for leisure.

Financial Stability:

    • Debt or financial hardship.
    • Lack of financial literacy or planning skills.
    • Impulse spending or lifestyle inflation.
    • Economic instability or job loss.

Community Engagement:

    • Feeling overwhelmed by the scale of social issues.
    • Lack of awareness of local opportunities for involvement.
    • Time constraints due to work or family responsibilities.
    • Social anxiety or fear of rejection in social settings.


    • Prioritizing the needs of others over your own.
    • Feeling guilty or selfish for taking time for self-care.
    • Not recognizing the importance of self-care until burnout occurs.
    • Lack of resources or support for self-care activities.
    • Addiction to habits.

Approach-Avoidance Conflict:

A major factor in goal sabotage

Approach-avoidance conflict is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when you are simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the same goal or decision. You are drawn towards achieving your goal because of its positive aspects, but also experience resistance or fear due to its negative aspects or potential consequences. This conflict can act as a barrier to goal setting in several ways:

Mixed motivations: In approach-avoidance conflict, you may have mixed motivations towards pursuing your goal. While you may desire the benefits or rewards associated with exercising or cleaning your house, you may also fear the potential risks, challenges, or sacrifices involved. This ambivalence can make it difficult to commit to pursuing the goal wholeheartedly. Can you think of a time when mixed motivations sabotaged your goal?

Decision paralysis: Approach-avoidance conflict can lead to indecision or procrastination as you weigh the pros and cons of pursuing your goal. You may feel torn between the desire to move forward and the fear of potential negative outcomes, leading to hesitation and inaction. This indecision can hinder the process of setting clear, actionable goals. Can you think of a time when decision paralysis sabotaged some goal?

Conflicting emotions: If you are experiencing approach-avoidance conflict, you may experience a range of conflicting emotions, such as excitement, anxiety, doubt, and ambivalence. These emotional reactions can create inner turmoil and psychological distress, making it challenging to focus on goal setting and execution effectively. Can you think of a time when conflicting emotions sabotaged your goal?

Undermined motivation: The presence of approach-avoidance conflict can undermine your motivation and commitment towards achieving your goals. The fear or apprehension associated with the potential negative consequences can dampen your enthusiasm and confidence, leading to decreased motivation and persistence in pursuing your goal. Can you think of a time when undermined motivation sabotaged your goal?

Self-sabotage: Approach-avoidance conflict can also lead to self-sabotaging behaviors that undermine progress towards your goal. You might engage in avoidance behaviors, such as procrastination, distraction, or self-doubt, as ways to alleviate the discomfort or anxiety associated with pursuing your goal. These behaviors, which are forms of self-rescuing in the Drama Triangle, can derail your goal-setting efforts and hinder progress towards desired outcomes. Can you think of a time when you used self-sabotage?

Goal inconsistency: Approach-avoidance conflict may result in conflicting or inconsistent goal preferences, where you oscillate between wanting to pursue the goal and wanting to avoid it. This inconsistency can make it challenging to establish clear, achievable goals that align with your values, priorities, and long-term aspirations. This is a reason why we interview emerging potentials and access our life compass. Can you think of a time when goal inconsistency sabotaged your goal?

To overcome approach-avoidance conflict as a barrier to your goal setting, you can:

  • Engage in self-reflection and identify the underlying reasons for your ambivalence towards the goal;
  • Break down the goal into smaller, more manageable steps to reduce feelings of overwhelm and increase your confidence;
  • Explore strategies for managing fears and uncertainties, such as visualization, positive self-talk, or seeking support from others;
  • Clarify values and priorities to ensure that your goals are aligned with your personal aspirations and motivations.

How can common obstacles to goal setting interfere with accessing the transpersonal and the sacred dimension of life? 

Lack of Clarity: If your goals are unclear or poorly defined, you may struggle to connect with your deeper sense of purpose or higher aspirations. Without a clear direction, it can be challenging to align actions with transpersonal values or sacred principles, leading to a sense of disconnection or aimlessness. Do you have clear goals? How can you make your goals more clearly defined? 

Fear of Failure: Fear of failure can block you from setting ambitious or meaningful goals. When driven by fear, we may choose safe and easily achievable objectives, avoiding the discomfort of uncertainty or risk. However, this cautious approach limits opportunities for growth and transcending personal limitations, hindering access to the transpersonal dimension of life. Fears of failure are normal, just like failure itself. If you have fears around your ability to accomplish this or that goal, surface them and consider them. Are they realistic or not? 

Limited Beliefs: Deep-seated beliefs about your abilities, worthiness, or the nature of reality can act as barriers to setting and achieving transformative goals. Beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “The universe is indifferent to my desires” can reinforce a sense of separation from the sacred or transpersonal aspects of life, preventing you from accessing deeper levels of consciousness and potential. IDL interviewing reframes our goal setting in ways that make our goals less dependent on our beliefs. 

Resistance to Change: Setting meaningful goals often requires stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing change. It is easy for us to resist setting goals that require us to challenge attachment to familiar patterns, fear of the unknown, or reluctance to confront challenges. existing habits, beliefs, or routines. We can fear the uncertainty and discomfort associated with change. This resistance inhibits growth and transformation, limiting opportunities to access the transpersonal dimension of life where profound shifts in consciousness and awareness occur. Resistance is normal. If you experience it, feel it, allow it to turn into a color and shape, and interview it. See what your resistance has to tell you about why it is there!

Lack of Self-Reflection: Goal setting is not just about external achievements but also about inner transformation and self-realization. Without regular self-reflection and introspection, you may overlook opportunities for personal growth and fail to recognize the sacredness inherent in your experiences. The absence of self-reflection can keep you trapped in mundane routines, disconnected from the deeper meaning and purpose of life. IDL interviewing goes a long way to counteract this obstacle to goal setting. 

Short-term Focus: A narrow focus on short-term gratification or immediate results can undermine efforts to access the transpersonal dimension of life. When we prioritize instant rewards over long-term aspirations, we can neglect the deeper values and principles that guide our journey. This short-term focus can lead to a shallow understanding of life’s sacredness and limit opportunities for profound spiritual experiences. This is a reason why IDL encourages you to first set five year goals, or even better, how you want to look back on your life when you are dying and what steps you want to take to get to that perspective.

Perfectionism: Perfectionism can hinder goal setting by creating unrealistic expectations and standards. If you strive for perfection you may set overly ambitious goals that are difficult or impossible to achieve, leading to frustration and self-criticism when you inevitably fall short.

Limited self-belief: Low self-confidence or self-esteem can undermine your belief in your ability to achieve your goals. You may doubt your capabilities and set goals that are well below your actual potential, limiting your aspirations and hindering personal growth.

External influences: External pressures, expectations, and influences from family, peers, or society can shape your goal-setting behavior. You may set goals based on others’ expectations and designed to gain the favor or please others rather than based on your own interests or values, leading to a lack of motivation or commitment.

Overcommitment: You can find yourself struggling with setting realistic goals because you overcommit yourself to too many tasks or objectives. This can easily happen with IDL interviewing, as every interview produces multiple recommendations for addressing your life issues. You can easily spread yourself too thin, leading to burnout, stress, and a sense of overwhelm. This can make it challenging to focus on achieving specific, meaningful goals effectively.

Lack of planning and organization: Setting realistic goals requires careful planning and organization to break down larger objectives into manageable steps. Without a clear plan of action, you may struggle to translate your aspirations into concrete goals and actions, making it difficult to make progress. This is where your curriculum team comes in. They can help you set realistic goals. 

Limited time management skills: Poor time management skills can hinder goal setting by making it difficult to allocate time and resources effectively. It is easy to underestimate the time and effort required to achieve your goals, leading to unrealistic expectations and frustration when you are unable to meet deadlines or milestones. Again, consulting fellow team members is an important way to make sure that your time expectations are realistic. 

Lack of accountability: Without accountability mechanisms in place, such as support from others or tracking progress, you may struggle to stay motivated and committed to your goals. You may lose focus or momentum over time, leading to stagnation and a lack of progress.

Addressing these barriers to goal setting requires self-awareness, reflection, and proactive effort to overcome limiting beliefs, develop effective planning and time management skills, build self-confidence, and align goals with personal values and aspirations. It also involves seeking support from others, setting realistic expectations, and celebrating progress along the way. By cultivating clarity, embracing challenges, engaging in self-reflection, and maintaining a long-term perspective, you can transcend personal limitations and access the transpersonal and sacred dimensions of life more fully.

Common reasons why we set unrealistic goals

Setting unrealistic goals is a common phenomenon that can lead to frustration, disappointment, and decreased motivation. Goal setting is a future orientation. Therefore, it is not about the here-and-now, but rather about what we want tomorrow to look like and how we are going to get to that reality. A little intense focus every day on goal setting and monitoring is absolutely vital to generating meaning and direction to and for our lives. However, more than a little focus on the future generates worry, anxiety, and fear of both the future and failure, just like more than a little focus on the past generates sadness, depression, regret, guilt, and shame. A good rule of thumb is to spend 95% of your time in the here-and-now and limit your time focusing on the past and future to a focused, productive 5%. This translates into a review of the day and of your plan for tomorrow before bed and again, when you wake up, a minute or so of attention to your schedule and attitude toward it. Here are a number of common reasons why we tend to set unrealistic goals:

Lack of understanding of capabilities: You may overestimate your abilities or underestimate the effort required to achieve a particular goal. This can lead to setting goals that are beyond your current skill level or resources. This reason is related to a hard-wired cognitive bias, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. 

External pressure: You may feel pressure from external sources, such as society, peers, or family, to set ambitious goals that are not realistically achievable within your given circumstances. This can result in setting goals based on others’ expectations rather than personal capabilities or readiness. We can compensate for the effect of external pressure by accessing intersocial priorities through interviewing. It is important to remember that both are valuable, that external pressure is sometimes both good and necessary, and that the priorities of interviewed emerging potentials may not be realistic or feasible.

Desire for quick results: There is often a desire for immediate gratification, leading you to set goals that promise rapid results without considering the time and effort required for sustainable progress. Unrealistic expectations of quick fixes can lead to disappointment and discouragement. This is why IDL approaches goal setting as one aspect of a transpersonal yoga. Yogas require persistence, patience, and a long-term commitment. So does the acquisition of most goals. 

Fear of failure: Fear of failure can drive you to set overly ambitious goals as a way to prove themselves or avoid perceived shortcomings. However, setting goals that are too challenging can increase the risk of failure and undermine confidence and motivation. To address any fear of failure of goal attainment you may have, ask yourself, “What consequences am I afraid of if I don’t attain my goal?” Once you uncover your fear you can assess how realistic or unrealistic it may be. Fears may be warranted or overblown, and failures can offer opportunities for greater realism and objectivity. 

Comparison with others: Comparing yourself to others who have achieved similar goals can lead to setting unrealistic expectations. You may set goals based on others’ achievements without considering individual differences in circumstances, resources, or capabilities. Outgrowing the need or desire to compare ourselves to others or to compete with them is one important marker of graduating from childhood into a healthy adult mental attitude. Such goals have little or nothing to do with the priorities of your life compass. 

Lack of planning: Setting goals without a clear plan of action can result in unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished. Without breaking down goals into actionable steps and timelines, you may underestimate the complexity or time required to achieve them. I find this to be the most common of all obstacles to realistic goal setting. Left to our own devices, we rarely create the structure necessary to see us through to the attainment of our goals. This is why IDL takes a team approach to growth. 

Ignoring past experiences: You may overlook past experiences of failure or setbacks when setting goals, leading to unrealistic optimism about future outcomes. Failure to learn from past mistakes or adjust goals based on previous experiences can contribute to setting goals that are not grounded in reality. Two common examples come to mind. The first is the common practice of continuously choosing incompatible or less than supportive partners. The second is the need to please parents or peers, which over-rides the warnings of past experience and leads us to repeat the same mistakes. If ignorance is a lack of knowledge and stupidity is not learning from our mistakes, wisdom is learning from the (mistakes) of others and thereby avoiding making our own. Listening to the priorities of our interviewed emerging potentials provides a similar short-cut.

Overconfidence: Excessive confidence in one’s abilities or the belief that obstacles can be easily overcome can lead to setting unrealistic goals. Overconfident you may overlook potential challenges or setbacks, leading to setting goals that are overly ambitious or unattainable. This obstacle is similar to the first, lack of understanding of capabilities. Phony confidence is in line with the philosophy of “fake it ‘till you make it.” Cultivating a realistic humility toward your ability to attain your goals, in light of your various weaknesses and limitations, as well as these various obstacles, means that you approach your goal setting and activities in a mature way. 

External influences: External factors such as media, advertising, or social norms can influence goal-setting behavior and lead to setting unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic portrayals of success or achievement in the media can create unrealistic standards that you may strive to meet. Advertisers tend to imply that “hard is bad,” and propose some easier way that is supposed to save us time or money or improve our status or ability to perform our work. This is an example of a common external influence that can easily cause us to waste time, energy, and resources chasing goals that do not increase our peace of mind or access to the transpersonal.

Lack of self-awareness: You may set unrealistic goals due to a lack of self-awareness about your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. Without a realistic understanding of personal capabilities and resources, you may set goals that are not achievable within your current circumstances. IDL interviewing is a proven approach to greatly improving your self-awareness and thereby increasing the likelihood that your goal setting will be realistic and met with success. 

Adressing these common reasons for setting unrealistic goals involves fostering self-awareness, developing realistic expectations, setting goals based on personal values and priorities, and creating actionable plans with achievable milestones. It’s important to set goals that challenge and inspire your growth while also being attainable and sustainable in the long term.

Common obstacles or challenges you may encounter with each part of the SMARTER goal setting framework:


Vagueness: Difficulty in defining clear and specific goals may arise due to lack of clarity about desired outcomes.

Overcomplication: Trying to include too many details can lead to confusion and make the goal overly complex.

Scope Creep: The temptation to include multiple objectives within a single goal may dilute focus and hinder progress.

Ask, “Is my goal clearly stated?” “Is it as simple as I can make it?” “Do I only have one objective represented by my goal?”


Lack of Metrics: Difficulty in identifying concrete metrics or indicators to measure progress may make it challenging to track goal attainment.

Subjectivity: Some goals may be inherently subjective, making it difficult to establish objective measures of success.

Resource Constraints: Limited access to tools or resources for measurement may hinder the ability to track progress effectively.

Ask, “Do I have simple and clear ways, like check marks or numbers, to measure my progress?” “What difference will others observe?” “Do I need an app and/or more team support to stay on track with monitoring?”


Unrealistic Expectations: Setting goals that are too ambitious or beyond one’s current capabilities may lead to frustration and demotivation.

Limited Resources: Constraints such as time, budget, or manpower may make it challenging to achieve certain goals.

Fear of Failure: Concerns about failure or lack of confidence in one’s abilities may prevent you from setting challenging yet achievable goals.

Ask, “What are my expectations around ease or difficulty of attaining this goal?” What are my expectations about how my life or relationships will change when I do so?” “Are those expectations realistic?

“Do I have access to the resources necessary to accomplish this goal?”

“Do I have any fears around this goal and not attaining it? If so, what might they be?”


Lack of Alignment: Difficulty in aligning goals with broader objectives or personal values may lead to a lack of motivation or direction.

Changing Priorities: Shifting priorities or external factors may cause goals to become less relevant over time, requiring adjustments or realignment.

External Pressures: Pressure from others or societal expectations may influence goal setting, leading to goals that are not truly relevant or meaningful.

Ask, “Does this goal align with the priorities of my life compass? If so, how do I know?”

“Is this goal still relevant to my current life conditions and priorities?”

“Who is this goal mostly relevant for?”


Procrastination: Delaying action or failing to set deadlines may result in your goals taking longer to accomplish or being left unfinished.

Underestimation of Time: Underestimating the time required to achieve a goal may lead to unrealistic deadlines and increased stress.

Lack of Urgency: Failure to establish clear time frames may reduce motivation and accountability, resulting in delays or inaction.

Ask, “What is my plan for dealing with procrastination if and when it arises?”

“Do I tend to underestimate when I will arrive at appointments or how long it will take me to get something done?” “If so, why?” “What do I want to do about that?”

“What sorts of deadlines accompany this goal?” “What happens if I don’t meet a deadline?”


Neglecting Evaluation: Forgetting or neglecting to regularly evaluate progress may result in missed opportunities for course correction or improvement.

Lack of Feedback: Limited feedback or data to assess progress may hinder the ability to evaluate goal performance accurately.

Resistance to Change: Reluctance to adapt or make changes based on evaluation findings may impede progress towards the goal.

Ask: “When and how often am I going to evaluate my progress, and with whom?”

“What sort of feedback do I want or need and who am I going to get it from?”

“When I experience resistance, will I interview it and find out what it’s about?”


Complacency: Failure to periodically reassess goals may result in stagnation or a lack of progress towards evolving objectives.

Resistance to Change: Resistance to revising goals or making adjustments based on changing circumstances may hinder adaptability and flexibility.

Fear of Uncertainty: Uncertainty about the future or fear of the unknown may make you hesitant to reassess goals and make necessary changes.

Ask: “When and how often do I need to reassess my priorities?”

“How do I know if a life change is a legitimate distraction from my goal or just an excuse or justification for giving up?”

“Do I let uncertainty about what my life will be like in the future keep me from reassessing my goal?”


Strategies to counteract various ways you can sabotage your goals:


  • Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and set deadlines for each.
  • Use time management techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique (shorter work periods), to work in focused bursts.
  • Practice self-discipline by committing to starting tasks even when not feeling motivated.
  • Interview a personification of your procrastination.


  • Challenge negative self-talk with affirmations and positive reframing.
  • Focus on past successes and strengths to build confidence.
  • Seek support from mentors, friends, or a therapist to address underlying insecurities.
  • If your self-doubt were an animal, what would it be? Interview it and ask its advice.


  • Set realistic expectations and embrace imperfection as part of the learning process.
  • Prioritize progress over perfection and celebrate small victories along the way.
  • Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that mistakes are opportunities for growth.
  • What does your perfectionism feel like? Let that feeling take on a color and shape and interview it. 

Fear of failure:

  • Reframe failure as a natural part of the learning process and an opportunity for growth.
  • Visualize success and imagine the positive outcomes of achieving your goals.
  • Break goals into smaller, less intimidating steps to reduce the fear of failure.
  • What does your fear of failure feel like? Let that feeling take on a color and shape and interview it. 

Lack of planning:

  • Create a detailed action plan with specific, achievable milestones and deadlines.
  • Use tools such as calendars, to-do lists, or project management apps to stay organized.
  • Regularly review and adjust the plan as needed to stay on track.
  • Submit your plan to your team members to get feedback and support.


  • Prioritize goals based on importance and feasibility, and learn to say no to non-essential commitments.
  • Delegate tasks or seek support from others to lighten the workload.
  • Practice boundary-setting and learn to recognize when you’re taking on too much.
  • Use the information in the Affirmation Module, following this one, to support you in finding the right balance in your pursuit of your goals.

Negative influences:

  • Surround yourself with supportive, positive others who encourage your goals and aspirations.
  • Limit exposure to negative influences, such as social media or toxic relationships.
  • Seek out role models or mentors who inspire and motivate you.
  • Develop your team and intrasocial sanghas to create a supportive culture to increase your ability to stay on track.

Lack of accountability:

  • Share your goals with fellow team members, a trusted friend, family member, or mentor who can hold you accountable.
  • Use goal-tracking tools or apps to monitor progress and celebrate achievements.
  • Join a supportive community or accountability group to share experiences and receive encouragement.
  • People often are afraid of sharing their goals because of the possibility of lack of comprehension, discounting, or “hexing” advance. Choose who you share your goals with wisely, but do share them. Doing so gives others important information about who you are and where you are headed in your life. It also encourages them to share their goals with you. 


  • Identify and minimize distractions in your environment, such as turning off notifications or creating a dedicated workspace.
  • Use time-blocking techniques to allocate focused time for goal-related tasks.
  • Practice mindfulness to increase awareness and focus on the present moment.
  • Expect distractions. Develop a plan for how to handle them. 

Neglecting self-care:

  • Prioritize self-care activities, such as exercise, relaxation, and hobbies, to maintain physical and mental well-being.
  • Set boundaries around work and personal time to prevent burnout.
  • Practice self-compassion and prioritize rest when needed.
  • It is easy to either not see how to restore balance in our lives or to imagine some goal will restore balance when it won’t. It is also possible to focus too much on self-care. Consult your two sanghas to cultivate necessary objectivity. 


  • Focus on your own progress and achievements rather than comparing yourself to others.
  • Cultivate gratitude for what you have accomplished and recognize your unique strengths and qualities.
  • Use others’ success as inspiration rather than a measure of your own worth.
  • Compare your goals to those of your interviewed emerging potentials.

Seeking validation:

  • Cultivate self-validation by recognizing your own worth and intrinsic value.
  • Focus on personal growth and achievement rather than seeking external approval.
  • Surround yourself with supportive others who value and respect your goals and aspirations.
  • Recognize that self-validation may be quite different from validation from or by your life compass. Seek that.

Avoiding discomfort:

  • Embrace discomfort as a necessary part of growth and progress towards your goals.
  • Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps to make them less daunting.
  • Practice mindfulness and acceptance to sit with discomfort without letting it derail your progress.
  • Remember that you can always interview any discomfort that arises. Instead of avoiding, ignoring, or resisting it, you are facing it and learning from it. What does it have to tell you?n


  • Take responsibility for your actions and choices rather than making excuses.
  • Reframe setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth rather than reasons for giving up.
  • Identify and challenge limiting beliefs that fuel excuses.
  • You can’t do anything to neutralize your favorite excuses if you aren’t aware of them. So the first step is to make a list of the things you typically tell yourself when you want to excuse a lack of follow-through on your goals.

Lack of resilience:

  • Develop resilience by reframing setbacks as temporary obstacles rather than insurmountable failures.
  • Practice self-compassion and acknowledge your efforts and progress, even in the face of challenges.
  • Seek support from friends, family, and your team members to build coping skills and resilience.
  • By all means, do interviews to access perspectives that are more resilient than you.


  • Pause and reflect before making decisions to consider the long-term consequences.
  • Practice impulse control techniques, such as deep breathing or distraction, to delay immediate gratification.
  • Set specific criteria or guidelines to evaluate decisions before acting on them.
  • Learn the distinction between limbic brain emotional reactivity and frontal lobe responding. Learn to pass information through your frontal lobes before speaking. A good way of doing so is to ask questions of yourself or others.

Self-sabotaging behaviors:

  • Identify triggers for self-sabotage and develop coping strategies to address them.
  • Practice self-awareness and recognize when you’re engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
  • Look at the payoff for your self-sabotaging behavior. Does it validate a dysfunctional life script? Is it justified with cognitive distortions? What role in the Drama Triangle does it throw you into?

Limiting beliefs:

  • Challenge and reframe limiting beliefs by gathering evidence to the contrary.
  • Practice positive affirmations and visualization to reinforce beliefs in your abilities and potential.
  • Surround yourself with supportive you who uplift and encourage your goals.
  • The problem is, most of us are confident our beliefs aren’t limiting but instead are accurate and appropriate. In addition, they support our identity and to question them creates cognitive dissonance. Therefore, begin by assuming you have multiple limiting beliefs but simply are unaware of them. Seek feedback from others and interviews on your limiting beliefs and why you maintain them. 

Ignoring feedback:

  • Approach feedback as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than criticism.
  • Seek out constructive feedback from trusted sources and use it to identify areas for improvement.
  • Practice active listening and gratitude when receiving feedback, even if it’s difficult to hear.
  • Don’t bury and forget your interviews! Because they represent feedback from another perspective they are often difficult to remember and you may also encounter normal resistance to re-reading them. This is because they represent a threat to the comfort of your normal, ongoing identity – at least from its perspective. However, when and if you overcome your resistance and re-read your interviews, you are likely to find the feedback fresh, relevant, and helpful.

Lack of flexibility:

  • Remain open-minded and adaptable to changes in circumstances or priorities.
  • Embrace uncertainty as a natural part of the goal-setting process and be willing to adjust goals as needed.
  • Focus on progress rather than rigid adherence to original plans, and celebrate adaptation as a sign of resilience and growth.
  • We develop inflexibility as a way to maintain stability and a form of psychological and life balance. In fact, there are multiple things that it is important to be less flexible about, like brushing your teeth or being trustworthy. But when your inflexibility gets in the way of your goal accomplishment, seek adaptive and creative alternatives from other team members and previously interviewed perspectives. 

By implementing these strategies, you can counteract common ways you sabotage your goals and increase your chances of success and fulfillment.


What strategies can one use to overcome each of these obstacles to setting realistic goals?

Here are some more strategies to overcome obstacles to setting realistic goals:

Lack of understanding of your capabilities:

  • Conduct a self-assessment to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for growth.
  • Set goals that are aligned with your current skills and abilities, while also allowing room for growth and development.
  • Seek feedback from both team members and interviewed emerging potentials to gain a realistic perspective on your capabilities.

External pressure:

  • Reflect on personal values, priorities, and king validation or approval from external sources.

Desire for quick results:

  • Shift focus from short-term outcomes to long-term progress and sustainable growth.
  • Set realistic timelines and expectations for achieving your goals, recognizing that meaningful change takes time and effort.
  • Break your goals into smaller, achievable milestones to track progress and celebrate incremental successes.

Fear of failure:

  • Embrace your failures as a natural part of the learning process and an opportunity for growth.
  • Set realistic expectations and acknowledge that setbacks are inevitable on the path to success.
  • Cultivate resilience by reframing failures as learning experiences and maintaining a positive attitude towards challenges.

Comparison with others:

  • Focus on individual progress and growth rather than comparing oneself to others.
  • Celebrate personal achievements and milestones, regardless of how you compare to others’ accomplishments.
  • Surround yourself with a supportive network of you who encourage and uplift your goals and aspirations.

Lack of planning:

  • Create a detailed action plan with specific, measurable goals and timelines.
  • Break down larger goals into smaller, actionable steps to make progress more manageable and achievable.
  • Regularly review and adjust the plan as needed based on feedback and changing circumstances.

Ignoring past experiences:

  • Reflect on past experiences of success and failure to identify patterns and lessons learned.
  • Use past experiences as a guide for setting realistic goals and adjusting strategies accordingly.
  • Practice self-compassion and acknowledge personal growth and resilience in overcoming past challenges.


  • Seek feedback from others to gain a realistic perspective on abilities and potential challenges.
  • Set goals that are challenging yet achievable, balancing optimism with pragmatism.
  • Cultivate humility by acknowledging areas for improvement and learning from setbacks and mistakes.

External influences:

  • Limit exposure to media and advertising that promote unrealistic standards or expectations.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences and role models who inspire and support realistic goal-setting.
  • Stay true to personal values and aspirations, rather than conforming to external pressures or expectations.

Lack of self-awareness:

  • Invest in self-reflection and introspection to gain a deeper understanding of strengths, weaknesses, and values.
  • Seek feedback from trusted sources to gain insights into blind spots and areas for improvement.
  • Practice self-compassion and acceptance of personal limitations, while also recognizing potential for growth and development.
  • An excellent strategy is to do something toward your goal priority first, to get it out of the way. Studies have shown that behaviors undertaken first thing in the morning are more likely to become habits than those that are given lower priority in terms of the day’s activities.
  • The way to make this concept of putting your goal activity first is to under, rather than overcommit yourself. If the goal is to remember more dreams, just commit yourself to putting pen to paper or opening your dream recall document first thing. If the goal is to exercise more, say do yoga, commit yourself to just doing one asana or posture before breakfast. You’ll end up doing more, because you have already made the behavioral transition. It’s the transition that’s the hurdle, not the actual goal accomplishment.

By implementing these strategies, you can overcome common obstacles to setting realistic goals and increase your chances of success and fulfillment. It’s important to approach goal-setting with self-awareness, flexibility, and a commitment to personal growth and well-being.

How can you use your team to support you in achieving the goals you set for yourself?

Your IDL team members work together to support meeting both your individual and team goals through collaboration, communication, and accountability. Here are some strategies for fostering a supportive team environment:

Shared Vision and Goals: Ensure that everyone on the team understands and aligns with the overarching vision and goals of the team. For IDL, this means mutual support in interviewing, applying interview recommendations, dealing with issues in interviewing others and new people interviewing you, dealing with questions about the different units of the different study modules, and making suggestions to improve the team, the IDL curriculum, and the efficacy of its outreach to others. Team clarity helps you see how your individual goals contribute to the team’s success.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Define clear roles and responsibilities for each team member, ensuring that everyone understands their contribution to the team’s goals. This clarity reduces confusion and promotes accountability. Anyone can become a student and work through the curriculum with the team. An intern is someone who has developed beyond a student to a commitment to the team, to the IDL curriculum, and to spreading its outreach. Students and interns are accountable to each other and to a designated team supervisor. Team supervisors on the coaching curriculum are accountable to IDL Practitioners and Trainers. 

Regular Communication: Encourage open and transparent communication within the team. Regular check-ins, team meetings, and updates allow team members to share progress, discuss challenges, and provide support to one another. IDL recommends that individual team members contract with each other to communicate by email, text, Skype, Zoom, or some other means of their choice at least once a week for accountability and problem solving around the application of interview recommendations. It also recommends weekly team meetings with the team supervisor, with an emphasis not only on problem solving but on improving the IDL curriculum.  

Collaborative Planning: Involve team members in the goal-setting process to ensure buy-in and ownership. Collaboratively develop action plans and strategies for achieving both individual and team goals, leveraging the diverse skills and perspectives of team members. It is important to the IDL curriculum that every student, intern, and supervisor, whether Coach, Practitioner, or Trainer, feel that it is supporting both their own personal development but enhancing the quality of their relationships with family, friends, and clients. For example, use your team to help you build your coaching practice by planning what approach works best for you and receiving feedback on your efforts as you move forward.

Supportive Environment: Foster a supportive and inclusive team culture where team members feel comfortable seeking help, sharing ideas, and offering support to one another. Celebrate successes, acknowledge efforts, and provide constructive feedback to foster a positive team dynamic. If there is any way that IDL can provide a more supportive environment for you, let your team know. 

Resource Allocation: Ensure that team members have access to the necessary resources, tools, and support to achieve their goals effectively. This may include providing training, allocating budgetary resources, or assigning mentors or coaches to support individual development. Similarly, if you need some particular resource to support your movement through the curriculum and the building of your practice, share your needs with your team. 

Accountability and Tracking: Establish accountability mechanisms to track progress toward your goals. Regularly review and evaluate performance, celebrate achievements, and address any barriers or challenges that may arise.

Flexibility and Adaptability: Recognize that goals and circumstances may change over time. Be flexible and adaptable in adjusting your goals, timelines, and strategies as needed to respond to changing priorities or unforeseen challenges.

Peer Support and Mentorship: Encourage peer support and mentorship within your team. Pairing team members with mentors or creating peer support groups can provide valuable guidance, motivation, and learning opportunities. If you see a pairing that is floundering, consider adding a third member or restructuring pairings so that compatibility and support is maximized.

Continuous Improvement: Foster a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging reflection, learning, and innovation. Encourage team members to share lessons learned, best practices, and innovative ideas to improve performance and achieve goals more effectively. IDL has a great advantage in this regard, as personal and team issues and challenges can be taken to previously interviewed perspectives to gain their input. Teams can do group interviews that generate emerging potentials that represent the team as a whole, for creative consultation and support. And of course this may change and transform over time.

By implementing these strategies, your IDL team can create a supportive environment where you are empowered to achieve your individual goals while also contributing to the collective success of the team.

Assignments and Homework 

  1. Write down your answers to the following questions. 
  2. Share your answers with your other study team members.
  3. Discuss.
  4. Submit your written answers.

What obstacles to goal setting do you most commonly experience?

What strategies have you tried that haven’t worked very well? Why not?

It is normal to fall short on the motivation and persistence to stay on track with our goals. Often we require more structure and investment – something important to lose or some sort of negative consequence to keep us moving forward when our interest or motivation sags. Is that true for you? For example, in school, fear of not passing a test, not getting a good grade, or not graduating are negative consequences that work to keep us focused, motivated, and on track. What structures and incentives/punishments have kept you on track with challenging goals in the past?


Under “Essays and Interviews,”  read:

Getting Out of the Swamp of Your Life:


Core Concepts of IDL:



In the IDL video curricula, watch:

IDL Goal Setting 5: Staying on Track

   The more your goals, even if they are those of your life compass, conflict with your scripting and the expectations of your family, society, or culture, the more resistance you are likely to experience in attaining them. On the other hand, the more your goals differ from those of your own unique life compass, the more resistance you are likely to experience in attaining them. Many of the problems we have with attaining our goals are because 1) they do not reflect the priorities of our life compass; 2) we are doing them because we “should,” not because we want them; 3) we have interior conflict – we have to give up other things that we want, like some addiction, in order to reach our goals; 4) or we don’t have enough of the right kind of support and accountability. So, in goal setting, you need to find the “sweet spot” of goals that support your life compass while not kicking up overwhelming resistance either from others or from within yourself. The complete IDL Video Curricula can be found at IntegralDeepListening.Com.


Check for study questions and/or create some of your own.


At a minimum, do one interview a week, getting experience with both dream and life issue protocols.

One week, interview yourself.

One week, interview a subject. It can be a fellow team member, a family member, friend, or client.

One week, be interviewed by someone else. 

Submit your written interviews to your supervising team member. To have your interviews automatically created for you, use the on-line interviewing format on this site.

Setting Intent:

What do you want to take away from this unit to improve your life?

How would you like it to influence your dreams tonight?

How can you format that as a statement of intention to read over to remind yourself, before you go to sleep, to incubate in your dreams tonight?

For more information, contact joseph.dillard@gmail.com. While IDL does not accept advertising or sponsored postings, we gratefully accept donations of your time, expertise, or financial support.