Life hacks

Things to ponder: Obstacles or stepping stones?

Obstacles. We’ve all faced plenty of them throughout our lives – possibly a lot more in the last year. Like most people, I wasn’t particularly fond of obstacles until a few months ago. What changed? I faced one of the biggest obstacles I’ve ever faced at possibly the worst of times – in the midst of a pandemic. It upended the stable, well established life that I was living at the time. Looking back though, that very obstacle turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Enid Blyton captures this quite beautifully in his quote below. Obstacles really can be stepping stones to something good if that’s what we make of them.

Picture of a line of large rock stepping stones across a river is in the background. Text reads 'The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better. Enid Blyton"
Using obstacles as stepping stones – Enid Blyton quote

Biggest obstacles, best opportunities

Our biggest obstacles really shake things up. They push us right out of our comfort zones, which is nerve-racking to say the least. But they also force us to rethink our entire game. That’s why our biggest obstacles are in fact the best opportunities. If it’s a smaller obstacle, chances are we’ll find a quick-fix for it. But the big ones take us right back to the drawing board to redo our game plan – or rather, life plan.

Let me use the obstacle I faced myself as an example. Four months ago, I learnt that my team was being made redundant as part of a large organisational restructure. It had only been 2 months since I returned to work from parental leave, and the announcement was made smack in the middle of the COVID pandemic. It put me through an emotional rollercoaster of fear, panic, stress, anger and worry. I knew it was going to be extremely difficult to find a similar job when the economy was in recession with unemployment rates rocketing. At the same time, financial pressures were rising – my husband and I had a child to care for and a mortgage/ bills to pay. Once I got over the initial shock of it though, it ended up being a great time to really take stock of my life and plan out what I wanted to achieve in the future. For this, I am really thankful because I sort of needed that snap-back to reality to make the most out of my career and life.

Our reaction is the real obstacle

Quite often the real obstacle is not the obstacle itself, but rather our reaction to it. Do you agree? When we face any obstacle it’s natural to feel negative emotions – they are a part of our coping mechanism. It’s the extent of those emotions that we need to keep a tab on and it’s much easier said than done.

After news of the redundancy, there were days that I felt really dark. It wouldn’t have taken a lot to give in it to those feelings. If I did, I could’ve sunk into a sea of anger and sadness and not have made it to the other side.

Being positive at all costs

How can we manage our reaction to obstacles? I’d stay the secret is to be positive – fiercely and with passion. You’ve heard me calling myself an incurable optimist before. That’s because I’m passionate about positivity. It has the power to make or break you in the face of an obstacle. Whatever obstacle life throws at you let Enid Blyton’s words guide you. Laugh at your obstacles and tread on them. Don’t give them the power defeat you because they can’t unless you let them.

The way I see it, being positive stems from building a ‘I can do anything’ attitude. You need to believe that you are capable of getting through the obstacle. That you got what it takes. That will help you get rid of the negative emotions or at least not let them take over. The rest is easy. If you are thinking positive, you are calm and excited for what’s coming. That means you can sit down to come up with a logical plan to spin your obstacle into a pathway to something better.

Embracing the support network

It’s not easy facing an obstacle. They can be trying times and it’s ok to ask for help – in fact you should. Embrace your friends/ family who encourage, support and build you up. They are true and rare gems. You need them to get through the tough times in facing obstacles. Being able to talk about your feelings itself can take a big burden of your shoulders. And a word of empathy and encouragement at the right time can go a long way.

What you don’t need in a support network are any negativists who only add fuel to the fire. Shun them – please. They will do you no good – not just in facing obstacles but in real life as well.

Never give up

I hope by now I’ve managed to convince you that obstacles can be hidden opportunities. You can use them as stepping stones to go somewhere better. As everything in life, it won’t be easy or quick. So remember to keep your eyes on the prize and never give up. Keep doing what you need to do until you get there. You can do it!

A triangular sign post with an image of a stick-person jumping over a hurdle. Text underneath reads 'Obstacles'

Obstacles are what you make of them. The biggest obstacles are the best opportunities in disguise. As long as you don’t let your reaction become the real obstacle. Stay positive and get excited. Make a plan to use obstacles as stepping stones to a better place. It’s ok to ask for and accept support when you need it – from the right people. It might be a long and difficult journey, but keep your eyes on the prize and never give up. That dear readers is how you can make obstacles work for you.

What are your thoughts on treating obstacles as stepping stones?

PS – in case you were wondering, I ended up being redeployed to a much better role within the same company. And I’m taking some big steps this year towards my new career and life goals. Cheers to treating obstacles as stepping stones!

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© Jan Perera 2021. All rights reserved.

© Jan Perera 2021. All rights reserved.

17 thoughts on “Things to ponder: Obstacles or stepping stones?”

  1. Such a powerful message Jan! I’m glad things did work out well for you in the end. It’s very hard to be positive when things seemingly go south, so I commend you for getting out of that funk. I struggle with obstacles. Every time something doesn’t go as planned, it breaks me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Shelly. I’m really thankful for how things turned out.
      I can relate to that. That was more or less my story with obstacles too until recently. I’d say you’re off to a great start in being honest and accepting how they affect you. Hopefully that will help you recognise it the next time you experience it. And when you do, it’ll be about working how to hit pause and find a way back to your amazing normal self. You can do it – I have faith in you! Xx
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Suzanne. Glad you found the post relatable.
      Our reactions so play a big part doesn’t it. They can make a mountain of a molehill! ☺️ Good thing is we can learn to manage our reaction.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! You are so right. A lot of the time it’s a waiting game. And that’s where we have to be careful to not lose patience and give up.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Our reactions to events are indeed our biggest obstacles. How we perceive an event determines how we react to that event. Seeing it as a challenge to be overcome is much more productive than attaching negativity to it.
    Last year was a time for challenge and growth. I myself lost my job and was momentarily lost at what to do. However, it gave me the opportunity to focus on other important aspects of my life.
    Thanks for sharing.
    This made me recall a book that I want to read: The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Have you ever read it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad to hear you chose to focus on the positive of a tough experience.
      And you’re quite right it’s really our reactions that we need to manage more than the obstacle itself.
      I haven’t read that book. Let me know how you go ☺️
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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