As I’ve shared in my recent writing, I’ve been exploring the topic of success and I created a simple survey where I asked people to help me define it. I promised in my last post to talk about the responses to this survey question, “In one or two sentences, what is your definition of success?” I am going to share those answers, but first I’m going to take us on a quick sidetrack… 

As curious as I am about how we define and create success in our lives, I want to crack the door on something else as well – what’s holding us all back. Every day I see people who aren’t experiencing depth in the areas of their lives that are most important. With that in mind, I included this question in my survey, “What do you think the biggest obstacle to success is?” 

There was one universal answer to this question that everyone shared in one form or another… YOU! You are your own biggest obstacle when it comes to unlocking success. It can be tempting to shift the blame for lack of success onto our circumstances, environments, and how the world is constantly shifting and changing. The reality is, though, that we are responsible for creating our own success. And, if we embrace that truth, then we are also the cause if we’re not achieving success in our lives. 

Before you let this reality drag you down, or you start making excuses, stop. If we can develop an understanding of the common barriers to success, it will be much easier to reach beyond our boundaries. It all begins with being aware and open to the ways we’re getting in our own way, and then making some simple changes.

With that in mind, here are some of the barriers to success that people shared in their survey responses…


Whether it’s the anxiety that can come with taking risks or flinching as we face the potential of failure, fear is one of our greatest demons. Opportunities in life cross our paths, and fear holds us back from stepping into those possibilities. It’s too dangerous. It’s too risky. It’s too unknown. The “what-if’s” begin to cycle through our minds, and they hijack all the potential. As one survey response put it, “I’m not a poet, but one of my favorite artists Ray Wylie Hubbard has a song called The Messenger with a line from a poem, and I think it’s incredibly on point for this question: Fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.”

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge the dragons and your own fears. Be courageous – even when anxiety and dread creep in.

Limiting Beliefs and Self-Talk

Part of what feeds our fear is our limiting beliefs. We carry with us the stories we’ve written through our lives. From our experiences in the homes we grew up in to our encounters in school and the way our lives have rolled out after that, we’ve all been writing a story since we were born. We’ve built that story on what we believe other people think of us and what we think of ourselves, creating a combination of self-defeating thoughts, doubt, and insecurities that sabotage our chance at success in anything.

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge your own limiting beliefs and the story you’ve been writing. Is it fact or fiction? Get real, shut down the self-sabotage, and start talking to yourself the right way.


What’s one of the biggest success-killers? Comparison. When we start down the path of “I should already have what they do” or “I should have already made it at this point in my life,” we end up derailing any chance we have to find real success. You are on your own journey, and comparison is a distraction that does not add value. It leads to envy and jealousy, two feelings that will not lead you to anything good. Instead, they will rob your energy and your insights, keeping you focused on what isn’t rather than what could be. As one respondent shared, “If I got in my lane and just believed I was successful because I was hitting the goals I personally wanted, that would be a huge success. When I start comparing my success against another company, agency, person – that is when those obstacles can get too big. This could be business or in your personal life.”

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge yourself to shut down comparison in your life. Remember, you’re on your own journey. Focus on YOUR walk instead of everyone else’s path.

Too Many Outside Voices

Frequently, at the same time we’re fighting with comparison, we’re also wrestling with the words other people are putting in our heads. Too often, those words aren’t helping us reach our goals or chase success. Instead, they come with hidden agendas, or they are all too focused on keeping us safe and sheltered. Unfortunately, those voices don’t always come from other successful people or the ones that want the best for us. As one person shared in their response, “Find strength within and not from others. Reassurance is fine but be wary of sharing your ideas too much with others. Oftentimes the people closest to us can keep us down. Their preconceived notions of you don’t matter.”

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge yourself to control the volume on the outside voices, and mute the ones that aren’t helping you achieve your version of success. 

Not Enough Outside Voices

As much as listening to the outside voices can be a source of negativity and overwhelming caution, there’s another side to this. You NEED outside voices – just the right ones. We all need a circle of close advisors and voices to help us achieve success in our lives. Here’s what one person responded when asked about the biggest obstacle to success… “Not listening and seeking out opinions, advice, and help of those that have already achieved success. Not hiring a coach that can help them see their blind spots. Thinking they can do it all on their own and not creating a team to have people to celebrate with.” This is where self-awareness becomes essential as well. You need to know and name your weaknesses, deal with them head-on, and find people who will help strengthen you. 

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge yourself to listen to the right voices, and if you need more of those voices that provide wisdom and positivity, go find them. 

No Plan

Not having a plan or clearly defined goals can be one of the most significant challenges we face on our path to success. People who responded to my survey captured it well, sharing the barrier as, “Lack of planning, no goals… Not having a documented vision, strategy, and plan to execute goals… I believe the biggest obstacle to success is lack of focus… Losing sight of the most important things.” A goal without a plan is just a wish, and unfortunately, that’s what success is for many of us – a wish. Until we put some kind of strategy and plan in place to help us get aligned and keep moving, success will be something that continually eludes us. We’ll keep chasing it, but it will never get caught.

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge yourself to clearly define your goals and then create a plan for achieving those goals. 


If we can all agree that success is a journey, then starting is the most important first step. One response nailed it like this. “The biggest obstacle is believing you have to wait for conditions to be perfect or the “feeling” that you are ready before ever stepping out to begin a thing. Start by starting. GET IN MOTION. So many dreams never happen because we never start.” Too often, we wait for everything to be in place to get started. We’ve been fed the lie that everything needs to be “ready” for us to take flight. Rarely do the stars align that perfectly in our lives. Most of the time, we just need to jump in and get committed to get going.

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge yourself to get started, even if you don’t feel ready. “Ready” is a state of mind, and it is not tied to all of our circumstances being perfect. If it is, you’ll be paralyzed in place. 


As much as starting can be challenging, stopping too soon can be a more destructive enemy of success. To do anything in life well, from building a business and raising your kids to learning something new or being successful in your relationships… it takes work. Nothing worth having comes easy, which means stopping will be a temptation. As one person captured it in their response, “Fatigue, boredom, lack of focus, or commitment are also candidates for biggest obstacles to success!” Unlocking success in our lives is not easy or fast. It takes time and requires patience, perseverance, and tenacity – with a little bit of trust.

Beyond the Boundaries: Challenge yourself to keep going, especially in those moments where fear, doubt, and your limiting beliefs start taking over. Need some help? Tap into the right outside voices, and then stick to your plan.

The Takeaway

Mindset, mindset, and mindset. Your biggest challenge to unlocking success in your life is YOU – specifically, it’s the way you think. Every one of those areas above is linked tightly to mindset. With that in mind, it’s time to do some “mind setting” – spend some time this week setting your mind on the right things, the most important things, and the things that will lead you closer to success, not further away.

I appreciate you letting me take you on this quick sidetrack. As promised, in my next post I’m excited to share the responses to my last question, “In one or two sentences, what is your definition of success?” As I hinted at earlier in this series, the definitions of success were diverse and unexpected… you’ll gain massive value from them.

Follow me here to learn what people shared… and thank you for taking this journey with me! – John