Life is full of obstacles; it’s why the word ‘can’t’ exists. That four letter word that’s the sign of defeat. I can’t climb that extra mile to the peak of Kilimanjaro. I can’t possibly finish this essay before the end of the day. I can’t finish this flaming hot curry, even though it will make me look a wuss in front of all my friends. We’re faced with them every day. And for the record I did finish the curry, because I am a winner.
Image – Source
Or at least, I was until the following morning. Then the curry was the winner.
But you see, obstacles are not as scary as you think. Of course you could face the repercussions; your legs may burn because of that extra mile, or something else may burn following that vindaloo, but another of those repercussions is the pride in knowing that you did it.
Yes, most of us hate obstacles; they get in the way. But what if you reversed that opinion and learned to love them? In any case, aren’t they what make us stronger?
Think of any iconic figure and they’ll not be great because it was smooth sailing. Far from it; it’s because obstacles made them stronger along the way. Take Michael Oher, Michael Jordan, Barack Obama, Albert Einstein – he didn’t speak until he was four years old!
We should revel in an obstacle put in front of us, love it, and make it our bitch rather than say ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t.’ And here are a number of reasons why you need to welcome them with open arms…
They Show Us Who We Are
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re at your lowest. Whether it be times of loneliness, sadness, heartbreak, and even rejection you can discover what your character is all about.
Image – Source
Oprah Winfrey battled through a heck of a lot on her way to becoming North America’s only black billionaire. She lived in poverty, was abused by family members, and lost a son when she was just 14-years-old. Despite all this she went on to be an honors student in school, and became a hit as a national television star and philanthropist.
The same applies to Oher, who we’ve previously mentioned. The Carolina Panthers Offensive Tackle had a terrible upbringing. His mother was addicted to crack cocaine as well as battled alcohol issues, and his father was a habitual criminal. Oher attended 11 different schools in his first nine years as a student.
He was adopted by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, and transformed his life into a Super Bowl winning hero. That came through a lot of help. The book and film The Blind Side portray that, while I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond, details it further in Oher’s own words.
They Identify A Weakness
Failing can be the single most important thing you can do, as you’ve found your weakness, an area you know you need to improve, whether it be in business, entertainment, or even sports. Take a professional poker player for example. Poker is a game all played in the mind, and a study by PokerStars into the psychology of the game shows how identifying a weakness can really change your results. They found that reflecting on a bad beat or run of bad form can improve your game due to activating the front lobe, known for its rational thinking, and improving decision making – a key skill when it comes to knowing when to hold and when to fold.
And knowing when to hold and when to fold applies to Stephen King, too. His first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times but it didn’t stop the legendary writer from editing and finishing it, beginning a career which has seen him win multiple awards.
It’s something sports coaches do all the time. So why can’t it transcend into our lives? Last season Chelsea FC finished third in the Premier League with 82 points having scored 71 goals. This season they are already on 83 points with three games left, have sewn up the title and bought a striker who has 20 goals to his name as well as signing Cesc Fabregas who has helped bring the best out of Eden Hazard.
And that’s because coach Jose Mourinho recognized his weaknesses. He recognized he needed to find a goalscorer in order to win the title, and that’s exactly what he did.
Of course to combat our weaknesses we can’t throw $48.7 million at the problem, but it’s unlikely we’re going to be chasing Premier League glory either. Targeting our areas of weakness, however, will make us better performers at whatever we do. It may be kicking a ball or it may be improving grammar in articles you write; you too can be the ‘Special One.’
They Toughen Us Up
In life, being mentally tough is much more important than physically. Yes you may be able to lift more and look much more attractive than the opposite sex, but when she breaks your heart for a man who doesn’t get upset watching Up, where are you left? Sitting in the shower, fully clothed, crying like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Image – Source
Of course, that’s a little extreme. But being mentally tough will suit you much better. Looking an obstacle in the face and doing your best to conquer it is a real courage builder. It eliminates the fear of ‘can’t.’ You tackle the situation head on, whether it be looking up to the top of the mountain as you start to climb, or even like King having the toughness to finish a story that has been continually knocked.
If the name Bethany Hamilton rings a bell with you then you have the perfect example. In 2003 while surfing, she had her arm bitten off by a shark. One month later she was back on her board, and two years later, after learning to surf one handed, she finished first in a NSSA National Championships event.
Eric Abidal, the French soccer defender who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2011, is an inspiration not only to soccer players but also to cancer sufferers and people in general. He conquered the obstacle not just once but twice, returning to the game at the top level.
In his first game back after suffering the disease the first time, he returned to play the Champions League Final in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United. For Abidal, he said it was sport which enabled him to fight, with him claiming, “I always had fighting spirit.
“Yes I had the illness but I still had a chance of playing sport at a high level. There are similarities between illness and sport – you can’t get beaten.”
They Help Us Focus On What’s Important
Figuring out which obstacles are worthy of tackling will allow you to reason what’s important in your life. It can effectively turn a mountain into a molehill and make our goals much more manageable.
Image – Source
It’s a way to figure out what we should spend our time on, as after all it’s precious. In turn you’ll find freer time to do things you enjoy, potentially removing other obstacles which had been standing in the way.
To go back to Abidal, returning to sports alongside staying strong for his family were at the height of his focus. He beat the biggest obstacle of all by fighting for what he believed in, claiming, “I told myself even though I was ill I wouldn’t allow myself to get beaten. I said, ‘I am going to fight for myself, for my wife and children, my parents and all the people who surround me.’”
That of course is an extreme, albeit a common one, but even in day-to-day life, pinpointing what’s important in our lives will leave us more focused on achieving success, happiness, and a better life.
They Can Define Our Lives
In all the examples given above, obstacles have proven to be a game changer. Whether it is being bitten by a shark or having a book deal turned down countless times, obstacles have changed people’s lives for the better – in fact, they defined who they are.
Image – Source
Abidal said of his experience, “Cancer has changed my life. I am a better person. I prioritize what is important: my wife, my little girls, my friends, travelling with the family. I just want to enjoy every second.”
Which is incredible. Of course, Abidal was approaching the end of his career and already a multi-millionaire. For others an obstacle is something that can make us more pro-active, get us into a new routine, or reach a goal that will redefine how we live our lives.
In some other cases it can just be an excuse to change our lives. The kick-start we need. And what better time to get started than now?