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Common Obstacles to Success: Part 1

Common Obstacles

Due to our brain’s survival adaptations, there are several common obstacles to pursuing success. They are listed here and detailed further below.

  1. Inaccurate Perspectives.
  2. Path of Least Resistance.
  3. Bad Habits.
  4. Constant Negotiations.
  5. Emotional Tagging and Patterns.
  6. Illusion of Control.


  1. Inaccurate Perspectives


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It is impossible to see, know, interpret and accurately represent everything we come across. Our senses alone are bombarded with 400 000 000 000 bits of information per second that are automatically filtered into a small fraction for our conscious thought to handle. Consequently, we are limited in not only what information we have access to, but how we interpret that information.

Creating a misleading narrative. Have you ever arrived at work to find something unexpected, and then told yourself a story that was entirely misled? For example, an executive returned from holidays to find sparkling golden shoes on his office chair and became convinced that he was pranked by his employees, spending the subsequent half hour disinfecting his entire office. The reality was that a friend of his wife had dropped off the shoes for him to take home to his daughter, and his wife had forgotten to tell him.

Early attachment patterns shape our adult relationships. Have you ever wondered where a friend’s cynicism comes from, even though everything seems “fine” in her life? It comes down to the nature of the attachments formed with caregivers during developmental years. People with secure attachments tend to view people as safe and reliable and are able to access supports when needed. Those who grew up uncertain of how their adult influences would react to situations develop anxious attachments that become the default for their interactions, while individuals who did not have their needs met as children tend to avoid intimate relationships where they demonstrate vulnerability and reliance. While these are oversimplifications of complex dynamics, they do provide a useful lens for understanding how childhood experiences influence our perspectives and ability to relate to others. 

Gap between competence and confidence. Has a colleague ever expressed ultimate confidence in their knowledge of an area, only to later demonstrate a lack of competence in that same area? Or the reverse – a lack of confidence coupled with impressive ability? Without honest feedback – preferably delivered with the intent to help the individual grow – it is unlikely that a person will develop an accurate reference point for knowledge and abilities relative to the larger population. Someone whose confidence was steadily eroded over time is also unlikely to recognize their competence and feel motivated to develop other competencies. What would work environments look like if regular feedback loops were built into systems, for all levels of employees?

Read Next: Unpacking Success


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