Obstacles are everywhere. Exemplified by one of my favorite quotes:
“Be kind to those around you, because you never know what they are going through,”
The quote strikes a chord with me. We all struggle, all the time. While I can’t pretend to know what obstacles anyone faces, the quote implies, it’s certain obstacles is being faced. It’s helpful to have a strategy to overcome obstacles when we see them approaching. I use the below three-point process when I find myself in the mud and muck of our daily grind.
1. Don’t run away from obstacles:
Growing up we moved once or twice every school year. No joke. It was fun to discover what new room waited opposite the mountains of U-haul boxes. But mostly it sucked, being sucked away from friends and routine just to resettle into another. No, I did not grow up an Army brat, despite the many who thought our constant moving stated otherwise. We moved because when obstacles would arise, my Dad seemed just to get going. For many, it can seem easier to jump ship and move on than to face an obstacle outright.
Fast-forward, now with kids to consider, “moving on” dropped from my vocabulary. I have a deep connection to follow through and the ending of seasons on high notes. So instead of run or move, I choose early on, I won’t run away. When faced with obstacles, I explore every option. I work every angle. I keep at it because there is always something to take away from experience. Every day serves its purpose. Through this resolution, I find myself asking the same three questions.
2. Ask yourself these three questions:
One such obstacle came during my career where there existed very little communication, very little support, virtually no resources and certainly no direction. The CFO, Controller, and Accounting Managers had left. I then became an army of one. While I knew the business, I was still discovering what my role should entail. With a new boss and big company environment, I faced one of the biggest obstacles of my tenure.
I spent the next 18 months in a plateau; angry at the lack of resources and training. But my fault or not, I was getting nowhere but behind. Faced with very little momentum and frustration, I asked:
Is it as bad as I think it is?
It’s really easy to jump on the train of negativity and start blaming outcomes on the situation and obstacles at hand. When we do that, we all of a sudden take zero responsibility for any perceived or impending failure. On the other hand, when something good happens, we take all responsibility. We hold to our stance, when things go away, it has nothing to do with us.
Often what we think is bad is just difficult. If we look past the difficulty, we see can start learning and creating action. Doing this, helps us notice what is going right, but also what needs to happen to get the outcome that we desire. Many times it leads directly to the second question:
Is this something I created?
What was my role in this? Was I doing anything that helped to create the environment or situation? Did I help these obstacles grow?
I know this can be difficult to ask. We pride ourselves on calculated risks and responsible steps. But there is almost always something that we did to help matters progress to current status. It takes two to tango. With my above-mentioned scenario, I didn’t connect quick enough with the new boss. Networks become increasingly important, and I had missed my chance to connect. Nor did I readily carry a full load of expectations. Two choices existed. Assume no responsibility and doing nothing. Or accept full responsibility for the outcome and dig in. For a while, I’m afraid to admit I chose the prior rather than the latter and only hurt the situation. When I was done wasting time, I had an even more significant ship to turn around.
Can I avoid this from happening again?
Simply put, what can do or stop doing when faced with obstacles? What can we do personally to ensure this doesn’t happen again – for ourselves, for our co-workers, for our company? What is our takeaway?
Using the same scenario as before, my take away put me back in control. I worked through ways to connect more naturally in social environments. I built what I needed from scratch. And I scoured the internet for examples, ran through endless templates and hours of work before landing on what worked. In the end, I built my role from scratch. I was in the best position to decide what was best for my company. I was in control of my direct contribution and in power of overcoming my obstacles. And the above questions take me through that process. Truth be told, overcoming obstacles isn’t the real promise of the process. The growth is.
3. Stay focused on the end goal:
As I work through issues, it’s important for me to stay focused on what is genuinely promised when we overcome obstacles. So much more is learned through the long stretch of the struggle than in the last moment of triumph. Overcoming our obstacles does not promise fame and fortune. It does not promise we will be the head of the class or the boardroom. But it does promise growth, pride, fulfillment and the ability to bring others to the next level with us. When I don’t focus on the promise, I get sidetracked. I get greedy, selfish, unfocused, anxious. All of which benefits no one. Focusing on the promise instead erases the pressure and judgment for a more efficient and effective learning curve.
I have found in the application of these techniques that we must always be learning. We must strive to make every day serve its purpose, letting nothing happen by chance. Every experience can be used to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, our desires, our strengths, and weaknesses. When we do this, we not only mold ourselves into a more productive and positive version, but we mold the very road we travel into something of benefit instead of defeat.