Why Can’t You Achieve Your Goals?

5 Reasons You are Struggling

Cover of the New York Times Best Seller

A Book Review

I Could Do Anything

If I Only Knew What it Was

By: Barbara Sher with Barbara Smith

Why don’t we do the things if we really want them?

Here’s the book in a nutshell. You probably went through some bad experiences as a child.  Most of us know that our families screwed up in one way or another. Who had a perfect childhood? Your experience in your family shaped you in some way positively and negatively.

Next, figure out how it screwed you up so that you can move on and get out of your own way.

Now that you have let go of that, you can go ahead and achieve your dreams. (I’m oversimplifying the research done by the author, but I already knew my roadblocks, so it felt like a lot of the same exercises to help you realize them, which felt like a waste of time.)

However, if you are someone who needs to figure out your whole history and how it shaped you, this book might be good… alongside therapy. It might unlock some memories or feelings, and a therapist could be a guide as you go through this process. This book requires an entire journal and a lot of writing if you have the time. But I feel like I got the same results just by thinking about the exercises.

You could take a deep dive with this book and investigate your entire life experience, or you could use it as a time to reflect and get busy taking action.

I’m forty years old, so I have enough life experience and have spent enough time on self-reflection that I could go through some of the exercises quickly. However, I could see someone needing to do the deep dive exercises that this book offers.

5 Reasons you Aren’t Living up to your Potential 

  1. Childhood Experiences
  2. Fear and Resistance
  3. You Like too Many Things
  4. You Don’t Like Anything
  5. Rage

Ways to Fix It

  1. Think/Reflect
  2. Visualize
  3. Write
  4. Take Action

Childhood Experiences 

Much of this book is a look into the past and how your upbringing and past experiences have shaped you. There are exercises that help you see what you were expected to do and who you were supposed to be versus who you really want to be. There is extensive information on this with several case studies to help you see how you may have been impacted by your childhood.

  1.  What did your family want for your life?
  2.  When you were a kid, how could you be the perfect person for everyone in your life?
  3. Something from your family history or life experience could be holding you back.
  4. Who made you feel like you couldn’t?
  5. What was your home like when you were a child?

Desire and Atypical Childhoods

There could have been a significant trauma that shut desire down. This is not a typical situation, and maybe you don’t even realize that you had some experience from your childhood was more impactful than you could have ever imagined. This reflection could be helpful in understanding more about yourself, but at the end of the day, we can’t control our past. We have to move forward in spite of it.

You were born to desire. What shut it down?

What was the danger that shut down your enthusiasm?

  1. Constant unkind Criticism can put a child into survival mode.
  2. Witnessing criticism

*If you grew up in an angry household, you might be unaware of the profound impact that had on you.

*Unhappy children have unrealistically high expectations of life.

*Depression is a survival trait

  • Being interrupted

*Giving kids constant entertainment. Let kids have some alone time.

  • Broken Promises

Forgetting what makes you happy is a form of protection that you may have developed a long time ago.

“Revelation is the first and biggest step to changing your life” (254).

Understanding why you are the way you are is a step toward self-improvement.

*Praise your defense mechanism. If you agree with the person or people who told you something was wrong with you, then they don’t have that power over you anymore.

*Pretend to be the person who was the critic in your life.


*If you don’t know what you want, something is stopping you from knowing it. AKA a hidden resistance.

Think about when you set out to achieve a goal, but then you find excuses not to make it happen. This is resistance.

What is meaningful work to you?

Whatever that it is…START doing it.

 Visualize all aspects of a meaningful life. Get lost in these moments.

Write about it.

Feel it.

Experience it.

There are many exercises on imagining your perfect life and taking steps to get there.

  1. Perfect job? Imagine what that looks like…in great depth.
  2. Horrible job? Imagine what that looks like…in great depth.
  3. Escape dreams are fantasies, but they are clues to what is missing in our lives.
  4. Real dreams are the adventure…the things we can ACTUALLY make happen
  5. Pretend that you are living your dream life. Say it out loud. Say it in the mirror Get into the character you thought you would be.

Fear of Success

This section provides more exercises and examples of what could have happened in your past or childhood.

Who made you feel afraid? Did someone in some way teach you that success was bad?

Childhood issues can be holding you back. Subconsciously you might be self-sabotaging.

Understanding some of the beliefs that were instilled in you could help you understand how to push past them.

Are you more afraid of the past or the future?

What would you do if you knew you would be successful? No fear of failure?

You have an amazing career, but it isn’t right for you. Why would you leave a good thing for something that could possible fail?

You Want too Many Things

Scanners-Like trying new things and are good at a lot of different things

Divers-Wants to learn something at a very deep level

Unhappy Divers-Look like scanners because they can’t commit. They want to but don’t.

Unfulfilled Divers-Defense Mechanism-Commitment Phobia

Find something small to master and work at it every single day for 30 days.

Nothing ever interests You

“When you’re chronically negative, you are passive. You’re waiting. Getting into action can kick-start your energy and turn life around.”

Could it be depression? Could you have a physical problem? Could you need medication?

  1. Start Doing Something! Again go back to what you wanted or a time when you were happy. Start doing those things.

2. Exercise…isn’t that standard advice from everyone? Get moving.

3. Break large goals into smaller goals. Make the steps so small that you can achieve one a day and write each small goal on your calendar.

4. Set a goal and follow through. If you aren’t in the best mental state, set a meaningless goal, but follow through with. Tell yourself. I set this goal, so I’m going to accomplish it.

5. Show up for yourself.


You are not ONLY a provider and a parent.

“Maybe your spirit has been shut up in a soundproof box for many years.”

Maybe you are bitter. Maybe your past haunts you or your present sucks or you don’t know what you like. Figure it out and move on with it.


What if you have to change? What if you lose your current job? Or you become a single mom? How will you figure out the next move?

Go through and really feel whatever you are feeling. Complain about how life has just screwed you. Don’t ignore your feelings.

  • Change is ok.
  • Be ok with learning like a beginner.
  • Write down an extensive list of daily things that you love and hate.
  • What does that say about you and what small steps can you take to get closer to that?
  • Real obstacles.

Many things in our lives are real obstacles. We have to take care of our kids. We have to make money to pay bills. But there is no accountability with dreams. If we don’t DO them no one really cares.

Find a Success Team-A buddy system. Friends you care about your dreams and support you.

Raging Against Being Ordinary

“Ragers miss the mark by raging against the ordinary instead of being extraordinary.”

If you aren’t the greatest, why bother? You can’t put yourself out there until you will be the best. Don’t want to take the ordinary baby steps to get to greatness.

Your dreams are so big and if you can’t make it big…it is a waste of time.

Ragers are waiting for someone to rescue them. They believe that someone ELSE should notice their worth.

It’s ok to settle for what makes you happy. Maybe it isn’t even settling. You may never win an Oscar and live in Beverly Hills, but you could start acting in small plays in your community. Who knows what that could lead to, and it is an opportunity to practice your craft.

Most of us might have a little rager in us. I’m sure there is a wide spectrum going for greatness and trying getting through the mundane tasks of daily life.

Do you want to be rescued or do you want the dream?

Again…goes back to childhood…did someone leave you stranded when you needed protection?

Dig deep into your painful childhood memories. Trace your feelings all the way back.

When was the first time you felt like something really sucked? How did you feel? Think about it in every way imaginable.

Without hurt, you’re different. Something is missing. You feel empty.


  1. The secret to happiness is in Giving.
  2. Practice Being a Rescuer…Am I a rescuer because I was never rescued?
  3. Helping someone is penance.

Happiness: People who are unhappy have a higher desire to be happy all of the time.
Why did a parent want you to be unhappy? Many reasons…we tend to forget that our parents are people too. They were doing the best they knew how to do. Maybe the way they hurt you was unintentional. It still hurt, and it still impacted you, but maybe you can let it go if you see it from a different perspective.

Richard Ford quote from book…

“Angry Words are all alike. They all mean, ‘What about me?” (262).

The Solutions 

  1. Reflect and Think about important moments in your life.

2. Visualize

3. Write


Just start…NOW!

  1. Make a move toward what you want. You don’t have to quit your job to achieve your dreams.
  2. Quit blaming your current life for not accomplishing your goals.
  3. Newness is scary, but if you don’t start, you will never know where that can take you.
  4. Give up something you can that you do for someone else out of habit and replace it with something you love doing. Babysteps

The author ends with this:

I want _____________and I’m not ashamed to say it.

Now you that you know what you want and what has been holding you back; GO GET IT.

It will take your forever to reach your goals if you do every activity in this book. You could get stuck in the past or lost in what your dreams could have been. Ultimately, deep down, you know who you are and what you want. Listen to your gut. When you are reflecting, where do stop and think, yeah, I do miss that part of me. Start somewhere with something to get you closer to the life you want. This book took me a long time to get through even without doing the exercises. This might be something I would read for 10 minutes a night as a reminder to keep pushing forward and striving toward the person I want to be.

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