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Issue 50

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In this issue ~~

* Handling the Obstacles in Our Path

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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Handling the Obstacles in Our Path

No matter how right the path you're on, there are times when things will not go smoothly: That's just the way life is. Achieving your goals may take persistence and resolve, so that you don't get derailed every time something happens differently than you planned and hoped. By anticipating and understanding the obstacles you may encounter, you can prepare to handle them.

There are many types of obstacles that may fall in our way. Some are personal situations that need to be dealt with, and the methodologies will vary with the circumstances. There are also obstacles that are common to all of us. These include:

~ Fears
While some fears are a normal reaction to a real or imminent danger, fears can be an excuse for not confronting situations in which we expect to feel inadequate or humiliated. Fear can become a habitual, automatic reaction to uncomfortable, unfamiliar circumstances. It is a way of keeping ourselves safe, but it can prevent us from taking the risks that make life exciting.

~ Beliefs
We form beliefs from the time we're born. Some serve us, while others limit us. The problem comes when we see our beliefs as factual realities. By identifying our beliefs as such, we can make other choices.

~ Lack of Clarity
With all the choices that life throws at us, we may not know how to wade through them. We get confused, overwhelmed and stuck.

~ Lack of Focus
Even if we can narrow down the choices, we may have so many that we don't know what to focus on first. We end up responding to all the urgencies and distractions, rather than actively choosing where we will put our attention.

~ Lack of Knowledge or Skills
When approaching something new, we may feel unprepared to deal with the additional education that will be required of us. We may feel inadequate to learn new skills. What we're missing may feel unattainable, and we give up before we even start.

As you can see, these obstacles are interwoven, and one can lead to another, until we find ourselves caught up in a downward spiral. But we don't have to let obstacles defeat us.

How we face obstacles can leave us either empowered or hopeless. They can stop us or motivate us. They can discourage us from doing the things we would love to do, or like a dare, a block can bring up our competitive drive to push through and triumph.

It's also helpful to differentiate between real and perceived blocks. If I start ice skating at the age of 40 with the intention of qualifying for the Olympics, that's a real block – even 25 is considered old for that arena. On the other hand, if I decide to start a new business at that age, it may be difficult, but it's doable. I may need to work through the 5 blocks above, but with the proper determination, resources and support, I can do it.

Some other ways we can look at and face obstacles:

~ Punishment / Victim
Sometimes, we hold our obstacles as punishments from God or society, and we feel like victims. Coming from this place will disempower you, and feeling small and weak, you will likely give up on your goal.

~ Lesson / Opportunity
Seeing your obstacle in this way can fuel your determination. If everything was easy, it would all become bland, and you would get bored and stagnate. Blocks force us to go beyond our current capabilities, both inner and outer, and to stretch ourselves, to push the envelope. You can use them as a chance to grow, to become a better, stronger person, to gain coping tools that will serve you in the future and allow you to take on even bigger challenges.

~ Blocks vs. Hurdles
I define blocks as something that completely stops you, and hurdles as something that gets in your way, but that you can "jump." Often, what turns a hurdle into a block is a belief that you can't do it, for one reason or another.

As you work through your obstacles, you can learn and create strategies to help you manage future ones:

~ Get clarity. Write, draw, speak your issues. Work with a friend or coach to pull apart the pieces that are confusing you, and come to a place of clarity. To begin with, make sure you're clear on what your goals are. Fuzzy goals are hard to hit and can leave you confused and frustrated when they don't work.

~ Prioritize and plan. Take your goals and dreams, write them down and prioritize them. Break them down into small steps, and schedule those steps. Take into account deadlines, but be sure to also give priority to the things that may not be urgent, but are important to creating the future you want.

~ Make time. If you don't handle the obstacles now or try to ignore them, they'll just snowball into bigger ones. Better to nip them in the bud.

~ Get help. If you're mired in overwhelm and confusion, don't feel you have to do it alone. Ask a friend or hire a coach to support you in getting clarity or working through fear. Take a class or hire a tutor to learn needed skills.

~ Face your fears. Fears can stop you in your tracks or, at best, slow you down. You can't wait for them to go away on their own -- they won't -- and when you try to avoid them, they only get stronger. By facing them, you learn effective strategies and increase your own power and strength.

Deal with your fear on a daily or hourly basis if necessary. Expand your comfort zone gradually. Create strategies. Breathe. Meditate. Use affirmations to keep you focused. Play music that calms or energizes you. Work with a partner. Do a reality check to see if there's really something to be scared of or if you're terrorizing yourself: If it's real, determine what you can do about it; if not, let it go. Stay focused in the present moment – most of our fears are in anticipation of a tragic future that hardly ever happens.

~ Challenge and change your beliefs. Much of what we take as fact is, in fact, a belief. Check your facts to see if your belief is true -- for you. Don't rely on statistics, as they're often skewed – and besides, you're an individual, not a statistic. Don't buy into what "they say." If a belief is not working for you, change it. Create new beliefs by writing affirmation statements, and then go about proving them.

~ Give yourself permission to dream. Many times, we cut off our dreams by expecting ourselves to know on the spot how to reach them. Achieving a dream is a process that you'll work out over time. All you need to figure out now is the first step, and that will lead you to the next.

~ If you failed at overcoming a particular obstacle in the past, be willing for it to be different this time. You're not the same person you were then, nor are the circumstances the same. There's no reason you can't succeed this time around. And if not this time, the next. Many successful people have left at least a couple of colossal failures in their wake.

As you succeed in moving through an obstacle, you build the confidence to take the next step. You don't have to do it fast, and you don't have to do it perfectly. You can, in fact, learn a lot from your mistakes, so that you deal with future obstacles with more finesse. Look at your obstacles as an opportunity to grow stronger and more competent, and you will be able to embrace them and make the most of them.


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Creative Tip

To get clarity on a chaotic to-do list, try using an Excel spreadsheet or a table in Word. List your tasks and goals in the first column, followed by a column for each coming month (or week if you need to be more specific). For each goal, put a deadline date or an X (or a series of X's to mark out time for a project) in the appropriate column(s). Then, you can rearrange and fine-tune the list as your goals become clearer over time.

 

Wise Words

"It has been my philosophy of life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly."

~ Isaac Asimov, Foundation

"The human capacity to fight back will always astonish doctors and philosophers. It seems, indeed, that there are no circumstances so bad and no obstacles so big that man cannot conquer them."

~ Jean Tetreau

"History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats."

~ B. C. Forbes

"I've been terrified every day of my life but that's never stopped me from doing everything I wanted to do."

~ Georgia O'Keefe

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Bookshelf

(click on the book or tape graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway . . . Susan Jeffers

Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential . . . Charles T. Tart, PhD

cdNoble Heart: A Self-Guided Retreat on Befriending Your Obstacles . . . Pema Chodron (audio CD)

The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life's Inevitable Obstacles . . . Karen Reivich, Andrew Shatte

Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul - Stories of Triumphing Over Life's Obstacles . . . Jack Canfield (Editor), Mark Victor Hansen, Heather McNamara

Getting Through the Day: A Practical Guide to Tapping Internal Resources to Overcome Life's Obstacles Through Imaging and Guided Meditation . . . Nancy J. Napier (audiocassette)

 

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© 2002 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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