How To Bust Through Five Common Obstacles And Reach Your Goals

October 17, 2016

Negotiation is extremely useful if you’re working to achieve a big goal. Why? Though we usually think of it as a discussion between two or more people, the underlying skill set works for individuals, too. A simple way to look at negotiation is knowing what you want (your goal) and how to make the most of any opportunity by finding the right path (navigating obstacles). You can apply this framework to any goal. Here are five common obstacles and simple actions you can take to overcome them.

Goal 1: Be seen as a leader

You’re gunning for a big promotion.

Obstacle: Impostor syndrome 

Each time you think “I really don’t know what I’m doing, how did I wind up in this position?” catch yourself. Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you’re going to be found out for being a fraud. Constantly questioning yourself is mentally draining. Try asking someone you trust for an outside perspective on your performance.


How to overcome it: Stop apologizing

Women are more likely to use upspeak and qualifying words like “just” and “sorry” to undermine their position, lowering the stakes in case someone contradicts them. Try the Just Not Sorry Google plugin to see how frequently you use words and phrases like “I apologize,” “actually” or “I’m no expert” in your emails. I did, and was genuinely surprised at the frequency. I’ve found that being more aware of my choices in writing has influenced my speaking, too.

Goal 2: Speak up

You want to make meaningful contributions, which means having your facts down cold.

Obstacle: Procrastination

Checking your phone one more time is so much more appealing than planning for your weekly team meeting, isn’t it? Since recent studies show that visibility is keyfor women in tech to move up into leadership roles, being prepared to speak up is worth the effort if you want to get ahead in your career — whether you work in tech or otherwise.

How to overcome it: Create an accountability plan

Set yourself up for success with an accountability plan. Write down a measurable goal (for example, I’ll review my notes at least two hours before each weekly team meeting) and share it with someone at work whom you trust. Give yourself an incentive if you finish your work in advance. This could be something simple like treating yourself to a lunch or coffee out of the office. The key is that it should be specific and special.

Goal 3: Getting a new job

You’ve found your dream job and are determined to get hired.

Obstacle: Losing out to someone else

No one likes to fail. And while always getting exactly what you want sounds ideal, we all know that’s not always possible — especially when there are multiple parties involved.

How to overcome it: Identify good alternatives

Work as hard and smart as you can to achieve your stated goal. But if forces beyond your control could impact your success, it’s not a bad idea to work on a backup option that you would also be happy with. In negotiating theory this is called your BATNA — Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. If it seems like your only alternative is the status quo, challenge yourself to think bigger. Maybe you have a side hustle that could turn into a full time role (like mine did). Or you could seek out a new volunteer opportunity that supports a cause you care about. I volunteer as the co-city manager for the NYC Lady Project, a national nonprofit that connects, inspires and showcases awesome women doing amazing things through events, membership and community engagement in New York City. 

Goal 4: Implementing a new approach to an old problem

There will always be old-timers who want to do things the way they’ve always been done.

Obstacle: Naysayers 

Haters gonna hate. Some of them probably even claim they are just trying to look out for you. 

How to overcome it: Have a plan for dealing with naysayers

Find a balance between incorporating feedback and trusting your gut — if you did everything everyone told you to do, you’d go crazy and accomplish nothing. Know when to block out distractions.

Come up with a response for unwanted advice and practice saying it out loud.Try something straightforward but respectful: “Thanks for sharing your perspective. Right now I have a plan in place and I’m focused on moving it forward.” Resist the temptation to qualify by saying you’ll get back to someone or keep them posted — it will only cause confusion and frustration down the road for both you and your counterpart.

Goal 5: Make more money

Whether you’re asking for a raise or interviewing for a new role, you’ll need to negotiate for your pay.

Obstacle: Fear

Let’s say you want to ask for a raise at work but can’t quite figure out how to approach it. Fear comes from a normal, healthy desire to avoid feeling bad about ourselves or being uncomfortable. Who would willingly set herself up to be uncomfortable, right? The good news is that managing your fears can be worth it. There is a Sanskrit word, tapas, that translates to “the willingness to endure intensity for the sake of transformation.”

How to overcome it: Ask yourself for evidence


“Is there any evidence that what I’m fearing will happen? What will happen if I don’t do it? How much am I willing to pay to avoid an awkward conversation? ” If you still have doubts, watch this skit from Adam Ruins Everything.

By: Alexandra Dickinson


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