The Obstacle Course


A technique for visualizing the limiting beliefs that are standing between you and your dreams.

love helping a client develop an inspiring and exciting vision for their future and build a plan for actualizing it. I’m deeply aware, though, that if their blueprint of themselves, life, and reality is not in alignment with that vision, they’ll most likely fail to follow through on their plan, or they’ll find a way to sabotage it. Before working on a plan, I aim to draw out all the limiting beliefs that may hold my client back from manifesting their dream.

Dan, for instance, was plagued by thoughts that prevented him from moving his professional life forward:

     Chana: What are you doing professionally now?

     Dan: Well, I wouldn’t call it “professional” exactly. I’m just waiting tables at a café.

     Chana: Why don’t you call it professional?

     Dan: Cause it’s just a job to pay the bills. It’s not really what I want to do.

     Chana: Why not?

     Dan: It doesn’t pay well. And the hours aren’t great. But mostly, I don’t like working for other people.

     Chana: So you want to go into business for yourself?

     Dan: Maybe.

     Chana: Why the “maybe?”

     Dan: It’s kind of silly.

     Chana: What is?

     Dan: What I kind of want to do.

     Chana: And what is that?

     Dan: Pottery. I’ve been doing it as a hobby for a couple of years now. The few hours I’m in my teacher’s studio are my favorite hours of the whole week.

     Chana: So you want to be a potter?

     Dan: My teacher says I’m quite talented. But…

     Chana: But what?

     Dan: Isn’t it crazy?

     Chana: What’s crazy?

     Dan: Being a potter. I couldn’t really do that.

     Chana: Hmm. What if, just for the sake of argument, it wasn’t crazy? If the thought that being a potter is crazy wasn’t there, could you consider the possibility?

     Dan: Maybe…

     Chana: Would you be willing to imagine it just for a few minutes?

     Dan: I suppose I could do that.

     Chana: Great. Close your eyes. (Dan took some moments to breathe deeply and relax.) Imagine you’re five years in the future. You’re working as a potter. What do you see?

     Dan: I have my own studio. It’s on the side of my home and faces a lake. There are huge glass windows so that natural light fills the studio most of the day.

     Chana: What else do you see?

     Dan: I’m making commissioned works for galleries and restaurants. I also sell pieces from my home. I’m newly married, and my wife loves eating out of the dishes I make. She really supports my work.

     Chana: How are things for you financially in this vision?

     Dan: We’re doing just fine. We live in a rural area so our cost of living isn’t so high, and we’re able to grow much of our food. It’s beautiful. Also, I’m constantly improving my craft, and I’m pretty good. I can support us with the pottery that I sell.

     Chana: How does it feel to look at that vision?

     Dan: Pretty good.

     Chana: Not amazing?

     Dan: Well, it’s kind of fun to talk about, but hard to believe. Getting a clear image of everything is hard. It’s blurry and mostly black and white.

     Chana: So something is standing between you and the vision?

     Dan: Yeah. Like a fog.

Limiting beliefs can block us from going after our goals. For Dan, they’re presenting themselves as fog. Rather than trying to overcome something so intangible, it’s easier to work with actual words. The Obstacle Course technique helps us gather them. We’ll encourage Dan to give voice to the obstacles blocking him from moving forward by personifying his fog and having it “speak out” his fears. As you read the dialogue, I’d like to challenge you to take notes and create a Thought Bank of Dan’s stated and implied fears.

     Chana: If you could give that fog a voice, what would it say?

     Dan: That pottery is totally impractical. There’s no way I could ever make money doing that.

     Chana: What else?

     Dan: No way I could marry a woman that nice and that beautiful.

     Chana: Why not?

     Dan: I’m just not handsome or charming or good enough for that. Besides, I have, like, NO money.

     Chana: What else does the fog say?

     Dan: That I’ve always lived in a city and it’s ridiculous to think I would ever actually move to a lake. I could never pull that off. It’s just a pipe dream, like from a movie or something.

     Chana: What else does the fog say?

     Dan: That I could never get good enough at pottery to make money from it. That I could never get good enough to make pieces as stunning as I see in the vision. You have to be really special or talented or go to art school for years to get that good.

     Chana: Anything else?

     Dan: This is just a fantasy. It’s out of touch with reality.

     Chana: Hmm.

     Dan: And that I should do something practical like get certified in accounting or get a stable job. That way I can attract a nice girl and support a family. You can’t support a family with clay and glaze. Let’s get real.

Dan’s built himself a pretty robust Obstacle Course. His blueprint of beliefs about himself, the world, and what’s possible blocked his ability to envision a future of his dreams. Here are some of the beliefs getting in his way:

Pottery isn’t practical.
I could never attract the woman of my dreams.
It’s not realistic to think I would move to the country.
I could never support a family with pottery.
I don’t have enough money to attract a great woman.
I could never get good at pottery.

We did Inquiry on these thoughts and more. Every session, Dan closed his eyes and repeated the visualization. The picture got clearer until it was so believable the image was in color, and he could smell the scent of the clay and hear his wife’s voice. As we neutralized his Obstacle Course of limiting beliefs, Dan shot down the clay pigeons blocking his path and got increasingly excited about his vision for the future and his ability to actualize it.

Summary of Obstacle Course

Use the Obstacle Course technique when you’re feeling blocked from visualizing or actualizing your dreams. Giving voice to the hurdles getting in your way shows you were Inquiry is needed. Questioning your thinking will help you jump over those hurdles and race towards your dreams.

Like what you’ve read? You can learn Obstacle Course along with 21 other tools in my book, Hold That Thought. Download a free copy of the book here.

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