Turning Obstacles into Opportunities

We all encounter obstacles in life — fair and unfair. What matters most is not what these obstacles are, but how we see them. In our personal and business lives, in working with customers, clients and family members, how we react to obstacles and whether we keep our composure determine how successful we will be in overcoming them. 

When we encounter adversity, we can either choose to feel like the world is against us or we can roll up our sleeves and take another perspective, one in which we determine our outcome. 

Perception is how we see and understand what happens around us. It is what we decide these events mean to us. Our perceptions create either a positive or negative experience, yet it is up to us to determine how we feel. Nothing makes us feel a certain way — we choose how we feel. We choose how we see an obstacle or situation.  

It takes self-discipline and practice to manage our perceptions, to separate reliable signals from deceptive ones, to filter out prejudice, expectation and fear. We need to be able to see things simply and straightforwardly, as they truly are, and to remove judgement of good or bad. It is easy to let our emotions get the best of us and react out of emotion. Instead, we should make sure to think logically before acting in order to improve the situation and overcome the obstacle. 

Outward appearances of an obstacle are deceptive. If we perceive things differently, we can move beyond what others see, believe or fear. We stop seeing problems as problems and begin to focus on what they really are – opportunities to grow. 

As we manage our perceptions, we can see a problem rationally and transform that negative situation into an education, a skillset or a fortune. When seen properly, everything that happens is a chance to move forward. 

Overcoming adversity 

So, how do we take these practices and apply them to our everyday personal and business lives? Several of us have read The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday, which has some great concepts for overcoming adversity. 

When faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, Holiday suggests the following: 

  • Be objective
  • Control emotions and keep an even keel 
  • Choose to see the good in a situation 
  • Steady your nerves 
  • Ignore what disturbs or limits others 
  • Place things in perspective 
  • Revert to the present moment
  • Focus on what you can control

This is the beginning for how you may see the opportunity within the obstacle. It does not happen on its own. It is a process that requires observing and looking at life from a different lens. 

However, it can take time to master these skills, and practice is the only way to improve on them. In the midst of a stressful and emotional situation, take a break to come back to these suggestions and allow yourself to think without your emotions getting in the way. Once you master this, you will live life with a whole new way of thinking. It’s all about how you choose to see things.