What do you do when you’re facing an obstacle?
Most people don’t like obstacles. That makes a certain sort of sense. After all, when you’ve got a goal that you’re trying to accomplish, the last thing you want or need is something standing in your way. Obstacles seem to make us stand still; they keep us from getting where we want to go. They cause us to lose whatever momentum we’ve built up. In worst-case scenarios, they become the roadblocks standing in the way of allowing us ever to get there at all.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder obstacles look so daunting. You might as well pack up now and go home. Right? Wrong!
What if obstacles weren’t as bad as you thought? What if the one thing you’re facing right now might hold the solution to the very problem you’re trying to solve? Consider this for a moment: What if what you’re looking at is not so much an obstacle, as an opportunity? That it’s your emotions holding you back, making you think an obstacle is a stopping point, instead of a new beginning?
It’s time to rethink obstacles.
Read on to find nine simple steps that will help you keep your emotions in check as you reach out and embrace obstacles. It’s time to see the opportunities you never imagined were there and to travel new roads you’ve never been down before.
1. Take a Minute
Whatever you’re doing when you hit the obstacle, quit it. When you stop, you give yourself time to consider the options without all the emotions flaring up. You guard yourself against acting impulsively in a way you might come to regret later on.
To do this, start by taking a deep breath or two. Define the emotions you’re feeling, then wait for them to calm. Knowing whether you’re sad, or angry, or frustrated will help you to find that calm place faster, as you would address each emotion differently. For example, ask yourself what you’re angry at if you are indeed angry. If you’re sad, accept the sorrow as being a natural part of the disappointment of meeting something that keeps you from your goal.
As challenging as it might be, don’t try to rush through the feeling or push it down. The best way to use this setback as fodder for out-of-the-box thinking is to embrace the emotion, no matter what it is. Own it and feel it in your body. Once you feel it’s settled, you’re ready to move on. This process may take an hour, a day, or a week, depending on how major the project and how substantial the complication.
2. Accept Where You Are
Realize obstacles happen. The more you fight them, the worse they’re going to seem. Like standing in quicksand, the sooner you come to accept the situation, the better it’s going to go for you. It’s the struggle that pulls you down. So, take a minute to tell yourself this is a natural and healthy part of the process. Remember, the emotions you’re feeling are legitimate and real. It’s where you are, right now, at this moment. But the feeling won’t last forever.
3. Flip the Switch
After acknowledging the emotions of the moment, choose to let them go. It’s time to switch over to the logic side of your brain, where you store wisdom and experiences. That’s where you’re able to process what just happened and consider your options.
Next, take a step back and look at the obstacle from an outside point of view. That means looking at it as if you were a stranger standing on the outside of your life looking in. What would they see right now? Question your assumptions to find a unique solution.
4. Get Creative
Here’s where a little flexibility is going to go a long way. Start examining the alternatives. Be as creative as possible and don’t discount anything offhand for being ‘too silly.’ Sometimes it’s those silly ideas that are going to get you thinking along a different path entirely. Sure, it’s normal to feel some disappointment at this point. Chances are you had your path all planned out. But when you consider all the new possibilities, it’s easy to get excited about trying something new. Use this energy to fuel you toward the next step.
"Realize obstacles happen. The more you fight them, the worse they’re going to seem. Like standing in quicksand, the sooner you come to accept the situation, the better it’s going to go for you." - Vince Morales
5. Embrace the Lesson
Every obstacle holds something from which you can learn. Ask yourself what you gained in facing the roadblock. How are you looking at the world differently? What can you share with those around you about your experience? When you cannot only ask these questions but also answer them, you’re discovering the meaning in the encounter. You haven’t wasted your experience, and even roadblocks can hold a purpose.
6. Break Things Down
Frequently our problem with obstacles starts with trying to take on too much at once. In moving forward, re-examine the goal you were trying to accomplish. How can you break down your goal into smaller steps? By focusing on these more modest goals, you’ll find it easier to move ahead. Also, you won’t be quite so overwhelmed by the big picture.
7. Admit You’re Only Human
Everyone makes mistakes. By permitting yourself to fail, you’ll accept obstacles sometimes occur due to human error. In some ways, these feel like the worst sorts of obstacles because it’s easy to get caught up in a negative thinking spiral when this happens. You might even start questioning your abilities and wind up wanting to give up on your goal altogether.
Here’s where it becomes crucial to keep things in perspective. By acknowledging you are only human after all, you’re able to admit when you are wrong and to move on. What’s more, you’ll be better able to accept when you make mistakes again in the future, because after all, you will. We all do.
Everyone makes mistakes. By permitting yourself to fail, you’ll accept obstacles that sometimes occur due to human error. In some ways, these feel like the worst sorts of obstacles because it’s easy to get caught up in a negative thinking spiral when this happens. You might even start questioning your abilities and wind up wanting to give up on your goal altogether.
8. Reconsider the Goal
In the end, it might be the obstacle was connected to what you were trying to accomplish in
the first place. It might be the goal either wasn’t well thought out or isn’t what you needed to do in the first place. It might be time to consider the original premise all over again. Is this obstacle trying to tell you something?
Sometimes the obstacle comes because you’d made a shift in what you were trying to do. Have you somehow changed your goal midstream? It might be you need to rethink your plan of attack entirely. When this happens, your obstacle has instead become an opportunity to move in a direction that suits your purposes better.
9. Don’t Forget to Celebrate!
It might seem odd to be thinking about celebrations when talking about obstacles but consider this: When you celebrate your accomplishments, you embrace the journey you’ve been on, barriers and all. Even if you’ve stalled out completely, you can celebrate the progress you made and the work you put into the project. These are all worth getting excited about, and the emotions here are worth embracing.
Then when the party is over, ask yourself where you want to go from here. Make choosing a new goal part of the celebration. That’s also something to get excited over.
Bonus tip: Ask for Help
As a note, you should never have to do hard things alone. When you’re facing an obstacle, it’s okay to ask for help. Mentors and support systems are integral to the process of working your way through difficulties. The benefit of a mentor is clear: they’ve very likely been in this position before, and have the wisdom and insight to lead you through to the next stage of development.
Support systems are made up of those friends, co-workers, and relatives who can act as the bulwark to shore you up when you feel like you’re falling flat on your face. This group should only ever be made up of people who support you but will speak honestly as well. That’s not to say they’re all cheerleaders or ‘yes-men.’ A sound support system is willing to speak up when they see you heading in what they perceive to be the wrong direction.
They’re also there to encourage you and to remind you why you’re working toward this goal in the first place.
Finally, don’t discount professional help where it’s needed. If you find you’re having trouble separating your emotions from the process, you might need a little bit of help in working things through. There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice from a counselor or medical professional if you find you’re overwhelmed and unable to proceed.
In the end, by embracing the obstacles you meet in trying to attain your goals, you’re likewise embracing a new way of thinking. You’re adjusting your mindset to one of success instead of failure. You’re accepting there are different ways to do things, and that the things standing in your way are more often new opportunities than a true stopping point. You’re looking at life in a way that allows you to go places you never thought possible before.
The key here is in control. Your emotions shouldn’t be what’s holding your back. Of course, it’s okay to feel what you do when you meet with an obstacle. The key is in not staying there when it’s time to move forward again because you will move forward again if you keep trying.