The Obstacle is the Way!

In coming up with ideas for this week’s piece, I kept returning to a book that I read some time ago that shared a message which I found really helpful and thought that it would be perfect to share with you.

The book, ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ by Ryan Holiday, is essentially about ancient stoic philosophy on life from as far back as the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. The stoics suggest that the most effective way to deal with a problem or an obstacle in one’s path is to move as quickly as you can to see it as something positive. This approach might seem unrealistic, however, it is more about being open to another perspective.

Turning panic into curiosity

In fact, the author is saying that normally when we encounter unexpected obstacles, we react by panicking or freezing and indeed burying our heads in the sand. This, in turn, results in a lack of response and inevitably the consequences of the event turn out to be much worse. 

Instead, he is suggesting that we apply a different strategy by asking the question, “How is this event or occurrence good for me?” He says that the very application of this approach creates a shift in our perspective that presents a greater chance of moving from the frozen or panicky state into action.

Be curious about positive possibilities

Just think, how many times has something happened in your life or business that initially looked disastrous, but subsequently turned out to be positively life-changing? In fact, the evidence from interviews with cancer survivors, people who lost everything and others who suffered hugely tragic events in their lives, testify that they are subsequently better for their experiences. That is not to say that there won’t be pain or discomfort as we go through and deal with the event, but the sooner we can get to a perspective of being curious and open to the positive possibilities, the better.

Since reading the book I have tried this thinking on a couple of my own challenges. I will admit that whilst it was difficult to get into the mindset of seeing the obstacle as positive, I have certainly seen a shift in my attitude and creativity around devising workable solutions. 

So, I can wholly recommend it to you to give it a try and I would be very interested in knowing how you get on if you do.