Do you find yourself confronted with the same issues over and over?
Maybe you’re always tense in your shoulders or struggle with chronic digestive issues.
Or perhaps you tend to be perpetually anxious or negative.
Maybe you have a longstanding issue with overeating or procrastinating or being disorganized.
Whatever you're struggling with, whether it’s problems in relationships, work situations, or something else, if it’s been an issue in your life for a while I have good news to share with you.
How would it feel to finally overcome the obstacles you’ve dealt with for way too long and are holding you back from the positive changes you want?
Not only is it possible, but it's also the reason the obstacles are there in the first place.
The reason you’re not overcoming the obstacles that hold you back is that you’re seeing them as obstacles.
By definition, an obstacle is a thing that blocks your way or hinders progress.
A barrier, stumbling block, obstruction, or deterrent.
Even the language we use with the word obstacle is prohibitive.
We say we’re “up against” an obstacle or we’ve “hit a major” obstacle.
And the idea of “overcoming” an obstacle implies a problem or difficulty.
The truth is, every perceived obstacle in your life is actually a symptom and opportunity to understand what you need to heal and thrive.
Let me explain.
Imagine you have a cold and are at the drugstore for medicine.
There are dozens of cold remedies to choose from, but you don’t stand in the aisle and decide to not bother getting medicine because you’re not feeling well.
Instead, you choose what you need based on your symptoms.
You may have a cough, congestion, runny nose, sneezing, fever, sinus pressure, headache, or a sore throat.
And these symptoms are information that helps you get the right medicine.
In fact, your symptoms are the very reason you 1. know you have a cold and 2. are seeking relief.
Your perceived obstacles are simply symptoms of what is preventing you from realizing your potential.
Another way to say it is: the issues you experience over and over again offer extremely relevant information that helps you:
- recognize room for improvement and
- identify what you need in order to make the positive changes you want in your life.
When you begin to see perceived obstacles this way, instead of stumbling blocks, the things that have been holding you back become stepping stones to growth.
Here’s an example from my life.
For years, I struggled with writing and felt it was a major barrier to being able to express myself about my work.
When faced with having to write, whether it was an important email, a blog post, or my website, I’d look for other people’s words to figure out what I wanted to say and use them for the basis of my own “writing”.
As you can imagine this meant I spent a ridiculous amount of time googling and researching, and then reworking someone else’s words.
Because I saw my struggle with writing as an obstacle, I approached it like a problem I had to overcome.
And for years had to face this problem over and over again.
What often happens with our perceived obstacles is that at some point they become painful enough to fuel a shift.
Whether it’s a chronic physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral issue, we can struggle for years or even decades but it’s not until the struggle becomes suffering that we seek a remedy.
And here’s the good news:
The remedy for your chronic issues is more than just relief from the struggle, because your perceived obstacles are symptoms of what is preventing you from realizing your potential, the remedy is the path to transformation.
I love the way the poet Najwa Zebian says it:
Those mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.
My years-long struggle with writing was a symptom of not being clear about my message.
And not being clear about my message was a symptom of avoiding my inner voice and not believing in and trusting myself.
The medicine that helped me get clear about my message by listening, which led to believing in and trusting myself, was writing.
For the record, I did not come to understand this all at once!
When the weight of the mountain of my writing issue became too much, climbing the mountain of listening was the remedy.
It was messy for a while but there was a sense of relief that came with the hopefulness of trying a different way.
And as I opened (slowly) to listening to myself, the obstacle of my writing shifted into a stepping stone.
The more I listen, the clearer and more confident I become which has improved not only my writing but the way I show up for myself and my family and my work.
The perceived obstacle of writing was a symptom that helped me understand what I needed to make a big positive shift in my life.
So how do you begin to use your perceived obstacles to shift from being chronic problems in your life to stepping stones to growth?
First, notice an issue you face over and over again in your life.
Then, open to it as an opportunity to learn about yourself.
I recommend starting with simply asking the question:
What is this trying to show me? And then continually asking: What else?
Let’s look at some examples:
Maybe you’re always tense in your shoulders.
When you ask yourself, what is this trying to show me?, you may think it’s that you need to work on relaxing your shoulders (and that’s not wrong) but what else?
It may be that your shoulders tend to be most tense after a busy day when you’ve feel worried about accomplishing all that you believe you need to do.
So what else are your tense shoulders trying to show you?
Perhaps it’s that you’re overwhelmed with your responsibilities, say yes to too much, and feel like you have to do it all perfectly.
I want to be clear, you won’t understand all of what your perceived obstacle is trying to show you all at once.
The practice is to keep asking.
Perhaps you tend to be perpetually anxious.
What is that trying to show you?
At the top level, it’s probably that you can’t quiet your mind.
But what else?
It’s something like you worry a lot about everything.
You may be afraid of losing control, or feeling helpless, or not supported.
Remember, when you begin to work with your perceived obstacles this way, instead of stumbling blocks, they become stepping stones to growth.
The first step is acknowledging the problems you face repeatedly in your life.
Let me know in the comments below what perceived obstacles you’ve faced over and over in your life by finishing the sentence:
I often struggle with ______________________.