Life is an Obstacle Course
There are times in life when things just don’t seem to work out.
One thing after another gets in the way of what I planned or hoped to do. Obstacles are a reality of life. They come in many different forms, some external (other people and situations) and many are internal (my thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations). This blog is written from an “I’ perspective and you are encouraged to imagine yourself trying these suggestions. To make this more meaningful – choose a recent obstacle you have faced: My obstacle is…
How to deal with external obstacles?
For example, trying to get everyone somewhere on time. 5 minute warnings sometimes work, but often they don’t. If I get angry and start pressuring everyone to speed up, then their reactions and mine become the new obstacle. It’s better to slow down and figure out why they aren’t ready and what we can do about it rather than yell.
Using your obstacle, take a breath and try to slow down and stay curious about what is getting in the way of resolving the situation in which you feel blocked? What did you discover?
With my partner/co-worker/family/friend, when things don’t get done as I expected, often there has been a communication breakdown so I need to go back to creating a mutual expectation of what is needed by when and how we are going to accomplish this. By refocusing on what got in the way I can be more compassionate to others’ needs too. Try refocusing now on your obstacle and adopt a non-judgmental approach to the problem. Can you find other solutions?
The biggest barrier to addressing obstacles with other people or situations is assuming they should be different than how they are. Energy spent protesting, criticizing or correcting is wasted. A friendly and simple “what got in the way?” has a better chance of shifting things more quickly and successfully. I can always hit the “refresh” button and start over with more understanding and acceptance.
How to deal with internal obstacles?
Sometimes I am upset about something and don’t initially know why. Using my obstacle from above, try to explore “why am I bothered” and connect with the felt sense in my body about it.
By staying open and non-judgmental I am sometimes surprised at what I discover. I might have missed how pressured I was feeling, or how it reminds me of past disappointments, or any number of things. Once I can authentically connect with what the obstacle is about for me, then I can explore “what can I accept and what do I reject about this situation?”.
This helps me communicate my expectations to the other person, but it isn’t just about me - It is important to see all sides even when I disagree – there might be a different way to address the obstacle than the one I had in mind – I’ll never find out unless I explore.
A typical response to not meeting my own expectations of myself is frustration. As someone who has lots to do I find it helpful to ask myself “What do I really want? And what can I really do?” Do this now for my obstacle above.
This helps me to get much more clear and realistic. If the change I want is not within my control then it is not one I can create (for example, see the Avery Blog on Addictions 102 – Loved ones).
It is important to have compassion for myself and others when we face obstacles – there are limitations to what is possible. Even if things don’t work out as planned I can still be grateful for life’s opportunities, including feeling, exploring and finding a way to negotiate over, under or around obstacles.