How to Fight Your Goal Gremlins to Fast-Track Your Goals

This article explores five ways to overcome the obstacles holding you back from reaching your goals.

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When you can look a thing dead in the eye, acknowledge that it exists, call it exactly what it is, and decide what role it will take in your life, then you have taken the first step toward your freedom.’

Iyanla Vanzant

What image comes to mind when you imagine a battle between two adversaries at war?

I immediately think of the epic biblical battle between David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. If you don’t recall the story, here’s a quick recap.

David was a young shepherd with sharp hunting skills and unwavering faith in God. His 9-foot adversary, Goliath, was a seasoned, arrogant philistine soldier in full bronze battle armour. For 40 days, Goliath challenged the opposing army to a duel. His opponents, including three of David’s older brothers, were terrified of their intimidating nemesis. They fled in terror every time Goliath appeared. Then one ordinary day, David stepped onto the scene and everything changed.

David was armed with simple hunting tools he used daily to protect the sheep in his care—a slingshot and five stones. While Goliath reveled in his physical strength and oversized weapons, David’s faith was elsewhere. He calmly stood his ground with inner confidence and steadfast faith that led to one of the most epic biblical accounts of war and defeat of an adversary. His single act mobilised the Israelites to overthrow the Philistine troops.

What’s the takeaway from this story?

I like this story for several reasons. One, because who doesn’t like to see the underdog defeat an intimidating villain in a world where injustice, suffering and heartbreak seem to dominate? Two, it serves as a helpful reminder that darkness doesn’t always win. But most important, goal gremlins are a lot like Goliath’s character—loud and intimidating, invisible giants, intent on keeping you stuck in states of helplessness, self-doubt, and fear.

As the opening quote suggests, when you can identify the obstacles holding you back, you gain signficant ground to overcome them. Usually, it’s by turning inward where the giants lurk in invisible places of our lives. That’s the distorted stories we believe, the broken identities we’ve adopted that keep us stuck in fear, shame or anxiety.

When you pull those gremlins out of the dark, you soon realise how small and unintimidating those distortions truly are. Humans have wildly creative imaginations that sometimes conjure up illusions of catastrophe that doesn’t compare to reality.

Before exploring the types of giants that hold us back from reaching our goals, let’s first look at the weapons we already have to defeat them.

How do You Overcome Obstacles to Achieve Your Goals?

Cultivate Deeper Self-Awareness

One of the notable things about David is that he knew himself better than those around him. The king tried to arm him with his heavy coat of armour, but David after trying it on, found it wasn’t the right fit for him. Instead, he reverted to trusting that his own strengths, skills, and tools were sufficient. That’s because he practised with them regularly. Although his resources seemed simple and far less powerful than the king or Goliath’s heavy bronze weapons, David was confident that what he had was all he needed to overthrow his opponent.

You may have tried to overcome your battles using someone else’s strategy only to find it didn’t work for you. That’s because you are uniquely shaped with tools to overcome your obstacles. The key is to identify your strengths and resources. For example:

A strong self-identity

Spiritual strength and faith

Practical skills

Positive self-talk

Rational reasoning

You can get unstuck from your comfort zone by using rational reasoning, disputing myths and busting stereotypes and biases. This can help you challenge the beliefs, faulty thoughts, and silent fears lurking inside you. Not only that, but you can draw inner strength from your spiritual beliefs and your own unique skills.

Next, let’s look at the types of giants or goal gremlins that intimidate and hold you back from pursuing your goals.

Gremlin 1: Fear of Failure

I’m too scared to try something new because what if I fail? What will others say if I fail?

What if you don’t fail and instead succeed? And if you shouldn’t get it right at first, what does that really mean? Think of a toddler learning to walk. They try, topple and fall. Do they stay down or get up, pace themselves and try again. Somewhere inside them they know they have the ability to walk, and it may just take a little longer than they thought it would.

In a similar way, when you try something new and it doesn’t work at the first attempt, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It simply means that was only your first attempt at trying something new and unfamiliar. It’s a learning process. Resilience is part of growth and becoming okay with trial and error. Oprah Winfrey describes failure as the universe’s way of steering you away from the wrong path to help you get back on track.

Gremlin 2: Too old to start something new

I’m too old to do this. It’s best to stick with what I know.

You are never too old to do new things. In fact, research shows that those who pursue goals later in life have good chance for success because you are clear on what you want, and more determined and self-driven to see things through.

Erikson outlines 7 life cycle development stages that make up the seasons of our lives. Each life stage includes new tasks, transitions, insights and new growth. Our lives are not stagnant because we grow and evolve over a lifetime. Therefore, learning and trying new things will always tug at us to give them a chance and space to surface. It’s part of growing towards what Abraham Maslow calls self-actualisation.

Gremlin 3: Unrealistic Goals

It’s too hard. I don’t think I can do this.

You can set smaller goals by splitting big goals into manageable steps that are SMART, to ensure they will be attainable. Celebrate small wins along the way. It will help you enjoy the journey rather than focus on the destination. Pursuing goals one small step at a time is like placing rungs on a ladder between where you are right now on the way to where you’re going. With each rung you place, you’re inching closer to where you’re heading and also motivates you to keep going.

Gremlin 4: Self-Doubt

I’m not sure if I can do this. I can’t handle harsh feedback or criticism. I’m afraid of what ‘people’ might say.

You’ll never know what you’re capable of achieving if you don’t trust yourself enough to explore new things from a place of curiosity rather than focusing on a specific outcome, external validation or rewards.

As for what others might say, get clear on your motives for sharing your interests and plans with others. Particularly if you do so on public platforms such as social media, where you cannot control others’ responses. There will always be people who agree with you and those who don’t. That’s okay because it’s impossible to please everyone. That’s because we view the world through different lenses and filters that influence how we receive and respond to others.

It can be helpful to surround yourself with a select, trusted group of people whose opinions you value and respect and who offers you unconditional support. These are people who can objectively and compassionately offer you constructive, respectful feedback.

Gremlin 5 – The Comparison Trap

I will never be as good as others. Others are so much better at this than me.

The truth is that there will always be someone who has more than you, just as there will always be people who have less than you. It’s essential that you do not compare yourself and where you are currently with your goals and where others are in their journey.

You have different circumstances or life contexts that influence your growth. Even if your work or interests are similar to someone else, it is never exactly the same because no two people are.

What you can offer the world is different because we are all shaped with innate gifts, a distinct voice, style, creativity, personality, skills and resources that make our contributions to the world beautifully unique.


This article explored five ways to overcome fear and doubt that keep you stuck from pursuing your goals. These include a strong self-identity, spiritual strength and faith, acquired skills, positive self-talk, and rational reasoning. It also addressed five negative self-talk phrases that can hold you back from crafting the life you desire: unhelpful beliefs about ageing, fear of failure, setting unrealistic goals, and the comparison trap.

As you stand at the threshold of a brand-new year, I hope these strategies weakened the power of unhelpful thoughts, feelings and behaviours that’s been keeping you stuck. Second, that it sparked your curiosity to try something new to get you closer to a more fulfilling and meaningful life you deserve.

Until next time, travel gently through the new year.

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