Are you struggling with an obstacle? These 8 tips to overcoming obstacles in life will help you get through the challenges.
We’ll all face obstacles throughout life, to varying degrees. These challenges could be as simple as losing a package in the mail or as dire as losing a job. And while our thoughts and action will reflect the severity of the obstacle, one this is certain: we can overcome it.
Often, overcoming obstacles we face in life was exactly what we needed at that moment to move in a different direction. My husband had lost his job in the non-profit industry during the recession almost a decade ago—all while we were expecting our first baby in a few months.
What had seemed like the end of the world turned out to be a new job within a month and a half at double his previous salary. Sometimes it takes overcoming obstacles to show you a new path.
8 tips to overcoming obstacles in life
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A few weeks ago, I read the book The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. The book covered all aspects of obstacles, from lessons to learn to finding the will to get through them. I found the lessons applicable to parenthood and family life that I thought I’d share the top eight I learned here with you.
If you find yourself struggling with overcoming obstacles, remember these eight reminders to get you through it:
1. Control your emotions
I read and watched the movie The Martian all about a fictional astronaut stuck on Mars. I remember telling my husband I couldn’t understand how the character remained calm even as he realized he was stuck on a planet all alone. I didn’t think anyone could that collected in such dire circumstances.
Then as I read The Obstacle Is the Way, I learned that NASA staff and astronauts are trained to control their emotions, especially in crisis mode. No matter how bad the situation or whichever malfunction they faced, they learned how to control their emotions.
Suddenly the book and the movie made more sense. The character had to control his emotions and was, in fact, behaving in an accurate and realistic way.
We can learn to be just as collected. After all, succumbing to our emotions means we make more mistakes. We lose hope or can’t think clearly. During an obstacle, we can’t afford to panic.
One of the best ways to defeat overwhelming emotions is through logic. We take a step back and analyze what we’ve got to work with and what we can do moving forward. We brainstorm ways to solve our problems.
Thinking logically also leads to root causes of the obstacle that are much easier to deal with. It’s pretty hard to solve “what if” panic attacks that haven’t even happened yet. We’re more likely to get back to work and do what needs to happen to solve the problem.
2. Be objective
Think about the last time you were overcoming obstacles and the internal statements you may have made:
- “I’m so broke, I have no money.”
- “I have to fix a flat tire in my car.”
- “I can’t seem to reach my goals no matter how hard I try.”
Notice how each of the statements begin with the word “I.” And no wonder—when we describe obstacles we face, we often take it personally. We place ourselves into those situations because we’re often the same people who have to deal with the flat tire or an empty bank account.
But what if we removed ourselves from those statements? They might sound more like:
- “This month, there’s only $X coming in.”
- “A nail punctured the tire and now it’s flat.”
- “Six months in and the scale measures X pounds.”
Sure, the obstacle is still there—changing our language doesn’t make these challenges go away. But they become facts we can deal with much more clearly.
Another way to remove yourself from the obstacle and be objective? Imagine the obstacle happening to someone else.
Picture yourself giving advice to a friend on what to do in that situation. Pretend it’s not happening to you. It’s exactly the kind of advice you’d need without personalizing it too much.
3. Focus on what you can change
Maybe you do the opposite of personalizing obstacles and make it about everyone else. Your lousy boss, the rent rising, the tantrums your child has been throwing.
For many of these situations, we can’t do anything to change direction. As much as we wish, we can’t wave a magic wand to make them disappear.
But what if you could find things you can change within those obstacles? You can’t change your boss’s personality, but maybe you can find a new position at work, or even look for a new job. Or maybe it means not letting his comments affect you the way it currently does.
We don’t control many of the things that happen to us, but, as they say, we can control what we do about it.
4. Don’t overthink
We worry a lot. And when you compare ourselves to animals, the worrying is even more striking. A polar bear doesn’t worry about what to do if he doesn’t have enough food, or why it’s not fair he can’t seem to find the right shelter. He simply spends his days finding that food and shelter.
It doesn’t mean he’s not hungry or cold, but he doesn’t waste his time thinking about it.
Don’t overthink your predicament, wonder what it means, or proclaim how it’s unfair. Many people start from disadvantage but continue to take it day by day. Avoid making dreadful predictions you don’t even know will happen and instead just see what happens.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about how things are supposed to be, or what the rules say we should do. Trying to get it all perfect. We tell ourselves that we’ll get started once the conditions are right, or once we’re sure we can trust this or that. When, really, it’d be better to focus on making due with what we’ve got. On focusing on results instead of pretty methods.”
5. Learn from your mistakes
I tell my kids so often they repeat it to me now: “Mistakes are good.” Not good in that we made a mistake, but in what we can learn from them.
Often, nothing we did contributed to an obstacle, but we can see how we played a role and what we can learn from it.
For instance, a challenge you may be facing is how to rein in your child’s behavior. Many factors come into play to contribute to behavior we don’t want to see, but take a look at what you can learn from the situation.
Maybe you realize you need to be firmer with rules and not give in to every request. Or you learned that he spends too much time in extracurricular activities, which cuts into family time with you.
Though never pleasant, mistakes allow us to see where we went wrong and, more importantly, how to change direction.
6. Be persistent
It’s so hard to be persistent, especially as we reach for goals that seem way beyond us. We see others hit success in such a short amount of time whereas we feel stuck in the same place, barely moving. Trust me, I know the feeling.
But we all have different timelines, resources and paths to get where we need to go. Many of the people who seem so successful have also been in the same situation as you are. A big difference between them and others who didn’t reach those goals? They didn’t give up.
Again, from the book:
“You’re not going anywhere—you’re not going to be counted out. you’re in this for the long haul.
“Because when you play all the way to the whistle, there’s no reason to worry about he clock You know you won’t stop until it’s over—that every second available is yours to use. So temporary setbacks aren’t discouraging. They are just bumps along a long road that you intend to travel all the way down.
“It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you’ve decided to lay siege to in your own life—THAT’S persistence.”
7. Do your job well
When we see results that aren’t so stellar, it’s tempting to give up or work on it haphazardly. “Why bother?” we might think, especially when we face obstacle after obstacle. We might even wonder if these are signs to just throw in the towel.
Not necessarily. The better option? See how you can improve or change, but with the mindset that you’re set to doing it well. Not only will you give it your all, you’ll also do so all the way until you finish.
We might lose opportunities when we decide to half ass a project or even give up entirely. The initial results may not have been what you imagined, but stick with it, tweak it, and finish it. There’s something to be said about the grit and perseverance of someone who’ll finish a task and do it well.
8. Focus on something bigger than yourself
Remember how we should stop personalizing our obstacles and instead treat them objectively? Take it further and focus on something bigger than yourself.
Think about how overcoming obstacles can be an opportunity to make an impact on people, causes or issues much bigger than yourself. You won’t feel so alone. You’ll realize how small we actually are compared to the length of time or the number of people or issues we all face.
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I’m not always the best at overcoming obstacles. I’m that person who needs reassurance and a good pep talk to get me through. In fact, I wrote this article not just for others to read but for myself as well. These are reminders I need to keep in mind when those challenges come my way.
As a recap, here are our eight reminders:
- Control your emotions
- Be objective
- Focus on what you can change
- Don’t overthink
- Learn from your mistakes
- Be persistent
- Do your job well
- Focus on something bigger than yourself
I hope in some way, these words have changed how you look at and respond to obstacles in life. Thankfully most of us won’t find ourselves stranded alone on Mars, but we can still learn how to get through the obstacles we’ll face.
Get more tips on overcoming obstacles:
- The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- 6 Ideas to Pull Yourself Out of a Bad Parenting Day
- Be Kind to Yourself
- What You Need to Do when You’re Stressed about Money
- How I Failed as a Mom… and Why It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought
Tell me in the comments: What are your best tips to overcoming obstacles in life?
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