Obstacles to Your Success
by Vincent Mancarella
So what do you know about obstacles? I want you to take a moment and really solidify in your mind all that you know about them. What do they mean to you? How do you handle them? Are you an “Oh, forget about it, it’s too hard,” kind of person? Or perhaps you are a “Keep your eye on the prize,” sort of go-getter. Well, no matter how obstacles effect or don’t effect your life, you are about to have all your preconceived notions blown out of the water. Now that you have the idea, clearly in your mind, of what an obstacle is, you can throw it out with all the rest of the disempowering garbage you have up there in that brain of yours.
I promise you that after you read this you will never look at an obstacle the same way again. And I’m not talking about changing problems to “synergistic challenges” either. This isn’t another Corporate-ese word play to make yourself feel better or to put a positive spin on those things that are getting in your way. This is about discovering what “obstacles” really are and how they not only can be used to create success but how they are an absolute necessity in developing lasting success in whatever you are trying to accomplish.
Let’s get right to it, shall we? First, what is an obstacle? Well, by definition an obstacle is simply something (or someone) that gets in your way when trying to get something. But is that really what an “obstacle” is in our lives? Could it be that what we call obstacles are actually guides, signposts the universe provides for us to show us the way to success?
You see, if you pay close attention (and sometimes not so close attention) Life will teach you everything you need to know. For example, you can read books about the dangers of fire, you can ask people what their experience of it was and you can even attend Fire University where the Dean of Students, Smokey the Bear, will teach you every single factoid about fire that exists. Or you can put your hand in an open flame and learn everything you need to know about what fire is capable of doing in about 5 seconds.
This is called Experiential Learning. It may be less effective in Theoretical Mathematics but even children learn this way and the tuition is much cheaper. Most importantly though is that nothing is more effective. We hope we can learn from the success and failure of others and we hope that our children won’t have to go through some of the hardships and heartbreak that we had to endure. And, in fact, there may be quicker, safer ways of learning, but nothing is as effective as Life.
Another benefit of experiential learning is that the universe has an infinite amount of patience and will teach you the same lesson, over and over again, tirelessly, until you finally get it. It really doesn’t mind at all. So, if you should forget what fire does, all you have to do is put your hand back in that flame and Viola! It will all come rushing back to you, this time in probably less than 5 seconds.
So what does all this have to do with obstacles? Well… everything. Obstacles aren’t actually obstacles at all. They are not things that get in your way. They are simply experiential learning. They are signposts the universe is giving you to not only help you succeed but to ensure your permanent success, should you choose to listen.
I’m sure you’ve heard the advice that says not to focus on your obstacles. If you do you’ll forget about the goal you set out to achieve and suddenly the obstacle will become the new goal. You’ll get stuck in your tracks. There is much truth in this, but as with everything in the “bottom line” mentality of America this is often misconstrued to mean that we should just plow through the obstacles. Put your head down and do whatever it takes to get to that goal. However, without learning the lesson the obstacle is there to teach you, you will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. And it’s very likely that you won’t succeed, or if you do, it won’t be lasting. Therefore, it is important to take a look at the obstacles that come up, no matter how big or small. See the wisdom they have to teach you, and then move on.
Another brilliant aspect of Life’s lesson plan is that, often, the lessons you need to learn to succeed in one area of your life are usually the lessons you need to be successful in other areas. As they say, how you do anything in life is how you do everything. And if you simply follow the curriculum Life has created for you, if you follow the obstacle ‘signposts’, one at a time, it is only a matter of time until you have the success you desire.
Take weight loss, for example, a pretty common goal for many of us. Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds but don’t have the slightest idea of how to begin. Well, I’d say your first obstacle is a definite lack of knowledge. This is where we lose most of you. You say to yourself, “I don’t know and I don’t want to seem stupid, so I’ll just keep my mouth shut… except to eat of course.” But for many of you, you overcome that first hurtle without even thinking of it as an obstacle. You go to a gym, you buy yourself a book or sign up with a weight loss program. You educate yourself on how to lose the weight. Congratulations, you easily hopped over obstacle #1 and learned that you needed more education. Or very simply, life said, “Hey, if you want to lose weight you’re going to have to get educated first.” And you listened!
So you get excited for the first week, determined to lose that weight. But then, disaster strikes. The next week comes and you get busy, too busy to workout, too busy to prepare the right foods to eat. Well, welcome to obstacle #2. This one is a little tougher to overcome. But it is an essential piece of the puzzle. You see, Life, through Experiential Learning, is telling you that your habits and ways of living do not support your weight loss goal. And they definitely won’t give you any kind of lasting success.
You are not a victim of “not enough time.” You are a victim of your own time prioritizing and life has come to give you the message. If you are serious about losing weight then, not only are you going to have to exercise and eat better for a while, but you are going to have to change the very way you live your life. You are going to have to create the time to exercise. You are going to have to make the effort to eat differently. The difficulty you feel is the discomfort of changing those habits. You can change slowly or all at once, which ever one works for you, but if you don’t change, you can bet that you will be back to where you started in a very short period of time. So in effect, this “lack of time” is not an obstacle. This moment of discomfort, of apparent failure, is not getting in your way, it is actually showing you the road to success.
Let’s say another obstacle you come across in your quest for the perfect body is a lack of discipline. “It’s just too haaaaaaaaaaaaaaard.” Well, once again, life is teaching you, that if you want permanent weight loss, you will have to learn some discipline. If you don’t learn to create some discipline in your life, then you might succeed initially but you probably won’t sustain the success. And, as we said before, how you do one thing is how you do everything. So take a look at the rest of your life. Where is your lack of discipline getting in the way of achieving happiness in other areas? It’s like following the Yellow Brick Road to Oz.
Applying this view to another common goal of the average American we can see that it works just as well. Everybody wants to be rich. I’m not talking comfortable here; I’m talking Rich Dad, Donald Trump wealthy. But don’t you think if your habits were the same as Bill Gates you would already be a billionaire philanthropist too? We’ve all heard the story of the person who wins the lottery or inherits a large fortune only to be broke within a year. Why is that story so common? Why do so many people seem to piddle away their jackpots? It’s because their habits and ways of living don’t support having all that money. They don’t know what to do with it except to do what they did with the rest of their money. Spend it!
So along the way, they would have come across several obstacles, several moments that the universe said, “Hey, you might want to take a look at this if you want to keep that money.” But they didn’t, and so… they didn’t. Maybe you never won a jackpot or inherited a small fortune, but how many times have you looked back on your life and thought, “If only I had known then, what I know now…” Take another look back and see where Life was trying to show you that, trying to teach you through the signposts of your obstacles.
Another obstacle we commonly run into is what I like to call the “head in the brick wall” message. We’ve all been there. You know the one I mean. It’s where you keep trying to do something and no matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to get it done. It’s as if the entire universe is conspiring against you.
I remember, once, I was trying to wade through a mountain of technical manuals I “had to” read for a job I was doing. I didn’t like it at all, I didn’t want to do it and it seemed that every time I sat down to read them something would come up so I was forced to put the books down and attend to the immediate problem. When I told a friend of mine the difficulty I was having he said, “Yeah, I don’t know why you would be having so much trouble reading the books when you don’t want to learn the information, you don’t like the subject matter and you don’t particularly like the job you are doing!”
I thought about it for a bit and realized he was right. So I decided not to read the manuals and, you know what, not only did I feel liberated but as it turned out I didn’t really have to read the manuals to accomplish the job anyway. I had gotten so fixated on the manuals as the only way to go that I hadn’t stopped to look at other options.
That’s why it’s called the “head in the brick wall” obstacle. If you are trying to knock down a brick wall by hitting it with your head, you are only going to give yourself a headache. And the more stubborn you are or determined to take that wall with your noggin’ the worse the pain will be and you still won’t be any closer to your goal. Those headaches are Life’s way of saying, “You might want to consider another way or maybe even bag the whole idea because it’s not really going to get you to your goal anyway.” This is intelligent experiential learning because, by stepping back and gaining some perspective you get to see the futility of your actions and change them to better serve your success – a perspective gotten, not through intellectual analysis but simply by observing the obstacles that came up.
So as you can see, you can literally follow the path of your obstacles all the way to your eventual success. By examining the lessons Life has come to teach you, you will be learning all you need to know to succeed at your endeavor. Remember, the universe is always routing for your success and is constantly trying to help you along the way. Life’s help may not always feel very comfortable in the moment but neither does reading a sign for your exit off the highway after you missed the ramp! You can get mad and throw things, feel sorry for yourself and do whatever else you want, but if you don’t heed the sign and adjust your course accordingly, you will never get to where you were going. Think of obstacles as nagging co-pilots who are telling you, “You missed that exit.” It may be annoying to hear, but they are only trying to help.