This article is meant to revolutionize how you approach obstacles. It will discuss the best way to turn obstacles into opportunities. I practice everything which will be discussed in this article. Doing so has allowed me to release massive stores of reserved creative energy which I can now direct into crafting a life I love. The same can be true for you, when you apply what you learn here.
So what is the best way to turn obstacles into opportunities? In a word: mindset. I will go into what this means in detail and show you the key trait you need to cultivate in order to be able to turn obstacles into opportunities. It’s called Presence.
So read on if you feel this is for you!
Riding Life With Training Wheels
I’m going to tell you a little about myself.
I grew up in Mexico City. My family was upper middle class. We weren’t ridiculously wealthy, but we were comfortable. We always had everything we needed and wanted. In my case what I wanted were video games. I grew up playing tons of video games.
I also grew up going to school. From the time I was a junior high student until I graduated from college I was a straight-A student. I got good grades because I believed that they would secure a great life for me in the future.
Shortly after I graduated from college I realized that my experience throughout school had been like riding the bicycle of life with training wheels. I believed getting a solid schooling was preparing me to succeed in life and achieve my dreams.
Boy was I wrong.
I Walked Into A Trap
In reality, I had been living a lie and had inadvertently walked into a trap. The truth was that the schooling system did next to nothing to prepare me to succeed as an adult in the west. I had been fed a lie, I believed that school was going to empower me to achieve my dreams and live a life of freedom, while being true to myself and my desires.
School merely conditioned me to do the same as everyone else and to be happy with what I got in return. I didn’t learn to expand my potential and reach for the best within me. I learned to settle, to coast by doing the bear minimum while hoping I would arrive at a memorable, original and free life.
The moment I woke up to the lie I had lived throughout two decades of schooling was the moment I realized that there were tremendous obstacles standing in between the life I was living and the life I wanted to live. They were:
- I had no idea what I wanted to do for work.
- I had no skills which could make me the kind of money I needed to live the life I wanted.
- I had very little money and was set to continue having very little money.
We all face our own obstacles. Those were mine.
The life I dreamed about resided at the other side of those obstacles. So I had a choice. I could give up, surrender and attempt to forget living my dream life. Or I could face my obstacles and improve myself to the point where they melted away before me so I could walk right on over and claim the life I knew I deserved.
I chose the latter option.
Obstacles Are Invitations
Obstacles invite us to rise to their level, so we can claim what we want in life. Life puts obstacles in our way so we can figure out how to go around, over, under or through them. Without obstacles, life would be uninteresting. What would be the point of life if it weren’t filled with challenges and obstacles? It’d be boring!
The moment we slam into an obstacle we can be certain of one thing: we are being tested. See, obstacles are only obstacles because they stand in between us and something we want. What we want could be anything; a job, a car, a life of travel, a slice of cake; so obstacles can come in any form; a lack of skills, a lack of money, a lack of time, a physical barrier.
It’s up to us to figure out the obstacle; to use our intellectual and physical capabilities to tease the obstacle apart; see what makes it substantial. What is it about the obstacle that is preventing me from getting what I want? In what way is this obstacle deterring me from my desire?
We all have minds and we all have bodies. We are equipped with these two miraculous things so we may figure out the obstacles which appear in our lives. We are all capable of finding solutions to our problems; the universe is not capricious; it brings into our lives the obstacles we need in order to evolve to our best.
The Power Of Our Mindset
The best way to turn obstacles into opportunities is with our mindset. Our mindset fully determines how we perceive obstacles.
When we see obstacles as insurmountable, immovable, unassailable entities we get discouraged, we lose our faith in ourselves and give up. We can also see obstacles as being unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary. Seeing obstacles that way can frustrate us, anger us and cause us to become bitter and selfish.
But we can just as well perceive obstacles as invitations; as challenges to our mind and body, guardians of the treasure we seek. Instead of seeing obstacles as unfair we can see them as proof that we are moving in the right direction! If we encounter no obstacles in our quest to achieve our dreams then it means we aren’t challenging ourselves enough. We are going for what is easy. And doing what is easy never leads to optimal growth.
President John F. Kennedy said it:
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
“Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills […]” In other words, worthy obstacles demand that we leave everything we’ve got on the playing field of life.
Obstacles Test Our Desire
In 2017 I was attending a chemistry graduate program in California. I was approaching the end of my second year in the PhD program and one of the biggest obstacles faced by an aspiring doctorate student. It was a candidacy exam.
I knew I had to pass the exam in order to continue in the graduate program. I knew it would require hours and hours of careful preparation and meticulous attention to detail. I knew I had to present rock solid evidence that I had the chops to be a doctor in chemistry. Nothing but the best would be accepted.
I did nothing. The obstacle was so great, so monumental, I knew I wasn’t going to surmount it. And this wasn’t because I didn’t have the ability to do so.
It was because I didn’t desire what was on the other side of the obstacle: a PhD in chemistry.
I couldn’t have cared less for it.
So I waited until it was clear that I wasn’t going to prepare at all for the exam. When the deadline was staring me in the face and I felt no compulsion to prepare and no regret for my absolute lack of care, I approached my advisor (my boss) and told her I was leaving.
I didn’t desire the PhD. And my attitude towards the candidacy exam (obstacle) left that as clear as a pond on a midsummer afternoon.
When We Truly Desire Something, No Obstacle Can Stand In Our Way
I read. I meditated. I searched.
And I found it. And now that I have done so, my life has a purpose. A goal. A reason to get up in the morning and work with everything I have to make that dream come true. Want to know what my dream is?
Freedom to live life on my terms. No obstacle can stand in the way of the freedom which is my birthright. Humans are born free; we forget that as we grow up, but we never stop knowing it, feeling it in the bottom of our souls, that we are free. And we are meant to live life freely.
Obstacles Are Mirrors
They reflect who we are and what we want. Oftentimes, we look at our reflection in the mirror of an obstacle and hate what we see. But instead of changing ourselves, we close our eyes and keep pushing, hoping that through all our effort we’ll change the reflection in the mirror.
Changing the reflection in the mirror by manipulating the image is impossible, of course. That doesn’t stop most of us from trying day after day.
Obstacles are tests. And sometimes it’s necessary to fail the test so that we may figure out what it is we desire.
If I had not failed in my task at getting a PhD in chemistry I would have never found a dream which I truly desired to make a reality. If I had been afraid of accepting my failure, of admitting that I had made a mistake in choosing my goal (a PhD), I would have never looked within and discovered what fired my core.
This is why obstacles are opportunities.
If we really want what’s on the other side of an obstacle, we will do whatever it takes to get there. In this way obstacles are an opportunity to grow.
If we don’t want what’s on the other side, then we’ll give up. In this way obstacles can show us what we really want. If we give up, it means we don’t want it. So we might as well figure out what we DO want so we can invest our time and energy intelligently.
Be Present To Obstacles
I encounter obstacles everyday. How I respond to them reflects what’s going on within me. The trait which allows me to respond to obstacles proactively is Presence.
Being Present, aware of what’s going on within us at any given time, allows us to observe how the obstacles we face change us. Does the obstacle make me feel frustrated or excited? If I feel frustrated, how can I change my mindset, so that I can see the obstacle as an opportunity. If I feel excited, I just use the energy to create something, like this article.
When we are Present in our lives we observe things we might otherwise miss, like opportunities pretending to be obstacles. Presence allows us to unlock our choices. It dissolves borders and opens the doors of the imagination.
What Obstacles Are You Facing?
I hope you’ve gained something from reading this article. My aim is to empower my readers so that they can see the opportunities which reside all around them. Every day comes filled with opportunities, the only way we can see them is if we are Present when they present themselves.
Obstacles are life’s way of getting us to grow. They are invitations into the depths of our power. If we fail at conquering an obstacle, it’s because the prize on the other side doesn’t move us. I’ve been there. It’s scary to accept that what we thought we wanted may not be what we actually wanted. It means we made a mistake, we didn’t know ourselves as much as we thought, and we have to start over.
The choice of whether continuing to work at an obstacle or giving up to find a worthy goal is up to each of us. Only we can make that choice for ourselves. After all, no one else is you, only you are you and only you can know what you truly want.
And how do you discover what you want? By trying, failing and looking inwards. That’s how it worked for me, at least. So I believe that’s how it could work for other people, too.
So what obstacles are you facing? I’d like to know! Leave a comment below!
To our wealth and success.