Turn Every Obstacle Into an Advantage
Have you ever had to do something you didn’t want to do, or change your plans because something came up that completely threw you off your game?
Of course you have, life happens! These monkey wrenches, bumps in the road, hiccups, etc. are a part of life; no matter how put together you might be, the person you’re dealing with (let’s say your boss) might be a complete train wreck. Short deadlines, a spur of the moment change in plans – it all completely messes with your ‘ish.
Obstacles are omnipresent; you literally will never be able to avoid them.
I hope that today’s post provokes you to stop and think about what you do everyday throughout the day. Are you present in what’s happening or are you so focused on wishing things were different that you bounce from place to place as if you were someone’s puppet or drone? “Complete this task, move to this one, think about this, worry about that” – it’s insane!
As I said, obstacles are everywhere; you’re never going to avoid them yet so many people spend their whole lives trying to create a lifestyle that prevents them from happening. What if you just changed your perspective, how might life be different?
Perception Is Reality
“I might not have wanted it to happen but I decide how it will effect me” – Hurricane Carter
You’ve heard the cliché “when life give you lemons, make lemonade”, but so often we’re so insistent in trying to avoid the lemons, “I don’t want this, I never asked for that.”
Because we have a negative connection with obstacles – lemons – once one pops up we immediately try to figure out a way to avoid the situation.
Life is what you make of it. Your perception ultimately becomes your reality. If you perceive something to be a negative thing, you will in fact react negatively toward it. But if you view it as a learning opportunity, a chance to better yourself, now your perception has shifted.
This shift in perception isn’t easy, in fact it’s really freakin’ hard. The next time you’re presented with an obstacle try thinking like this…
Steady Your Nerves
Defiance and control is key here. Obstacles are really a matter of acceptance; this has happened, that is a fact. Your reaction to whatever the obstacle will significantly depend on how you perceive said obstacle.
There’s always a counter move and a way through. You have to have the control to navigate your way through the situation.
Control Your Emotions
Picture yourself an astronaut and something goes wrong. You know you can’t just step outside and get a breath of fresh air (you’re in space), you’ve only got what’s inside your spaceship to keep you happy/deal with obstacles, and none of that is going to change – because again, you’re in space.
What happens if you lose your cool? You can’t just radio mission control to bring you back down to earth. As an astronaut, controlling your emotions really becomes a matter of life or death – your survival relies on your ability to emotional control yourself.
Let’s bring it back down to earth; you’ve got a training session scheduled for 5pm but your boss throws a task at you that might make you late. You’ve been looking forward to your training session ALL DAY. Ugh how frustrating!
If you let your emotions get the best of you, you likely won’t be able to focus on the task at hand for another 15-20 minutes, all but guaranteeing you’ll be late for the gym.
What if you stop – take a deep breath and look at this as an opportunity to prove to your boss how valuable you are to the team? You put your best foot forward and actually accomplish the task with enough time to make it to the gym.
Your boss is impressed with your quick thinking and action, you feel good about proving your worth, and you still get your workout on time. Win, win, win!
Alter Your Perspective
At the end of the day how many of the obstacles you face are life threatening? My guess would be not very many. So ask yourself:
- “Am I going to die from this?”
- “Do I need to freak out about this?”
Chances are no, you aren’t and no, you don’t.
Perspective is everything and fear is debilitating and derailing. The power of perspective alters the obstacle and presents you with an opportunity to not only learn, but also maintain control of the present moment.
Steve Jobs says our perceptions ultimately predetermine that which we are and are not capable of.
Change the way you think and obstacles become opportunities to learn and grow, rather than get frustrated and fed up. Problems are precisely as bad as we think.
Prepare To Act
It feels better to ignore or pretend than to deal with the current obstacle at hand. “People turn shit into sugar all the time,” says Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is The Way.
If you’ve taken the first step in turning an obstacle into an advantage (altering your perception) then you have to be prepared to act.
Get Moving. Start anyway, anyhow. Take the bat off your shoulder and swing.
Let’s look at a bigger obstacle; hating your job, not liking where you live. These are things you have 100% control of and therefore can alter.
- “Could I be doing more?”
- “How much effort am I putting forward?”
Perhaps there’s a connection within your current company that could lead you to your dream job. How would you ever know if you came to work everyday hating your job, avoiding communication with everyone, and merely counting down the clock to when you get to go home everyday?
The obstacle, your current job, is presenting you with a door to your dream; you’ve just closed that door because you’re too frustrated and too negative to navigate through it.
Once an obstacle has presented itself, it’s there, it’s happened. It’s up to you to alter your perspective and take action.
The best way out is always through. Don’t let failure stop you. Don’t let external noise rush you. In trying all the wrong ways you’ll end up figuring out the right ways.
Persistence isn’t easy; in fact it’s a lot of work. But it’s not supposed to be easy. There are easier obstacles than others but either way once you successfully navigate through an obstacle you’ve gained experience, you’ve learned, and that new knowledge you can apply to future obstacles.
Obstacles never stop coming, they’re like cars on a busy freeway, there’s always another one coming.
If you make it this far;
- You alter your perceptive
- You take action
- Then you’re bound to fail, and that’s totally OK!
People often don’t hear about successful people’s failures. Like the fact that the man who founded GoPro failed miserably 10 times and was about to call it quits. Then he had the idea to put the camera on a surfboard and boom! – GoPro becomes a multi-million dollar company. One of my old clients in LA who works in the tech industry told me that story.
Failure is what comes before all successes. It has a negative connection, and understandably so. When you fail you have not succeeded, but failure shows us the way by showing us what isn’t the way.
Jeff Sokol has a great quote, “When I compete with myself I either win or I learn, therefore I’m always winning.”
How great is that!
Embrace failure and your successes will likely come more often and perhaps even easier.
Use Obstacles Against Themselves
By now you should be seeing a clear pattern; the obstacles life presents you are actually opportunities to learn and become a better person. That’s not easy to do though, so you might consider trying to abide by the Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
Pretty straightforward advice; when you apply this shift in mindset it becomes a little more obvious that your obstacles are only negative when you allow them to be.
Channel the energy the obstacle presents to actually use it against itself.
Think of the amount of frustration some obstacles may create within you, use it to do something positive.
From a fitness perspective there’s a lot you can do here:
- Sign up for a race
- Master the art of kettlebell training (I’m a little biased)
- Quit your poor nutrition habits and upgrade to better ones
The list could go on and on.
The next time an obstacle presents itself do as Dan John says, “relax and win.” And always…