“Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.” – Ben Carson, Gifted Hands
In his book, Meditations, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius declared, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” He was referring to the obstacles which stand in the way of success to reveal the path ahead. Consider the following fable to underline this ideal.
Two identical acorns from the same oak tree are planted in distinct locations. One is grown in the middle of a dense forest while the other on a steep hill by itself. The oak on the steep hillside is exposed to frequent storms and fierce gale winds. As a result, its roots plummet deep into the earth spreading in every direction, enfolding giant boulders to secure its position. While the tree isn’t growing fast enough, the growth is occurring underground. It is as though the roots know they must protect the tree from the threatening elements by positioning itself firmly beneath the soil.
The acorn planted in the forest becomes a weak, frail sapling having to compete with other giant oaks for nutrients and space. Since protected by neighbouring trees larger and stronger, the little oak does not see the need to spread its roots for support.
Obstacles compel you to turn your weaknesses into strengths, instead of cowering from them as many people do. They exist not to be surrendered to but to be overcome, for in overcoming do we gain the inner conviction and resilience to succeed. Obstacles illuminate the path to success by exposing challenges in which to overcome, thus ensuring victory is attainable. They are goal-posts leading you towards goal achievement.
Consider your most recent motivation to pursue a goal. What obstacles became clear to you along the way? How did you overcome the obstacle? What insights did you gain? For several clients whom I have worked with over the years, the single biggest impediment to success occurs months into their wellness campaign. Enthusiasm gives rise to unforeseen obstacles which impose upon their success to lose weight or improve their health. Yet contained within each obstacle, a renewed optimism to gain valuable lessons and key insights is made.
Obstacles highlight limiting beliefs or neglected emotional conflicts, which need your attention if you seek to meet success. It is the opportunity to reconcile with facets of your character opposed to the obstacle. Take for example the fear of success, which cripples individuals well before they set out towards pursuing their goal. By attending to your fears before realising your achievements, you are better suited to savour the victory when it arrives. A successful person inundated with fear is no more successful than the sum of his fears, looming over him akin to a dark cloud.
“Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.” – Muhammad Ali
Obstacles reinforce a resilient mindset by allowing us to develop mental fortitude, mainly when victory is attainable. It underscores the person you have become in light of the obstacles faced. Comparable to the acorn tree roots plummeting deep into the earth, life exposes weeds from our psyche if we stay attentive to the lessons learned. Thus, obstacles serve as necessary mental and emotional growth. To highlight this idea, authors Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske state in their book, The Winner’s Brain, “Resilience and Motivation are two of the critical abilities for which Winner’s Brains are wired.”
Obstacles may be regarded as a transitory state, yet your thoughts relating to the obstacles may become permanent. In his book, Falling Into Grace, author Adyashanti asserts, “when we believe what we think, when we take our thinking to be reality, we will suffer.” In light of this, obstacles are not the cause of your problems. Your reaction to the obstacles which highlight an error in your thinking is what needs your attention.
It is vital to appreciate that nothing is fixed nor permanent. Life is subject to change and fluctuations, which rise and fall in line with the seasons. Every so-called problem contains the seed of opportunity and the womb of creation. If we stay attentive to the underlying lessons, we transform the experience into personal triumph.
Your obstacles give way to fundamental lessons and breakthroughs since they reinforce vital clues leading to success. Every attempt to overcome an obstacle strengthens a pathway to success. It is not in overcoming the obstacle we prevail. It is by being observant to the lessons conveyed on account of the obstacle, that we gain valuable insights.
As you reflect on your recent challenges, pause for a moment to consider the lessons gained to overcome them. Contemplate your answer to the following question, “What does the greater intelligence within me seek to learn from this experience?” There is always a greater lesson vested in the personal discovery of a gift you are yet to harness.
As you awaken that potential, the path toward success is illuminated.