Lessons We Learn…. About Obstacles

We all face obstacles in our lives; that something that gets in our way and becomes a roadblock to our journey down a particular path.  Dictionary.com defines an obstacle (n) as “something that obstructs or hinders progress”.  Synonyms would be:  obstruction, hindrance and impediment all of which seem to have a somewhat negative connotation.  In other words, an obstacle is a problem of some sort.  Something that is preventing us from obtaining or achieving something else perceived as necessary or desirable.

But as one 19-year-old observed, “I’ve learned that if there were no problems, there would be no opportunities.”

Well, how can that be?  By definition an opportunity is, “a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances.” (thefreedictionary.com)  Synonyms would be:  occasion, opening, chance or break.  And most of us would perceive getting a break or chance to be a positive thing; that thing which will help us achieve or reach that desirable or necessary end.

In Patrick Lindsay’s book, Now is the Time, he writes that, “The difference between opportunity and obstacle is often just our point of view.  Always keep an open mind, even in the darkest situations.  A change in our vantage point can reveal rich possibilities.”

So maybe that hindrance is our chance; the impediment is the break we have been waiting for.  Perhaps in order to fully realize and appreciate our ‘opportunity’ we have to grow and learn our way through the ‘obstacle’ in our path; the obstacle is the opportunity!

I know, I know, I’m not talking Pollyanna or rose-colored glasses here, but doesn’t the new perspective then give us something to work with rather than rail against?  Perhaps in going through the challenge we learn something new, gain a new perspective, and glean some new understanding of ourselves.

We may learn something that we don’t like which quickly presents us with another opportunity to face down a challenge.

Or we may learn something that gives us strength in moving forward to face the next obstacle.

“I’ve learned that we grow only when we push ourselves beyond what we already know.”  If we never took on the challenge and grew from it, well, we would never grow up.

Do you remember learning how to read?  I don’t really recall the process that I went through, but I do remember that it was a bit of a challenge for me.  I was never in the ‘top’ reading group but don’t think I was really bothered by that.  I believe I was always at grade level but it certainly was something that was a bit of an obstacle to be overcome.  I also remember one teacher taking the time to hook me into a series of books that I enjoyed that eased the burden of that challenge (thank a teacher!).

Now I read a lot!  Overcoming the reading obstacle has allowed me to face down and conquer new challenges.  I read for pleasure but I also read to learn.  Reading allowed me to become a teacher and a nurse.  It allowed me to share stories with my children and help them grow.  It has presented me with many opportunities to learn new things about myself and others.  I’ve even used my reading skills to learn things that I then have to teach to somebody else!  I’m sure there are parents reading this that have found themselves reading about the ‘new math’ so that they could explain it to their children in a language that is quite different from the math language they learned as a kid.

“The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.”  (Don Marquis)  One might be able to say then, that possibly our own biggest obstacle in overcoming our obstacles is ourselves.  We need to get out of our own way!  Maybe that means we need to step-up and say yes to fixing the problem.  Maybe we need to stop complaining about it and just do it.  Maybe we have to take the time to learn something so that we can move forward again.  Maybe it means asking somebody else for some help to get through what we are facing.  But if you never move forward, you won’t reap the benefit of the opportunity presented in the obstacle.

And for goodness sake, let’s stop putting obstacles where there really aren’t any.  How many times have you stopped yourself from moving forward with something that you want or need to do by listing all of the ‘buts’.  ‘I would do this, but…..’  If we always wait for all of the ‘buts’ to get out-of-the-way, we will never do anything.  So, get off of your ‘buts’……

Woodrow Wilson said that, “The only use of an obstacle is to be overcome.  All that an obstacle does with brave men is, not to frighten them, but to challenge them.”

So I say, suit up, put on your swimmies if you have to, and wade right into the next challenge.  You likely will not drown.  If you can take the first step, you will then see the next step appear, and then the next.  You only ever have to take one step at a time but before you know it you will have crossed to the other side, maybe without even getting wet!

Here’s some new math for you:  Obstacle=Opportunity.  That’s math even I can do……

On the journey with you…….Kathy

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