Obstacle, Barrier, or Excuse?

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In your health  journey and as with any journey it can present its share of obstacles and barriers. Obstacles and barriers will always be a part of our experiences, in life, in fitness, in health.

It’s how we relate to our obstacles and barriers that will determine the outcome.

When faced with an obstacle, make a powerful choice to keep moving!

One of the most unfortunate mistakes we can make in this life is to mistake an obstacle for a barrier.

 Yet, I struggle with it often and I see it everyday.

The goal of this post will be to clarify the subtle but sometimes significant difference between our obstacles and our barriers.

Let’s start by defining the two words in question:



something that impedes progress or achievement



something material that blocks or is intended to block passage

 How similar? Yet so very different in regards to mindset.

 Often when we encounter difficult circumstances, they may produce an emotional reaction that causes us to interpret these situations as barriers, but most of the time it’s just an obstacle

Here’s a simple way to distinguish the difference:

What ever slows down your progress is an obstacle.

What ever impedes or stops your ability to progress, is a barrier.

For example, lack of motivation is an obstacle.

Sometimes we lose that inner compass of patience and drive. I will say it again, lack of motivation is an obstacle. There can be so many factors in this obstacle, sometimes multiple factors for one person alone. So how do we overcome this obstacle?

Three key components can help you develop and maintain motivation:

  1. Know your why. (Why have you set this goal for yourself?)

  2. Actualize your why. (How can I make this happen?)

  3. Practice discipline.

Create a list on paper. Ask yourself, 'Why is this truly important to me?' Write down all the reasons your goals are important to you. Yes, even the superficial reasons such as, 'I want to fit in my skinny jeans,' and then, dig deeper.

As long as you have options to overcome, your difficult circumstance is an obstacle; regardless of whether you use the options or not.

Choosing to stop and not find your why is your choice, it is not a barrier.

An example of a barrier, is injury or illness. (I will tell a story below how I allowed an injury (a barrier) to become an “injury” (obstacle I chose to settle for.)

Some injuries require rest, rehabilitation and remaining off said injury. This can range from a finger to a neck to your entire body. That being said there are sometimes circumstances that put up a temporary wall between us and our goals. The time that wall remains up, is up to us.

So how did I let a posterior tibialis and posterior tibialis tendon issue go from a legit barrier to an obstacle? And if I am being really honest, from an obstacle to an excuse.



a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense

My injury came after months of training for my first race, a 50k. It triggered feelings of despair, and caused a mild depression, sadness and even anger.

This should have been a sign that while it was temporarily a barrier, it was slowly becoming just an obstacle.

I did not shift my mindset rather let myself feel powerless. I could have accepted the situation and empowered myself with a new plan of action. I know it is crucial to maintain a positive attitude during this time. I could have even reminded myself to stay positive daily, or even hourly.

But because I wallowed in self pity - things became hard. I couldn’t do what I used to be able to and I let my injury become an excuse. “I can’t run, I am injured” I would think to myself.

Was, was is the key word there. It is easy to confuse the three words, to misunderstand what is actually keeping you from accomplishing your goals, what is making it more of a struggle to accomplish your goals and what is actually you keeping yourself from accomplishing those goals.

So here’s the point I am trying to make.

It's important to surround yourself with positive influences during any vulnerable time. Focus on short-term accomplishments.

You may feel as if you have a lack of choices, but this isn't necessarily true. This is when mental influence can truly be a savior.  "Thoughts are things," says Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.


Most of the difficult situations and circumstances we are presented in life are difficult because they present us with a difficult choice.

In the future, begin noticing where you get stopped in your life and start taking the time to distinguish whether you’re confronted by an obstacle, a barrier or creating an excuse.

If it’s an obstacle, make a powerful choice (insert spin move or side step) and keep moving.

If it’s a barrier, identify what’s on the other side and address your barrier with a stubborn resolve to reach your goal.

If it is an excuse, go back to your why. Figure out what is causing the excuse and why you want to overcome it.

Really focusing on the slight differences with these words can be crucial to living your best life.