Obstacles to Growth – How to Identify Them

obstacles to growthObstacles to growth are what make simple things hard to do. When a client approaches you to make a practical change, often the real need is addressing the hidden obstacles to growth that thwart progress. For example, if the goal is getting control of one’s schedule, the real issue may be standing up to others’ demands and saying, “no!” or completing what seem to be boring responsibilities instead of chasing the excitement of a new dream, or even admitting that you are addicted to work. Change is rarely as simple as it looks on the surface. As I’m fond of telling my clients, “If it was easy, you’d have done it already.”

Obstacles to growth can be external, like time and money, or internal things, like fears, beliefs or needs. Below are two sets of questions coaches can use to help surface internal or external obstacles to growth:

Identifying External Obstacles

 “What is stopping you?”

 “What makes this hard to get done?”

 “What do you need that you don’t have to reach your objective?”

 “What external factors will your plan have to account for if it is going to work?”

 “When you’ve tried to make changes like this in the past, what got in the way?”

 “What practical obstacles will you have to overcome to reach this goal?”

 “What one resource or tool would make all the difference if you had it?”

Identifying Internal Obstacles

 “What goes on inside you when you think of this? Feel free to name an emotion, a physical sensation, a memory, anything.”

 “Relax for a minute, and pay attention to what’s going on in you. Where do you feel pressure or strain or stress around this?”

 “You’ve found it hard to make this change. What do you gain from not changing? What would you lose that’s important to you if you did change?”

 “What’s your worst case scenario here? What’s the fear behind that?”

 “What’s driving your responses?”

 “What belief is making you respond the way you do? How well is that belief serving you here?”

 “What’s the critical voice in you saying about this?”

Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. For more information on Tony’s best-selling coaching books go to