3 Tips When Identifying Barriers

Often when talking about goal setting people talk about SMART goals.

You’ve probably heard it before.  Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely.

Nurses often use SMART goals when developing a nursing care plan and setting patient goals.  For instance, I could say, “Patient’s goal is to improve their A1C.”  That’s a nice goal, but 6 or 12 months down the road how am I going to know if they have met the goal?  A better goal would be, “Patient’s goal is to have 3 A1C levels less than 7% within 12 months from today May 11, 2017.”  In this way we have specifically addressed what we want to happen and when we want it to happen by.

Whether the goal is attainable or reasonable is decided by the experience and knowledge of both the nurse and the patient.  For instance, someone whose current value is 3 points higher than it needs to be might have a different goal than someone who is 5 points higher.  Or someone who hasn’t previously been taking medications might have a different goal than someone who has been taking medications.

Different people have different barriers.  Considering barriers helps to evaluate whether a goal is attainable or reasonable.

It is a good idea to explore barriers when setting goals.  Sometimes barriers are known and sometimes you may discover them along the way.  It’s okay if barriers aren’t all identified initially.  Just do your best to identify anticipated barriers.

Common barriers I see in my work are decreased motivation, knowledge deficit, and financial constraints.  Barriers are important to identify because they are what need to be overcome in order to meet your goals.

3 Tips to Consider When Addressing Barriers

  1. Is it true?  Physical barriers (like what my driveway looks like after it rains) are hard to ignore.  Other barriers are not as easy to validate.  Am I not meeting this goal because I’m not motivated or do I simply need more information?  Am I not meeting this goal because I don’t have the funds or do I have money that I am spending unnecessarily elsewhere that I could put toward this goal?  Am I not meeting this goal because I don’t have the knowledge of what needs to be done or is it that there is something out of my control that is stopping me?
  2. Is it something I can control? The fact is not all barriers are within our control. Barriers don’t have to be within our control, but identifying what is and isn’t within our power to change is important when creating an action plan or interventions for our goals.  Ideally we want to create goals that we have power over. 


    For instance, I might say I want to, “Get my book published by the end of 2017!” However, this depends on other people.  What the publisher is looking for and who else is submitting their great manuscript at the same time is out of my control.  I can take steps to research publishers and what they are looking for, but that doesn’t eliminate my competition.  A better goal might be, “Research 25 publishers and submit my manuscript to the 5 that are most appropriate within the next 6 months.”  Or I could start with the original goal and as I am creating an action plan I will address those areas I can control.

  3. Is it my mindset? In my opinion, decreased motivation, fear, and lack of confidence fall into this category.  Identifying these barriers takes honest self-evaluation and can be addressed and overcome just as any other barrier can.  It is important to realize if mindset barriers are present so that you can include interventions in your action plan to retrain your brain to approach your goal with a constructive mindset.

Use these three tips the next time you are setting goals in order to more accurately identify and address your barriers.

Some people contend that SMART goals inhibit creativity, but I believe that creativity can be executed in the action plan or interventions.  I will share more about this in the future.

What common barriers do you encounter when you are setting goals?


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