5 Barriers to Achieving Your Dreams and How to Overcome Them

02/15/2015 10:15 am ET | Updated Apr 17, 2015

You have dreams for your life, yet it can sometimes feel impossible to make them real. You might know what to do and even how to do it, but taking action requires courage -- the ability to withstand fear, humiliation, and discomfort.

We're conditioned from childhood to avoid unpleasant feelings. Nothing stirs those feelings more than taking risks, which is necessary to go after your dreams. It's no wonder change can feel so hard.

Having taken a leap out of the corporate world and by coaching clients through the change process, I've identified five themes that cause us to talk ourselves out of pursuing our dreams.

1. Comparing yourself to others
It's so easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Look around and there's probably someone already doing what you want to do. By comparing yourself to where they are and think how in the world you can compete with that will drag you down and reinforce a mentality of scarcity and fear, e.g., thinking you're not good enough.

Do this instead:

  • Recognize that no one has your exact style, experiences, and knowledge, which has led you to the path you're on. There's no one in this world who can be you better than you. Who can compete with that, really?
  • Have a clear vision and understand why that's important. Copying others and their journey will only cause you to feel inauthentic if it's not meaningful to you.
  • Focus on developing yourself. You're a work in progress - not a static entity - and are evolving into the person you want to be.
  • Compare yourself to a previous version of you, and celebrate all the progress you've made since then. We often look at how far we need to go that we lose sight of all we've done to get where we are today.

2. Perfectionism
Do you need to have it all figured out and know the outcome before you take action? I can totally relate. It took me years to quit an unfulfilling job because I had to have the perfect opportunity lined up before I quit. But, guess what? While I was waiting, I was not growing. That only led to over-thinking and high anxiety -- it was painful.

Simply put, if perfectionism is your standard, then you have no standard -- it's a fantasy.

Do this instead:

  • Realize that most decisions are reversible -- you can change your mind later.
  • Take small steps and adjust as necessary to get to the results you want. You'll get clear by adopting a scientist's mindset and running experiments to see what works and improve on that.

3. Care about what others think
The need for approval and avoidance of rejection has been ingrained in us since childhood. However, tying your worth to what other people think sets you up for disappointment by forgoing what matters most to you and doing things you believe will make them happy.

When you let go of the need to please, you're free to be yourself. Otherwise, you're only trying to get people to like you by pretending to be someone else. In reality, even if they approve of your actions, it's not the real you that they like.

Discontent is the result of being disconnected from your authentic self.

Do this instead:

  • Know that rejection is merely another person's opinion. It informs you of the other person's preference but doesn't say anything about you as a person. There's no need to make it personal.
  • Ask yourself what's more important to you than the approval of other people and make that your priority. Is it expressing yourself fully? Or maybe making meaningful contributions to the world? Decide what matters most to you, and act accordingly.

4. Fear of failure
Fear is a protection mechanism with the purpose of keeping you safe and out of danger. It scans the environment for what can go wrong and works hard to prevent that from happening. The problem with this approach is that fear identifies the most catastrophic outcome even when you're going after your dreams and tries to stop you.

Do this instead:

  • Don't take fear at face value. Become curious and examine the facts objectively. There's no denying that the worst case scenario is a possibility, but how likely is it as an outcome? If it does happen, can you recover? How long will you take to recover? What can you do to minimize the impact? If you succeed, then how does that affect your life?
  • See failures as lessons that will only allow you to get better if you learn from your mistakes.
  • Associate the discomfort you feel with growth instead of fear. If you're moving in the direction of your dreams, this only means you're growing into your potential.

5. Impatience
Our culture craves immediate gratification. However, a vision takes time. Focusing on all that needs to be done can feel crippling and cause you to give up even before you start. How are you ever going to make it to the end? How will you gain the confidence to succeed?

The answer: one step at a time.

Do this instead:

  • Focus on the next small step that will move you closer to your vision. It's the process that allows you to achieve your goals. The reward is in the journey, not the outcome.
  • Recognize that confidence comes from competence, not the other way around. It's only by doing the work that you'll be inspired to be better and keep going.

Achieving your dreams takes courage. If you follow these simple strategies above, I believe you'll grow into the person you want to be while finding joy on the path. Isn't that what we all strive for?

Tanuja Ramchal is a change and transformation coach and the founder of The Conscious Life Project. Having taken a leap from a decade-long corporate career, she helps individuals who are ready to change get clear about what they really want, know how to make it happen, and find the courage to do it. She believes everyone can have personal freedom. Click here to get her free guide to help you make the change.