Are you struggling with an obstacle, big or small? Here are 8 tips to overcoming obstacles in life and getting through the challenges.
We’ll all face obstacles throughout life, to varying degrees. And these days, it seems much more than ever.
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 actions will reflect the severity of the obstacle, one this is certain: we can overcome it.
Often, overcoming obstacles 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. But 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 in life to show you a new path.
8 reminders to overcoming obstacles in life
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One of the best books I read was 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 so much that I thought I’d share the top eight I learned here with you.
If you find yourself struggling with overcoming obstacles in life, remember these eight reminders to get you through it:
1. Manage your emotions
I read and watched the movie The Martian, all about a fictional astronaut stuck on Mars. I remember telling my husband that I couldn’t understand how the character remained so calm even as he realized he was stuck on a planet all alone. I didn’t think anyone could be that collected in such dire circumstances.
Then, as I read The Obstacle Is the Way, I learned that NASA staff and astronauts are actually trained to control their emotions, especially in crisis mode. No matter how bad the situation or the 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, lose hope, or can’t think clearly. But it’s exactly during an obstacle that we can’t afford to panic.
How can we manage our emotions? One of the best ways is through logic. We can 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 hypothetical “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.
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2. Be objective
Think about the last time you were overcoming obstacles in life 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 the empty bank account.
But what if we removed ourselves from those statements? They might sound more like:
- “This month, there’s $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 and pretend it’s not happening to you. You’d never tell a friend, “You’re so broke, you have no money.” Instead, the advice you tell her is 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, you can’t do anything to change direction. As much as you wish, you can’t change the landlord from raising the rent or prevent your child from ever having a meltdown.
But what if you could find things you can change within those obstacles?
You can’t change your boss’s personality, but you can list the things you’re grateful for at your job. Perhaps you’ll 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 they currently do.
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 she doesn’t have enough food, or why it’s not fair she can’t seem to find the right shelter. She simply spends her days finding that food and shelter.
It doesn’t mean she’s not hungry or cold, but she doesn’t waste her 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.
As Holiday writes in The Obstacle Is the Way:
“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 you 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 the 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 think, especially when we face obstacle after obstacle. We 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 not give our all to 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 much bigger than yourself.
Think about how overcoming obstacles in life can be an opportunity to make an impact on people. Focus on causes you care about, or issues much bigger than yourself. You won’t feel so alone. You’ll realize how small you actually are compared to the length of time or the number of people or issues you face.
We’ll all still continue overcoming obstacles in life.
I’m that person who needs reassurance and a good pep talk to get me through them. 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.
To start, learn to control your emotions to help you think clearly. Be objective about the situation instead of taking it personally. Focus on what you can change, and avoid overthinking your circumstances too much.
Learn from your mistakes, and be persistent in reaching your goals. Do the job well, no matter how small. And lastly, focus on something bigger than yourself—this gives you purpose beyond the small circle you find yourself in.
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:
- 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
- The Best Baby Sleep Books for Exhausted Moms
- When You Don’t Have a “Village”: How to Take Care of Twins Alone
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