Ob∙sta∙cle: that which stands in the way of, opposes, holds up, obstructs or hinders progress.
Synonyms: barrier, block, obstacle, obstruction, hindrance, impediment and snag. All of these nouns refer to something that prevents action or slows progress. Obstacle applies to something that stands in the way. An obstruction makes passage or progress difficult. Barrier suggests obstruction that confines or prevents exit or entry. Block suggests obstruction that effectively prevents all passage. Hindrance and impediment interferes with or delays passage or progress. A snag is an unforeseen or hidden, often transitory obstacle.
As we previously discussed (July 2013 issue of DERMASCOPE, Part VI Initiative), the ability to choose motivation, goals, priorities, plans and organization are consistent with the habits of leadership. Once we begin to apply leadership, we give new levels of consideration to responsibility. One of the responsibilities of leading is being prepared. In order to achieve long-term goals, it is necessary to apply discipline, determination and strategy within each step. These personality characteristics are choices that, when repeated, become developed skills. They are not only required to consistently accomplish intended goals, even more so to contend with the many unintended obstacles that will arise. We must be prepared and anticipating. But remember, these obstacles are not always just obstructions. Sometimes they create a detour to a necessary resource and/or may provide the opportunity for adjustments we need to progress.
“The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.”
While inspiration can often be the catalyst toward a goal, it seldom carries us through the most difficult parts of the journey. The good news is that humans have unique developmental skills available to conquer problems and to achieve goals. Natural selection determines that those who overcome more obstacles, adversity, and are better adapt to their environment, grow to become the strongest of the species. Throughout history, this strength has been primarily physiological but, in the last few hundred years, intelligence has proven invaluable in overcoming primal strength and developing our modern society. Modern society requires evolved skills to adapt.
Take technology for instance. Those learning to use technology at an early age adapt much easier than those who are adopting it as a new and/or replacement skill. This is partly based on the higher developmental skills in a younger person but the deficit is clearly increased by the need for adaption by the elder. Our very growth, evolution and happiness depend on adaptation and the continued development of skills. For better or worse, these skills are measured in our results. After resourcefulness, evaluation, discipline and resolve are the primary choices (developed skills) that overcome obstacles and adversity. This may seem ironic since most people are resolved to avoid change. Indeed, change and evolution are the very essence of life.
While this entire conversation is easier said than done, it still deserves saying; to seriously pursue our potential, we must hunger for what we want. Desire is not enough to manifest our goals. Strategy, resolve and discipline should precede every action. Our self-imposed motivation must compel us to take responsibility for executing our plan and doing all we can to overcome every obstacle that develops. We must step up to each obstacle resolved to seek a way through or around it until a solution is found. We must develop this attitude of resolve and be able to maintain an emotional sense of urgency through completion. Within our priorities, we must be willing to commit whatever resources are necessary. The degree to which we manifest reflects the degree to which these goals are indeed our priorities.
“An excuse becomes an obstacle in your journey to success when it is made in place of your best effort or when it is used as the object of the blame.”
Distraction occurs when our attention is divided between our chosen objective and the source of our distraction. Distraction is caused by: the lack of ability to pay attention; lack of interest in the object of attention; or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions come from both external and internal sources. Modern society suffers from more distractions than ever before. I recently read that the average worker gets distracted every three minutes and requires several more minutes to get their focus back on the objective. If this is even partially true, it suggests minimal application of potential resources and low productivity levels providing extremely diminished potential returns. Distractions are very much a part of our lives and must be treated as obstacles to our goals. This is an area where I am constantly tested. Discipline is my only remedy.
Most obstacles seem challenging upon first meeting but, if we greet them showing our patience, discipline and resolve, most tend to give way under pressure. Which brings me to my next point: humans have a unique ability to rationalize and justify. While these developed skills provide a great purpose in our lives, they can also make it easy for us to find, and manifest, obstacles outside ourselves to focus cause and/or blame upon. While those obstacles often do exist, there also exists many simple ways around them. It is often our own behavioral habits or choices that obstruct our progress. After all, we are the common denominators in all of our challenges. Again, the only remedy is discipline. We have to reaffirm our priorities and convince ourselves to cooperate.
“Happiness is dependent on self-discipline. We are the biggest obstacles to our own happiness. It is much easier to do battle with society and with others than to fight our own nature.”
To put it simply, it requires a great deal of maturity to develop the ability to evaluate ourselves with the same critical standards that we impose on the world around us. This kind of truth comes hard, but finding it is very liberating and empowering. Truth liberates us from the rationalizations and justifications that allow us abundant reasons why we do not succeed. While many of these reasons have basis in reality, rationalizing and justifying them distract us from finding our way around them. And, these reasons often have more to do with our perspective or discipline than some outside force, barrier or impediment that would deny our success. Justifications chip away at our resolve and distract us from the opportunities that remain available. The solution is to focus on what we want to happen.
“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures.”
Used creatively, visualization is a key ingredient in success. Being able to see what we want with clarity makes opportunities to realize our goals more obvious and abundant. I like to think of visualization as attracting and expending positive energy toward my goal. Applying confidence, energy and resource becomes much easier when you see what you want. By the same consideration, focusing on what we do not want can become a consuming distraction. In these thoughts, we attract and expend energy toward what we do not want. An affirmative visualization process is a key to optimal performance in sports. All professional athletes have years of developed skill, discipline and determination toward the same goals. The greatest of them win consistently when they focus on the objective rather than the obstacles and distractions. Skill, discipline and resolve get them through the obstacles but the ability to visualize and stay focused on the objective makes them consistent winners. Champions block out distraction and visualize the result. Then, they carry out the actions required to achieve the result.
“Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture. Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.”
Norman Vincent Peale
This exercise will either become second nature or a great challenge. Like all challenges, it can open doors in your life. Sometimes there are things behind those doors we do not want to seek the truth in. But, in truth we find freedom. Only you can decide what you are ready for. Set aside a half hour or more where you will be undisturbed. Spend 15 or 20 minutes reviewing recent goals and/or plans that you have made. Reflect on why you have these goals. Think about the level of motivation you are willing to commit to achieve these goals. Visualize yourself having achieved the goals. Sit in front of a mirror and look at yourself the way you would look at someone else… straight into your own eyes. Ask yourself what you could do to further your progress. What resources do you have available? What efforts could you provide? And finally, do these questions strengthen your desire and resolve or diminish it? Keep your eyes fixed, looking inside yourself. Now, critique yourself the way you might critique a peer. Critique yourself as a subordinate. Ask yourself how committed you are. What are your priorities? Is this what you really want? If not, what do you want? If so, what can you do to become more committed – more organized – more resourceful? Have a meaningful conversation and become familiar with looking inside. Practice critiquing yourself with constructive criticism. If you seek, you shall find.
I do not intend to suggest that we should set goals and blindly push forward toward and through any obstacle that we encounter. To do so would lack strategy and adaptation. It would also likely leave valuable opportunities unused. Indeed, strategy and navigation are an important part of every plan. Next month, to close our series, we will discuss Navigation. This invaluable tool not only provides the coordinates to stay on course but helps us make the necessary adjustments from the obstacles that detour our journey.
William Strunk is the publisher of DERMASCOPE Magazine, founder of WES Publishing Co., founding partner with Avalon Media Group and a partner with the International Congress of Esthetics & Spa. As an entrepreneur for over 30 years, an author and lecturer, Strunk conducts motivational seminars and results oriented workshops on successful business practices. Having started his first business as a teenager, he shares successful behavioral practices that are not taught in business schools. Rather, learned from a lifetime devoted to motivational training and developing relationships with hundreds of other successful entrepreneurs.