Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Life is full of opportunities and obstacles.
Everybody knows that. You’re faced with them every day in the form of achievements at work, delays during your commute, conflicts in your relationships, and successes in parenting - just to name a few.
But have you ever wondered why something that seems like an opportunity to you can appear as an obstacle for someone else? Your history, your experiences, and your successes and failures all play a part in the way you perceive whatever pops up during your day.
Take a second right now and think about how you feel when you hear the words ``obstacle” and “opportunity”. One conjures up stressful feelings like frustration and annoyance (obstacle), whereas the other almost makes you smile when you say it (opportunity). The word opportunity itself has a lot of hope and positive energy around it. Most of us would agree we’d rather face more opportunities than obstacles in our life. But how do we make that happen?
UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
There’s a powerful quote from tinybuddah.com that reads,
“Ironically enough, when you make peace with the fact that the purpose of life is not happiness, but rather experience and growth, happiness comes as a natural byproduct. When you are not seeking it as the objective, it will find its way to you.”
I remember feeling a sense of calmness after reading this. Almost immediately, I felt my view of the world shift.. This brief quote quickly helped me realize that the reason people view things as obstacles versus opportunities is because they’re not seeing the experience as a chance for growth.
YOUR MINDSET MATTERS
It’s truly all about mindset. If you view every situation you encounter throughout your life as an opportunity to grow or an opportunity to experience something new or different, obstacles tend to simply disappear. It might sound too easy to be true, but here’s the key: In order to take something you see as an obstacle and transform it into an opportunity, you need to be able to slow down, take a minute, and understand why you see it as an obstacle.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCE
We’ve all been faced with challenges, conflicts, difficulties, and annoyances, in our lives and we’ve overcome them. Think about a problem you recently solved. Remember that feeling when you were done?Accomplished, proud, powerful? These are all adjectives for things I’ve felt after I overcame an obstacle at work, in my marriage, or with a friend. That’s an important feeling. That’s the feeling you need to remember, to call upon, and harness when you’re faced with something you see as an obstacle. Make that feeling of pride and accomplishment your goal, and all of a sudden, the obstacle has just become an opportunity, and that, my friends, is called growth. Understanding that the purpose of life is to grow and/or experience, is calming, isn’t it? But applying your new-found knowledge will take a little bit of practice.
FIRST AND SECOND REACTIONS
We all are predisposed to react to situations in a specific way based on our life experiences. You can’t expect yourself to control how you react to a situation, because it’s a mindless reaction. But you can have more than one reaction. Your first reaction is your true, mindless, knee-jerk, instinctive, self-preserving reaction. But you get a second chance, where you implement your understanding of the Purpose of Life. Your second reaction can be your mindful reaction.
For example, imagine your boss gives you a totally unrealistic deadline. Your first reaction might be to stress out or feel lost or overwhelmed. That’s normal and completely understandable. But with some practice, your second reaction to your boss’s assignment can alleviate those negative feelings. Here’s how.
CHOOSE TO GROW
First, ask yourself, What are the facts? Regardless of how you view it, the work has to get done by a deadline. You get to make a choice here, as to whether you want to face this as an obstacle or turn it into an opportunity. Now, believe me, I know it would be nuts for me to tell you not to feel stressed, because it’s part of life, but it’s how you respond to that stress. If you choose to understand the purpose of this deadline is to help you grow by challenging you a little bit, or teaching you a new way to get the job done or encouraging you to collaborate with new people, why fight something that will make you better?
CELEBRATING LIFE’S CYCLES
Life is an endless cycle of ups and downs, and we need both. Think about it: The sun wouldn’t be as beautiful and uplifting if we didn’t know what the rain felt like. We need both the good and bad to truly experience everything there is to offer and lead a fulfilling life. You are going to be faced with obstacles and opportunities every day. Ultimately, it’s your choice as to how you respond to them. Do you want to look back on your life knowing you let stress and the fear of obstacles and challenges control you? Or, would you rather look back with pride for not only the opportunities you took advantage of, but also for having the strength and patience to train your mind to live in a way that is in line with your dreams?
The next time you feel the tense, stressful feeling where you are head to head with an obstacle, your challenge is to practice converting it into an opportunity. Don’t let your first reaction dictate your actions, take a breath and think, how can this help me grow or improve my experience of life. Believe in yourself!