8 Reminders for Overcoming Obstacles in Life

Are you struggling with a hurdle, big or small? Here are 8 tips for overcoming obstacles in life and getting through these challenges.

Overcoming Obstacles in LifeWe’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 actions can 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 give you the courage we need to walk a new path.

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One of the best books I read was The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday. The book covered many aspects of obstacles, from lessons to learn to finding the will to get through them. I found them 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 wondering how you’ll ever get through this difficult period in your life, remember these eight reminders:

1. Manage your emotions

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 begins 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 a particular challenge go away. But they become facts we can deal with much more clearly.

Another way to remove yourself from the obstacle and be objective? Change your perspective and 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 give is exactly the kind 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—these are the excuses and reasons we’ve all pointed to.

In 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 one. 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. This simple change to a positive mindset can make a difference.

4. Don’t overthink

We worry a lot.

Just compare ourselves to animals and you can see how 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 that she can’t seem to find the right shelter. She simply spends her days finding food and shelter.

It doesn’t mean she’s not hungry or cold, but she doesn’t waste her time thinking about these barriers.

Don’t overthink your predicament, wonder what it means, or proclaim how it’s unfair. 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 do 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.” It’s 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 the 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 another successful person reaching theirs in 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 it 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 on doing it well. Not only are you more likely to give it your all, but you might also do so 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 finishes a task 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 these obstacles 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 realize how small you are compared to the length of time or the number of people or issues we all face.


We’ll all continue to face difficult times and self-doubt—that’s simply part of life.

I’m that person who needs reassurance and a good pep talk to get me through them. You see, I wrote this article not just for others to read but for myself as well. These are the insights I need to keep in mind when adversity comes 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 given you the inspiration to respond to the obstacles in your life and learn the resilience to get through them.

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