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Overcoming Obstacles

Nash, Julie MSN, RN

doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000156

Trauma & Acute Care Services, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, One Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, St Louis, Missouri.

Correspondence: Julie Nash, MSN, RN, Trauma & Acute Care Services, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, One Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63110 (

The author declares no conflicts of interest.



We are often faced with what we may feel are insurmountable obstacles. Overcoming them is hard but can be wonderfully gratifying. But how can you identify and tackle the most challenging and surprising obstructions?

If achieving goals were easy, everyone would do it quickly and without difficulty. Even if your vision is clear and you can articulate a detailed destiny, there are always obstacles in the path. It is the joy and journey of clearing those obstacles that make life rich and helps people feel truly accomplished when they finally reach their pinnacle of success.

Here are ways to overcome obstacles in your way. First, it helps to understand that obstacles come in 3 different modalities:

  1. External obstacles: These are obstacles that are outside of your control, such as the economy, natural disasters, physical limitations, or the political climate.
  2. Internal obstacles: These are obstacles that you have direct control over, such as debt, cash flow, time availability, needed skills, or talent.
  3. Habitual obstacles: These obstacles reflect how people often get in their own way. They can be removed only with behavioral change.

To overcome these business or personal obstacles, you must first master the following areas.

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If you don't see the obstacle or believe it's a hindrance, you'll never reach your goals, blaming everything and everyone but the one person responsible. This is particularly obstructive to resolving habitual obstacles. Individuals often find that their own prioritizations are keeping them from what they need to do. You could easily blame time as your enemy, but the enemy might actually be your semiconscious, daily rationalization that making money is more important than health or learning. Once we are able to admit our prioritization is sometimes misguided, we can make the necessary adjustments in our behavior.

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This is very important with external obstacles. You must learn to manage your impatience and be ready when the smoke clears. The harder the obstacle, the more time it will take to overcome. Set a preliminary schedule with clear milestones so you can track forward or backward progress. This way you'll see the cumulative impact of even the most miniscule change. This can help you manage your goals. You can see changes in how you became more focused. Once you begin to see small progress, you will be encouraged to put in more effort. With time comes momentum. And momentum is the best way to bust through those obstacles we all encounter.

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It's easy to get distracted with the present. As trauma nurses, we are just that—busy! There is always a fire to put out or a new critical opportunity or patient to distract you. True discipline is about making yourself emotionally commit time and effort to your benefit, regardless of external factors. You have to make yourself accountable for your actions. Jesse Owens once said, “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” You need to clear out every distraction and vow to add nothing new to your plate until you make progress. Make the obstacle the No. 1 priority and focus on it every day until it's gone.

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I like to create rhythm in my life so I can freely engage the creative part of my brain for problem solving. There's no better place to apply expansive thinking than on issues that are holding you back. Give some deliberate thought to what you want to accomplish and set a plan. By integrating small but distinct changes, you will be able to accomplish these tasks. By the end of the journey, push yourself to give just 15 minutes a day for these tasks. While using only 15 minutes a day, you will able to make small but significant changes. Quit banging your head against the same brick wall over and over. Take time to think things through and find creative solutions that bring fun and progress on your journey toward your goals.

Last, along with all this, you must have patience. You will make mistakes. Learn and grow from them. Success is not achieved without failure. Everybody trips. Everybody stumbles. Everybody falls. It's how fast you pick yourself up that defines who you are. So, in closing I ask you, who are you, really?

Copyright © 2015 by the Society of Trauma Nurses.