Overcoming Obstacles

May 11, 2021 by Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

Obstacles are all around us. We face them at work and in our personal lives. They often appear unexpectedly and can be a barrier that sets you back, halts your progress, or derails your best-laid plans. Some people see obstacles as a puzzle to solve, others see them as an opportunity to grow, and some will see them as a threat. 

If achieving goals were easy, everyone would do it quickly without difficulty. When I was in the 7th grade, I was 4’11” and overweight. I have never been athletic; I was the shy girl that was always the last to be chosen for teams in P.E. class. One of the units in P.E. was track and field. To my surprise, my short 4’11’ frame did well with jumping hurdles. Our perception of the challenges is key. As a 7th grader, the hurdles appeared huge, especially to a short person. When we see challenges as huge obstacles often, we allow fear to stop us. We think the obstacle is too large. 

There will always be obstacles and challenges in life.  It is the joy and journey of clearing obstacles that make life rich and accomplishing goals makes you feel successful. I have a friend who is brave and shares photos of her weight loss journey on social media. The other day when she was struggling with progress, she posted side-by-side photos of where she started to where she is today. It was a good reminder not only to her but to those she shared it with on just how far she has come. 

3 Different types of Obstacles

  • External Obstacles
    • Obstacles outside of our control like the economy, natural disasters, physical limitations, and political climate.
  • Internal Obstacles
    • Things you have direct control over like debt, cash flow, needed skills, and talent.
  • Habitual Obstacles
    • How people prevent their progress (behavioral change)

Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank said “The Less time it takes to overcome obstacles the more successful you will be”

To overcome obstacles, you need:

Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank said “The Less time it takes to overcome obstacles the more successful you will be”

1. Embrace Self-Awareness

Lack of knowledge of who you are is a big obstacle. Take the time to invest in yourself and investigate yourself. Ask What do I do well? What do I poorly?”

You will not reach your goals if you blame others. We do not always blame another person for our lack of success, we blame time. When you look at successful people, they make the time.

Pushing past fear is just a part of building business says, Corcoran. I would add that pushing past fear also shapes you as an individual. You have the power to make a change. Challenges and letdowns aren’t inherently bad; they can serve as motivators for success.

When I started a career in higher education, someone had recommended that I apply for a job at the institute of technology. I didn’t believe in myself and thought I couldn’t do that; I wasn’t even a college graduate at that time. Eventually, I printed out a resume and took it to HR. They didn’t even have a job opening at the time. A few months later I received a telephone call, a job had opened up and I was the only person on file that knew a specific desktop publishing software. I was called in for an interview and it wasn’t an interview, it was more of they described the job and had me start that day. In less than a week on the job, I realized I knew more about the software they were using than the supervisor. It was humbling to realize that initially I postponed talking in a resume because I didn’t think I was qualified.  

2. Use Time to your Advantage

Establish mini-goals as building blocks. The harder the obstacle the more time it will take to overcome. It helps to measure large obstacles with small measurable steps. For me when I was earning my MBA, my measurements were one class at a time. Slowly ticking off each class. Likewise, when I was on a weight loss journey, my measurement was weekly and in inches. When plateaus on the scale hit, I found I was still losing inches. Celebrating each small victory along the way provides the motivation needed to keep going.

3. Commit to Focused Discipline

It is easy to get distracted with the present. Things pop up every day. I go to work with a to-do list I want to accomplish. Some days with telephone calls and other interruptions by the time I get to the end of the day nothing was crossed off my to-do list. 

I have to remind myself that it is okay and taking the time required to answer the questions and strengthen relationships is more important than the to-do list.

True discipline is about committing time and effort regardless of external factors.

4. Engage Your Creativity

Find creative solutions that bring fun and progress to the grind of the obstacle removal. You are unique and do not think the same as another or do you solve problems the same way. And, it is okay!  

“You won’t know what you are made of until you face a struggle” Barbara Corcoran It is how you behave in the face of challenge or difficulty that matters. When overcoming obstacles, you will endure, you are capable and strong even if you don’t see it. No matter how bleak things look or how many times you think you’ve failed, you’ve got to keep getting back up. No matter how hard, the only way to achieve success is to work through the repeated failures that life inevitably hurls your way.

The Struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.