Obstacles: Our Best Motivators

Author: © 2007

Why is it that some people see obstacles around every corner no matter how well they have planned to succeed? And, why is it that other people confront obstacles along the way but are able to move over, around or beyond them with little or no difficulty? Is it that those who are able to overcome roadblocks or setbacks are just plain lucky?

We All Have Our Challenges
I'm convinced that every person reading this article has at one time or another met a challenge that seemed insurmountable on their path forward. I'm also convinced that some of you were able to break through these problems without much effort while others struggled but were finally successful. And, I know that for some people that an obstacle defeated not only your path forward in a particular situation but this singular defeat has had an everlasting impact in your life. This everlasting impact means that you have never tried to move forward in anything new or different again.

Peter's Situation
Let's take a page from Peter's (not his real name) life as an example. Peter attended a local high school and obtained high enough marks to go on to college. He had a desire to obtain a college degree so that he could comfortably settle into a career in his home town.

When he finished his college, he immediately applied and was accepted by a local company that had been established in the town for years. It appeared to everyone in town, and to Peter, that this company would continue to prosper for many, many years. In fact, Peter was convinced that he would be able to work for this company for his entire working career and retire with an adequate pension.

To give credit to Peter, he worked hard in his position; he never took sick time that he really didn't need; and, he was always willing to put in extra non-paid time in order to help the company through difficult deadlines. He worked effectively as a purchasing and expediting manager never failing to source materials needed on time and for a fair price.

And, Peter didn't only work hard, he gave back to his community with vigour and dedication volunteering his off work hours for many charitable causes and organizations. His hometown sweetheart became his wife; they had two children, and bought a home in town.

With Peter's diligence, work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile, you would think that Peter's career aspirations would end up just as he planned. After dedicating himself to his company for fifteen years, however, his vision of finishing his career with his company was not the case.

We all know that the world of business never remains the same. We all know that what our grandfathers or grandmothers counted on as stable companies where they could work until retirement has long since passed. Small companies are bought out by larger companies often closing the small company within a short time leaving the community with one less business. We also know that businesses change as demand changes for newer, fancier and cheaper products. And, we all are aware that what was once the best, the cheapest has often been replaced by an imported product from another country.

So, where did this leave Peter?

His company was forced to close. It no longer was competitive despite its' employees dedication and strong work ethic. Peter was left in shock that final day when he closed the door to his office for the last time. Now what was he going to do?

Peter scoured every company within the area for a suitable position consistent with his background and experience. After several months of looking for a new position, he couldn't find any comparable job within a twenty mile radius. Sure, there were other jobs around but none that would pay him anything near to his current salary. Their savings were running low.

Peter saw several obstacles that lay before him. One was that there was no local job for him that paid what he had been used to earning; his savings were rapidly being depleted by paying for normal living expenses including paying for his mortgage; and, if he didn't find an equivalent job soon, he may be forced to sell his home.

What Would You Do
Ask yourself this question: what would you do if you were in Peter's shoes? Would you view the loss of your job as an opportunity to find a job that was even better in another town or city; would you search for another career with the realization that you would have to return to school for a short time to acquire the necessary skills; would you take a job in your current town that paid a lot less money; would you start your own small business providing a service that was needed locally; or, would you slump into the "poor me" syndrome by complaining to anyone who would listen that the global economy that forced your company to close has doomed you forever.

Obstacles are not insurmountable barriers unless you believe that this is the case. If obstacles prevent you from moving forward then you are falling into a trap - a trap that will keep you down.

Step Forward
Obstacles, when viewed in a positive light, are simply stepping-stones on the journey to success.

When you think of famous people who could have been stopped in their tracks, there are many examples. But one that always stands out for me is Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb; obstacles became the vehicle to keep trying.

"I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." Thomas Edison

Obstacles can be your launching point to propel you to attain new personal growth, or to gain valuable experiences. To quote Norman Vincent Peale: "In every difficult situation is potential value. Believe this, then begin looking for it."

Your Choice How You See Them
To view obstacles as necessary stepping-stones to gain success, you will start to welcome them, not to spend energy trying to either avoid them, or to mentally suppress them. In our story, Peter had several choices to make. He could identify another career that interested him. He could choose to acquire an additional set of skills that were in demand in his locality.

He could decide to sell his home and move to another town or city where his current skills were wanted; or, he could sell his current home and move into a smaller house, or to a house outside of the town where homes were much cheaper. A less expensive home may allow him to take a job that paid less but paid enough that he could stay within his home area.

Peter had choices to make. He could choose to see the loss of his job as an opportunity for growth or, he could choose to see the loss of his job as the end of the road where mediocrity loomed over him for the rest of his life. The point is this: Peter had a choice. No one forced him to see the loss of his job as a small obstacle to overcome; and, no one forced Peter to take the doom and gloom road either. Peter had the power to choose. So do you.

The only person responsible to see obstacles as a necessity, not a burden, is you. It's your choice. Remember, we all have a choice in every situation we face whether that is in personal relationships or in the work environment.

Judith M. Knowlton put it this way, "I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it's only a choice of attitude."

An Advantage
Turn obstacles to your advantage, and move forward. Find a way to overcome these challenges. As Richard Bach said, "Every problem has a gift for you in its hands."

We are only as limited as those limits we allow ourselves to believe.

Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:
"Each is given a bag of tools, a shapeless mass, a book of rules; and each must make, ere life is flown a stumbling block or a stepping-stone." R. L. Sharpe

"Learn to celebrate your successes and acknowledge your defeats, but then move on to the next opportunity and challenge." Stedman Graham

"The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong." Thomas Carlyle


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