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Setting Goals: Maintaining Motivation and Overcoming Obstacles

“Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourself a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles.” - Helen Keller

I believe Autumn is one of the most joyous seasons. Not just because of the cooler weather, or the change in leaves, but because for many of us, it is a season of beginnings and new challenges. Whether you are a freshman beginning your first semester of college, a young adult starting a new job, or a parent excitedly planning for the holidays - there is so much potential that lies in this season.

In Autumn, many of us might also start to think about the future and the new year that lies ahead in just three months. We find ourselves pondering all that we want to accomplish. We set goals for ourselves and dive headlong into them, full of motivation and excitement with a clear vision of the end in mind.

And then - life happens to us. We get tired, the days are shorter and the nights are longer, stress at work happens, seasonal colds befall us and the day comes where we just aren’t as motivated about the goals we set anymore.

If this is where you are - you are not alone. Many of us feel frustrated and struggle to overcome the obstacles that keep us from achieving our goals. Maybe you even feel guilty that you’ve fallen back into old habits and are tempted to give up on your goals completely.

What do we do when this happens?

How do we overcome obstacles and stay motivated like we were when we first set our goals?

Here are four simple ways to increase your intrinsic motivation and get yourself back on track:

  1. Simplify: Often, less is more. When we live in a culture that values busyness, writing a long to-do list looks appealing. But this can ultimately end up overwhelming us and take our focus away from what is really important to us. Take a look at your goals and ask yourself which are most important to you and why. If you aren’t sure how to decide which are most important, think about which are most aligned with your personal vision and values. If there is more than one and you can’t decide, prioritize which can be done in the next 30 days, the next 90 days, and which can wait longer.

  2. Measure: Focusing on one goal, think about how to measure your progress in both a subjective and objective way. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, measuring subjectively might sound like being excited that you have more energy in addition to objectively seeing the numbers on the scale move.

  3. Ask: No one is an island and we can’t do life alone. If you’ve run into an obstacle, don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust for help. If you don’t have anyone you think you can ask, try looking at your local Facebook groups and search for a like-minded community to support you.

  4. Celebrate: When we are feeling discouraged about our progress, it is easy to ignore our successes. Remember that even setting a goal is a victory! It is a bold and difficult move to be honest and say that there is something about ourselves we want to change. If you are struggling to celebrate your successes, see if you can identify just one thing in your life you are proud of or grateful for. If finding even one thing feels difficult, tell someone you trust that you are struggling and ask them how you have positively impacted their life.

The reality of life is that our motivation ebbs and flows like the ocean tides. We are not always going to feel as excited about our goals as we did when we first set them. But as we continue to persevere and overcome, we find joy in the journey as well as the destination.


If you are struggling with setting goals and staying motivated through life’s challenges, we can help. Through evidence-based strategies and a warm, non-judgmental environment, our therapists can help you learn to set realistic, achievable goals, prevent getting sidetracked by obstacles, and learn to celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small. Book your free 15 minute session here.

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