Just Doing It: Overcoming Obstacles


If you want to use a noun for the difficulty that gives a negative feeling, you can call the difficulty a hurdle, an obstacle, or a setback.

Hurdles and obstacles are something you face along the way that can make your progress difficult. For example:

If you want to study at an American university, one hurdle is getting a high enough TOEFL score.

A setback is something that moves you backwards rather than forwards towards your goal. For example:

He was studying English in the U.S., but had a setback when his parents told him they would no longer pay for his studies. He had to return to his country for a year and save up enough money to come back to the States.

If, in contrast, you want to use a noun for the difficulty that gives a positive feeling, you can call it a challenge. For example:

Some students hate grammar because it is so difficult. However, I think it is a challenge. It’s hard but satisfying to figure out the correct answer.

If you want to use a verb, you can use challenge yourself or face (something). For example:

A large part of learning a foreign language is expanding your vocabulary. You can

challenge yourself by trying to learn 25 new words each week.

When you live in a new country, you have to face obstacles by yourself. If you get

sick, you have to figure out how to visit the doctor and how to fill a prescription.

You can also talk about testing yourself, pushing your boundaries, or living outside your comfort zone.

Living alone is a way to test yourself. You make all of your own decisions.

Living in a foreign country takes us outside our comfort zone. Much is unfamiliar—

the food, the language, and the simplest daily habits. Living abroad pushes our


Try to use these new words to discuss what this person just did. (Examples below)

Climbing a mountain is a challenge. You have to deal with many obstacles like tiredness, sore muscles, and difficulty breathing. you have to push yourself to keep going even when you feel exhausted. Along the way, you may suffer setbacks like turning an ankle or getting caught in bad weather. These hurdles can take you outside your comfort zone. Don’t give up. If you face these challenges, you will end up at the summit and feel proud of what you have accomplished!

Read about more English for discussing obstacles and difficult choices: