Brain Obstacles for Success

Dr Thanh-Tam Pham - 07/08/2022

Many people in their life feel trapped with stress, not achieving their goals and feeling depressed or doomed for failure.

The brain obstacles for success in life:

1. Fear:

The amygdala is a brain structure that is operating without your awareness to keep you alive and safe and to react to your worrisome thoughts as if they are real, external threats. These real or imaginary fears can cripple your optimism and decision to act or improve. You can sabotage yourself with chronic, impulsive, automatically triggered worries even though you can start to make progress toward achieving your goals. Rational fear is helpful with its obvious survival function that you need to thrive to realise your highest potential. Irrational fear triggers by an old bad memory can cause you to unknowingly procrastinate, cause you to unknowingly rationalise your way out of what you know you should be doing, sabotage your optimism and decision-making process and may inhibits your genius. When you feel fear, those parts of your brain are more active with increasing blood flow and thus limiting blood flow to other parts of the brain.   Your fear centre can literally take over the rest of your brain affecting your work, relationship, and physical health and then you surrender.

There are many types of fear: fear of failure, of what others think, being judged, ashamed, fear of not being good enough, fear of change, of rejection, of loneliness…

2. Limiting Beliefs:

There are 2 types of beliefs: the explicit beliefs are one you are conscious of. An implicit belief is largely subconscious. When you have conflicting beliefs, behaviours, or perceptions, you can experience cognitive dissonance. And when this happens, your brain will default to your subconscious. Your subconscious beliefs will almost always win. Self-sabotage is usually your worst enemy: you are not good enough, you cannot succeed…You need to be aware and identify the limiting beliefs that may be holding you back, upgrade your knowledge and skills to build confidence and taking small action steps to build more self-trust and confidence.

3. Disempowering habits:

The brain loves to create habits so it can save energy. The wrong habits are largely destructive and disempowering.

Your beliefs can cause you to act habitually, and often interfere with your ability to see yourself, other people, and the world in new empowering ways.

To change your habit, you firstly need to be aware of the trigger, the thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Then you choose to set your intention to start a new habit and then thirdly, focused on your action. There are 3 principles:

Both types of habits whether empowering or disempowering are just patterns in the brain. Your subconscious brain doesn’t judge habits as good or bad. At a neurological level, forming empowering habits is about creating new patterns of connections that become stronger with use, while the old habits/patterns slowly decay from lack of use.

4. A negative mindset:

Being sceptical, unsure may be valuable to stop you from impulsively indulging in risky behaviour such as extra caution in spending money, on gambling or committing to a relationship with someone you barely knew. But if you start to ruminate on all the possible negative that could happen, your fear and anxiety can take control of your brain.

5. Excess stress:

Stress can interfere with your ability to learn new skills, turn off your motivation centre, interfere with sleep and cloud your brain ‘s executive function. Stress can inhibit the most creative parts of your brain, leaving you less able to see new opportunities, to generate creative ideas, and to access your inner genius. But a healthy amount of stress is beneficial, it keeps you alert, excited and motivated. For some people, a threat can be seen as a challenge, so your body relaxes, you broaden your focus and have a calm flow of energy to work and increase your productivity. In each case the stressor is the same, it’s the response that is different and how you process it, will determine the outcome. Too much stress also damages your memory and your immune system. It can inhibit your executive functions and motor skills to a degree that not only reduce your ability to perform but you can also eventually burn out.

6. Lack of emotional control:

Emotions are neither good or bad, positive nor negative, regardless of whether they feel pleasant or unpleasant. Emotions are triggered at the subconscious level, which in turn triggers the neurochemistry that causes feelings we are aware of. The key is to be more aware of our feelings without judgment and to learn how to manage them better deliberately and skilfully.

The Brain:

In contrary from what we think, neuroscientists estimate that our conscious brain is only 5-10 percent, and our subconscious brain occupies 90-95 percent.  Most of the activity going on in the brain is happening beneath the level of our awareness. We often believe that we are in control and every action is rational, deliberate, logical, and conscious but it is misleading.


The brain can change itself, when you learn a new skill, you can make new neural connections or also by thinking, focusing and being aware in meditation or even by diet and exercise. In children, new neural connections are formed constantly but as you age, some learning processes, beliefs, and behaviours become fixed in the brain circuitry. Neuroplasticity is heavily influenced by pain and pleasure, things that are exciting or threatening and harmful are more readily encoded because they affect our survival.

The brain likes to run on autopilot to save energy. Your comfort zone is a space where your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are most habitual. Our parents, teachers, siblings, and friends teach us early in life our mindset, our skills, and our beliefs.

Neuroplasticity and behavioural psychology can offer you the potential to literally change your brain and as a result, change your life.

The 2 minds learn differently. The conscious mind is creative and can learn by reading self-help books, attending lectures of watching video…

The subconscious mind is the habit mind. According to Bruce Lipton, PhD, in the first 7 years, the mind is operating in a slow vibrational frequency like hypnosis. So that is one way of changing the program. After 7 years, you form habit by repeating something over, repeatedly. You need to practice, repeating and practice.



Awareness is the mental ability to observe your own thoughts, emotions, and behaviours without judgment. With practice, we can learn to interrupt negative and disempowering patterns, to stop them in their tracks, and instead use our conscious thoughts, feelings, and actions. We can learn self-observation skills in practising meditation, mindfulness, and self-reflection. The moment, you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, habits in the moment as they begin, you can then have the choice to choose good habits and to control negative conditioning.   


Intention refers to decide how you want to think, feel, and act. Like awareness, intention is part of the neural circuitry that activates the prefrontal cortex.

Action and sustained focus:

Anything you want to accomplish in life requires sustained focus and effort over time. To create new brain pathways for thinking, feeling, and behaving requires time and repetition.


John Assaraf develops a comprehensive collection of brain-based approaches to achieving success and living a happier life in Innercise. While there are no perfect ways, Innercise offers a valuable path to change your life.