Over 80% of GTA residents couldn't pursue desired goals or activities, but YMCA Greater Toronto provides hope and inspiration to conquer barriers and achieve aspirations

23 February 2023

Internal barriers – Self-doubt, fear, and worry – were a factor for more than half (63%) of people who held back on something last year, according to survey commissioned by the Y

Toronto – February 23, 2023 – A new survey commissioned by the YMCA of Greater Toronto found that the vast majority (82%) of GTA residents held back on pursuing at least one goal or activity despite wanting to do so over the past year. When asked why, self-doubt and financial barriers are commonly among the top three reasons people shared.

Inspired by the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s latest advertising campaign, “Obstacles,” the survey aims to shine a light on the types of obstacles GTA residents have experienced in the past year and the impact on their lives.

As people increasingly return to routines nearly three years after the start of the pandemic, the Y is eager to instill hope, help people ignite their potential and overcome the obstacles that are holding them back

According to the survey, the top five things GTA residents held back on pursuing last year were:

  1. Travelling/taking a trip (43%)
  2. Meeting new people/participating in more social activities (34%)
  3. Joining a program/activity aligned with their hobbies or interests (32%)
  4. Trying something new (30%)
  5. Applying for a new job/changing career (27%)

Internal barriers are holding GTA residents back
The reasons people held back varied based on the activity, however, the survey uncovered internal barriers – which refer to one’s emotions and impact on their ability to pursue something – were a contributing factor.
Two thirds (63%) of GTA residents held back from doing something they hoped to last year due to internal barriers they were facing – like self-doubt, fear and worry.
Internal barriers were also significantly higher than external barriers, like financial or time-related barriers, for a few activities in particular:

  • Applying for a new job/changing career (62%)
  • Meeting new people/participating in more social activities (58%)
  • Trying something new (47%)

Many Torontonians are struggling with self-doubt
The survey uncovered that self-doubt is something many people are experiencing:

  • Applying for a new job/changing career (62%)
  • Self-doubt was identified as the leading internal barrier GTA residents faced last year – holding people back more than others like fear and worry.
  • Self-doubt in particular ranked among the top three reasons for majority of activities noted in the survey, including:
    -Trying something new
    -Joining a gym/health & fitness centre
    -Learning a new skill
  • Nearly 1 in 3 respondents also said self-doubt was the main reason they held back on applying for a new job last year. This was the top reason among all respondents.

Through a broad range of programs and services, the Y is uniquely positioned to help people in the GTA overcome these internal barriers and turn off feelings of self-doubt, fear and worry. It’s a judgment-free place where people feel accepted and inspired, make new connections and receive the support and guidance needed to reach their full potential. With 11 Centres of Community offering Health & Fitness amenities and programs, and over 440 locations offering a variety of other programs and services like employment services, camps, child care, and skill-building programs, the Y is always ready to help people in the GTA shine and connect them with others in their community.

“The results from this survey are in line with the insights that inspired the Y’s “Obstacles” campaign, which showcases how the charity’s breadth of programs help people turn off feelings of hesitation, doubt, and fear, and instead focus on turning on confidence, connections, and possibilities,” said Medhat Mahdy, President & CEO, YMCA of Greater Toronto. “At the Y, we believe everyone deserves opportunities to ignite their full potential. I’m confident anyone in the GTA who feels they’re being held back by obstacles can find the support, guidance, or confidence they need to overcome them at the Y.”

Other survey findings:

  • Financial barriers are also prevalent, commonly among the top three reasons people held back on pursuing things, especially for activities that cost money. For example, financial barriers was the top reason for 1 in 3 GTA residents who held back on joining a gym/health and fitness centre last year.
  • Younger GTA residents are most likely to hold back on pursuing their goals. Those under the age of 55 are consistently more likely to have held back on pursuing the things they wanted to do last year.
  • 44% of GTA residents say personal contact and social interactions in their neighbourhood have decreased in recent years, more than twice the proportion who say they’ve increased (20%).

As a charity, the Y helps people who need it through financial assistance, as well as free programs and services like employment services for job seekers, and The Bright Spot online community for older adults. By helping to reduce financial barriers, the Y helps more people reach their full potential.

The YMCA of Greater Toronto believes that when given support, positivity and guidance, people can turn off the things that are holding them back and pursue the things they want to achieve.

To learn more about the Obstacles campaign, visit ymcagta.org/obstacles-campaign.

About the YMCA of Greater Toronto

The YMCA of Greater Toronto is a charity that ignites the potential in people, helping them grow, lead and give back to their communities. For over 170 years, the YMCA of Greater Toronto has provided opportunities for people to shine through a variety of programs and services including health and fitness, licensed child care, camps, employment and immigrant services, education and training, and services for youth, families and seniors. Promoting equity and boosting well-being across more than 440 locations in the Greater Toronto Area, the Y is a leading charity that helps everyone shine. For more https://ymcagta.org.

About this Survey

These are the findings of a survey commissioned by the YMCA of Greater Toronto from January 6 to10, 2023 among a sample of n=1,011 Greater Toronto Area (GTA) residents, balanced and weighted on age and gender. All respondents were members of the online Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, if this survey was conducted with random selection, a sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.