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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

O is for Overcoming Obstacles

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Limitations mostly exist in our mind and are a product of our thoughts often resulting from fear of change or the unknown or the fear of making mistakes.

Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you.” Mary Kay Ash

Accepting restrictive thoughts leads to the opposite of a growth mindset and reduces our capacity for resilience and flourishing.

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Changing our perspective on obstacles

“Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities”.

Terry Josephson

Obstacles are often described in a negative light, as stumbling blocks on our journey that have the potential to hinder or prevent us from reaching our goals, but what if we can reframe our perspective and see obstacles as stepping stones that help us to be honest with ourselves and face our true selves? When we reach this point we have the starting point to face what is in front of us using our current strengths and weaknesses and are in a much better position to see clearly and make informed choices about what and how to overcome any obstacle.

“We all have limits. Some are self imposed or imagined. Others are real and limit us from achieving certain things. It’s important to identify the difference” Whitney Gaffari

Every situation comes with a solution but if our goals do not lie within our physical capabilities (or potential capabilities with effort and work) we are setting ourselves up for frustration. Even at this point, however, we still have the potential to achieve our desire by soliciting help from others.

“Values are important because they can guide you and motivate you through situations where your feelings might lead you off course. Acting in accordance with your own deepest values is inherently satisfying and fulfilling – even though it often forces you to face your fears.”

Russ Harris

We also need to be clear about our values and what we want to achieve and the methods that we are prepared to use. If our goals do not align with our values they will create a dissonance in our lives.

Values make life worth living; they help us overcome challenges when life is difficult. In Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” the author describes how the ones who survived the concentration camps were not the fittest, but those most connected to life.

The recurring refrain of the book is based on Nietzsche’s words:

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Viktor Frankl speaks about his own ‘whys’ and how they helped him endure his situation – Love, Work and Dignity in suffering

As we overcome the obstacles in our lives it enhances our abilities and resilience. As we work through our difficulties we grow in understanding and confidence and this helps us progress further.

Obstacles give us the opportunity to focus positively on possibilities and potential and be creative in our thinking rather than having a fixed mindset. With patience, persistence and creative thinking we can reframe our outlook to looking outward not inward when working through our lifetime experiences.

We can rise above our obstacles by lifting others. Obstacles can help us find our purpose and also discover a greater meaning beyond our own current experience when we learn to reframe our perspective, practice gratitude and look outwards.

In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Viktor Frankl argues that we are not bound to our environments and we always have a choice despite our circumstances. Our environment can be a determiner of our actions but it is not fate; there are always opportunities within our limitations.

“The experiences of camp life show that man does have a choice of action. There were enough examples, often of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be overcome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.” VF

So how do we change our thinking about our strengths and potential capabilities and overcome the obstacles we perceive before us?

Look at where your limiting thoughts come from

“Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without, bur falsely identified as lying within.” Stephen Jay Gould

Stepping back and questioning where our ideas and beliefs about ourselves is essential. It is too easy to simply make assumptions or accept the limiting beliefs others project on to you based on their own feelings of inadequacy or lack of confidence.

Where did I learn this? Don’t live under the shadow of other people’s baggage

What unhelpful patterns of behaviour are currently limiting me ? Can you feel a dissonance between what you think and what you intuitively feel ?

Who am I? What are my values? What do I now chose to believe myself?

What changes are necessary to reinforce my own beliefs?

Rather than continuing to adopting others’ limits or understanding that we have grown up with, we have more of a chance to live a fuller life if we question how we have arrived at our own habits, making changes where necessary and having the courage to rely on our own intuition.

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

Look at what is holding you back practically

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Michael Jordan

What is holding you back ? Is it lack of knowledge or experience on a subject ? Is it time, energy or finance-related ?

What steps can you take to adjust the balance in your life to reduce your limiting factors?

e.g. If it is a lack of time, spend some time looking at how you actually use your time.

Do you use your g.a.s.h. moments effectively ?

“Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our confidence in ourselves is shored up by developing a sound base of knowledge and understanding through lifelong learning and using defusion to relate to our thoughts in a more helpful way.

“The limit of your present understanding is not the limit of your possibilities.” Guy Finley

Pay attention to your habits.

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going”. Jim Rohn

A habit is defined as a way of behaving that starts as a choice, and then is repeated so often that it becomes an almost unconscious pattern. Our brain likes to save energy and will opt for what is familiar.

When we first do something new, it requires a lot of concentration and brainpower, but as we repeat a task it becomes easier and the mental energy that we require to perform a task decreases significantly. This process is called ‘chunking’ and we rely on these ‘chunks’, that are the root of our habits, unconsciously every day.

The mind is a powerful tool and it can hinder us or helps us. Our brain undergoes changes with or without our conscious knowledge so it is important that we control and set the direction for these changes.

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

Change your focus and practise Kaizen

When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change” Wayne Dyer

We can overcome obstacles when we change our perspective, act with deliberate determination and intentionality supported by the practice of Kaizen to achieve our value-based goals.

“Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day”. Jim Rohn

By focusing on what we can control and breaking a task down into small steps we don’t become daunted by the magnitude of the task in front of us.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein

There will always be distractions to achieving our goals but if we plan ahead and are aware of the things that are holding us back then we can design a new reality.

How many excuses do you make throughout the day as to why you don’t have the life you want ?

By changing the narrative we can overcome obstacles and create the future we want.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” Tony Robbins

We are the only person that can limit ourselves. By changing our focus to the positive and perhaps reflecting on role models we will be able to ‘up our game’ and can then become our own role model for our future self.

Use Pearson’s Law to help you

“When performance is measured performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates”

Quantification is critical to our success in overcoming obstacles. If we plan and track our progress and have valued and trusted people to be accountable to and to encourage us we are more likely to stay on track and succeed.

How often have you set goals for yourself that you have forgotten about or given up on?

When we are honest with ourselves, allow ourselves to be vulnerable and drop our masks, the encouragement and support of others can positively impact our ability to overcome any obstacle.

There is only one real limit to our lives

“We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death.” Umberto Eco

By reframing our perspectives and responses to the challenges we face we have the capacity to live a full and meaningful quality of life and are in a better position to be there for others and contribute positively to the world.

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” Molière

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