≡ Menu

A Simple Guide to Overcoming Obstacles

What’s the biggest obstacle you are facing right now?

I asked my Twitter followers that question a few weeks ago and I received a range of responses, including:

  • Paying off my debt
  • Overcoming fear and self-doubt
  • Balancing my various to-do lists
  • Acquiring the funds to follow my dreams
  • Being more disciplined

Most of my time is spent trying to overcome obstacles, similar to the one’s the listed above.

I’ve discovered that surmounting any obstacle means you have to look for solutions. Personally, I tend to make things too complex. So by focusing on four simple strategies I’ve been able to conquer a lot of problems, from small to big. I’ve applied the following strategies to many hurdles including writer’s block, paying off debt, and overcoming my eating disorder.

1. Surround yourself with mentors.

Mentors can be trusted advisers, teachers, or close friends and the relationship can be formal or informal. Broadly mentors help mentees set important life goals, provide coaching, and listen. By doing all of these things mentors can help you overcome tremendous obstacles and establish simple priorities.

Mentors have guided me through some of the best and worst times of my life. For instance, overcoming my eating disorder was a huge obstacle and getting better didn’t happen overnight. Thanks to mentors I was able to get the help I needed. They listened and prompted me to take one small step everyday.

2. Write.

Writing everyday is one way to let go of stress, tension, and start developing solutions to your troubles.

3. Read.

Reading is a powerful medium of communication because it has exposed me to new ideas. As a result, I’m always inspired to make meaningful changes in my own life. Pouring over a variety of books and blogs convinced me that downsizing might be a good idea after-all.

Revamping your life means you have to take action. Nothing will change until you take a first tentative step.

4. Focus on taking micro-actions.

Micro-actions are a huge part of my life. For example, when we were $30,000 in debt, paying it off didn’t seem like an option. I remember telling Logan:

“We might as well buy a new car. We’re never going to be debt free, so a little more debt won’t hurt.”

There are a lot of troublesome undertones to that statement. But the important point is we finally realized that there are always alternatives.

Paying off $30,000 was a big obstacle and we didn’t think it would be possible. We had to give up some comforts in the short-run. But we knew that changing our habits would benefit us tremendously in the long-run.

So we examined the problem and broke it apart into small micro-actions. Some of the micro-actions included:

  • Reducing our rent by moving to a smaller apartment.
  • Selling the cars.
  • Making a budget.
  • Canceling the cable.
  • Following a $25 rule. If something costs over $25, Logan and I have a conversation about the proposed purchase.

We didn’t do all of these things at once. We focused on one micro-action at a time. By doing so we were able to prevent overspending and impulse buying. If we had not gradually transitioned to a new process, paying off our debt would have become too overwhelming, and I have a feeling we would have given up instead.

Parting Words . . .

Rather than looking at an obstacle as something dreadful and horrible, be lighthearted and remember you can surmount any barrier with a little bit of time and patience.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lotte March 14, 2011, 8:20 am

    Hi Tammy!

    Talking about micro-actions: Have you ever been introduced to the Kaizen method? If not, you might want to check it out. It’s principles can be applied to both your private life as well as the management of companies, dealing with collegues, and a lot of other places where you’d like to create lasting change.


    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 6:57 am

      @Lotte – No I haven’t. Sounds interesting. I’ll check it out this week. Thanks for reading!

  • Layla March 14, 2011, 10:28 am

    I do that “a little bit more debt won’t hurt” thing too. My pants I wear to dance are starting to wear out and I saw some pants on sale at lululemon (like $85 instead of $100). Thankfully, I regained my sanity before getting out my debit card.

    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 6:58 am

      @Layla – lululemon is a dangerous store. I’m glad you escaped with your sanity. 🙂

  • Byronious March 14, 2011, 11:17 am

    Hi Tammy,

    I enjoyed listening to your interview with Jason at CoachRadio.tv. I have to say that after reading several of your posts I’m finding your methods and strategies very practical to implement which is REALLY what I need right now. I’m very grateful to you for the work your doing being of service to your fellows.

    I’ll be seeing you around for sure.

    Best regards,


    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 7:03 am

      @Byronioi – Awesome! Thanks so much for listening to the interview at CoachRadio. It was a lot of fun to do. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

  • Susan March 14, 2011, 11:57 am

    Hi Tammy
    Today I am going to “take action” by telling you how your ideas have so often resonated with this 61 year old, newly single woman. After spending 8 years developing the land and retirement home by the sea, my husband ended our 35 yr marriage to be with his former school girlfriend. I then left (4 years ago) to live in our city studio condo of 500 sq ft. It was easy for me to feel hard done by but with no legal settlement in sight and time and finally a positive outlook, I have begun to appreciate this small living space for so many of the reasons that you continually bring in to focus. Your article today has found me on the last day of a Hawaiian holiday that I planned to use to “anticipate and deal with the obstacles that away my return”. This holiday in a 1947 cottage set on the wonderfully noisy beach has calmed my soul and let my see all the challenges that made me feel downtrodden at home, as merely a ‘to do’ list for when I return home.
    Thank you so much for presenting today’s concise list of how to move forward in a situation that applies to me so well. First up, call the Wall Bed company whose card I recently took from the Home Show and make that studio HOME!

    A fan,

    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 7:07 am

      @Susan – Thanks for sharing your story and leaving a comment. 🙂

      It sounds like your Hawaiian holiday was a much needed break and a wonderful time to reflect on the past, future and the present. Keep me posted on how things go for you! Wishing you all the best.

  • Becky Lerner March 14, 2011, 12:29 pm

    These are great parting words, Tammy. It’s true…if we’re patient enough, a solution will always come along. It’s really hard to handle that time until then, of course.

  • Tracy March 14, 2011, 12:43 pm

    I think that finding a mentor (or a role model that is just “out there” but not necessarily in personal contact with you) is so valuable, especially when facing a big callenge like starting a new business or reaching a specific goal.

  • Mark Robertson March 14, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Got struck/stuck at writing and wrote 2000 words. Thanks for the paradigm shift. Your stories and failures and euphria will continue to be viral /a/ because your a great communicator /b/ your self-reveletory I stmnts are refreshing, and /c/ you have a wonderful “lightness of being”

    I am happy, again, that the world has a person like Tammy

  • Gena March 14, 2011, 4:34 pm

    Great post! I continue to love your micro action suggestions! Also, my hubby and I have the same basic rule about expenditures. It is so natural now we don’t even think about it anymore, sometimes the byproduct of it being that we never make the purchase at all the nature of waiting and checking with each other often gives a reprieve from the desire and with perspective comes the ‘oh, I didn’t really *need* that!’ Thanks as always for a wonderful bit of inspiration. I also noted Susan’s response (she mentioned Hawaii 🙂 and think it is so great what an impact you are having via Rowdy Kittens on such a range of people; I hope she takes her inspiration home from Hawaii and creates a happy home just for her! 🙂 Have a great week!

  • Grace Kelly March 15, 2011, 6:28 am

    Lovely post!
    Big obstacles occuring including a simple one I have yet to work out…..How to get followers on Twitter?
    Lovely to hear you have overcome and Eating Disorder. I had to do the same and out of this has come many blessings.
    Keep up the inspiration Tammy.
    Gratitude, Grace
    Inspiring you to live more gracefully.

    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 7:09 am

      @Grace –> How to get followers on Twitter? Connect with others and post interesting content. By doing both of those things you’ll attain followers over time. I’m a big fan of slow growth. 🙂

      Also, don’t worry so much about the numbers. In the end they really don’t matter. The most important thing (at least for me) is to be helpful.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Kari March 15, 2011, 7:57 am

    LOVE your words 🙂 I’m in a “transition” place in my life as a single 31 year old who has just realized that in order for me to have the things I desire in life (a husband, children, a healthier lifestyle, joy in my work) I have to make the changes. I have let all of that overwhelm me for so many years and am finally realizing that doing things one at a time means making slow and steady progress forward instead of standing still in my mess of thoughts and getting even further behind because I failed yet again, when I gave myself no chance to begin with. Your words and steps above really confirm in my heart that I’m on the right path and that every little step is an accomplishment that I can be proud of! Thanks for the advice!

    Be well!

  • Kalley March 15, 2011, 8:06 am

    Hi Tammy,

    This was a great post. We are also trying to get things under control in our home as well. Points that you have mentioned really do work, especially about having a discussion about a purchase if it’s over a certain amount. 

    Also, removing the cable. It’s surprising how much you can get get done in a day if the TV is not a distraction. 


  • Shel March 15, 2011, 8:43 am

    (Since you mentioned reading…) Tammy, I know you’re a voracious reader (as am I) and I’m wondering about your thoughts on e-readers. Do you have one or do you plan to get one? I used one recently and it just doesn’t seem to have that same “feel” but in terms of downsizing, etc. they seem to make sense. Just curious about your opinion. Thx! — Shel

    • Tammy March 15, 2011, 10:34 am

      @Shel – e-readers are a great option to save space. I love reading on my iTouch. The Kindle app is awesome. However, I adore print books too. I’m online so much that it’s nice to read something that’s not on a screen. Over the last 6 months, I’ve noticed that I go back and forth between the two mediums.

  • alexa March 15, 2011, 1:54 pm

    Like your micro-actions – yep, always possible to do one tiny thing to move something forward. And love your light-hearted philosophy!

  • marianney | A Life Set Free March 15, 2011, 2:33 pm

    Thank you for the simple suggestions Tammy. #2 Write is exactly what I need to be doing more of. Yes, I have a blog, but I only blog when I feel I have something “profound” to say. I need to also just write for myself, learn a bit more about myself and how I interact with the world and within my relationships.

  • Ryan March 15, 2011, 6:39 pm

    Hi there- just came across the blog and bookmarked it. I really connected w/ the post. I read the comment about Kaizen above, and I wanted to say the same thing. Constant small changes over time make a big difference! Seems like we might have a lot in common, and I’m looking forward to reading some of your previous posts.

    • Tammy March 16, 2011, 4:48 pm

      @Ryan – Awesome! Thanks for stopping by and please let me know if you have questions. 🙂

  • gaynelle March 16, 2011, 6:42 am

    Great post. All five of the goals mentioned are on my list. Thanks for the straightforward advice.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Anne March 16, 2011, 7:47 am

    Hi Tammy,
    I have a question about your tiny home – do you intend to use it in the one place or would you like travel from place to place? There just seem to be multiple possibilities and I was wondering if you had decided on any yet.
    Many thanks for being so inspiring,

    • Tammy March 16, 2011, 4:48 pm

      @Anne – We love the Portland area and we’ll probably be here for a few years. We might end up doing some travel in the future. That’s what so cool about having a house on wheels. If we want to travel with the house we can. Or we can stay in one place too. 🙂

  • Tanja March 16, 2011, 12:05 pm

    “A little more debt won’t hurt.” Those were my words to live by for too many years (been turning it around though). It felt sooo big, like I’d never be able to get out from under it! I love your micro-actions. That concept is one that’s helped me out a lot over the past few years, breaking things down into bite-size action steps. Hmmm. Mentors. Now that’s something I haven’t done enough of, and I’ve got a feeling you’re on to something there. Awesome post as always Tammy!


  • MundoCaco March 16, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Thanks Tammy for this post and motivating thoughts , I live in Canary Islands, so far away, from another side of the raimbow.

    your blog inspire me to take action.

    Thanks again, I keep in reading & learning.

    • Tammy March 16, 2011, 4:41 pm

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Thea Easterby | Write Change Grow March 17, 2011, 1:28 am

    Hi Tammy
    Thanks for this post. The area that I need to focus on is definitely micro actions. Victories (both big and small) help minimize the fears and self doubt. Micro actions also help with any feelings of overwhelm.
    Thanks again

  • Krystal March 17, 2011, 8:50 pm

    Wow, I really enjoyed this post. It’s so relative to what’s happening in my life right now. I especially like this part, “Revamping your life means you have to take action. Nothing will change until you take a first tentative step.” My friend always says she wants to do this and change this, but the huge problem is, she never gets to it! I tell her (let’s just say I’m like her personal mentor) that she needs to just DO IT or it’ll never get done. She tells me she wants to change her style and clean out her wardrobe, but she claims she cannot do it herself and would like her mother to do it for her. Another problem – how will she ever learn how to clean out her closet herself when she’s older? Her mother won’t be around to clean up for her all the time!

    There are so many issues in my friend’s life and I feel I can’t be the only one to help her all the time. I also feel like whatever I say, it just goes out her other ear. Sometimes I just want to barge into her house and get her to do everything she said she was planning to do. It’s like she has become my obstacle in a sense!

    I wish I can say more…but I feel this is getting too long. Thanks for the helpful entry, though!

  • Sandra Pawula March 17, 2011, 10:51 pm


    I love the idea of surrounding oneself with mentors. Micro-actions are also incredibly key. I appreciate your example of what appears to be an impossible task (large debt) and moving through it one small step at a time. Thanks for the excellent advice.

  • Sandy March 22, 2011, 7:09 am

    Thanks for the post — the part about micro-actions really hit home for me as I’m trying to become more disciplined with knocking off all the little things I want to do on my To-Do list. So much I want to do that it seems overwhelming, but taking small micro-actions each day on a few of them will really add up!

  • arina nikitina March 24, 2011, 10:48 pm

    Hi there, Tammy! I could relate very well to your idea on micro-actions. In goal setting, there’s this thing I call mini-goals. They might be minute or seem not-so-important. But they really are and should be tended to accordingly. Besides, the little-r things aren’t as stressful. 🙂

Simple Share Buttons