I love watching movies. Especially ones were the protagonist is facing a seemingly impossible challenge but through hard work, he fights his way through the obstacles and saves the day. That’s my second addiction – the first one being reading like a maniac. Unfortunately, there is something inherently bad about Hollywood movies – they sell you the idea that after defeating the big boss, getting the girl, or throwing the ring in the hot lava, life becomes carefree. That everyone is now safe and we can all dance together.
Years ago, before graduating, I thought that once I’m out of school I’ll feel a lot better. Then, I thought that after I get a high-paying job and I’m married, everything will be fine and dandy. Simultaneously, I desperately wanted to buy my own apartment. For me, that was the equivalent of a successful life. I convinced myself that once I have all of these things, my life will be effortless.
To save you some time and the melodramatic turns of my relationship, I’m just going to share that I got all of these things but they didn’t make life easier. Quite the contrary, it’s even harder now.1
“I just need to push myself for a couple of years. After that, everything will be like a walk in the part.” That was my mantra for a large part of my life. And while I still believe that life becomes slightly easier if you daily practice certain things, in general, there is no way to avoid dealing with obstacles and hardship.
Life is a constant process of obstacle-handling. At least if you want to live a life you’re proud of.
You Can’t Escape Obstacles
The best way to realize that life is a continuous process of problem-solving is to consider a weight lifter for a moment – or an Instagram model. Yes, let’s observe the life of an Instagram model, that’s more trendy.
Say that the Insta star is getting a ton of likes on all of her pics because her body was as if sculpted by Michelangelo himself. Everyone is cheering in the comments section and big brands are throwing cash – life is good.
At least that’s how life appears to be.
Behind the scenes though, the flashy person is daily doing burpees and bench pressing. Probably this picture-sharing girl is waking up early in the morning to handle all of her requests and to make sure her body stays appropriate for the public.
And believe me, no matter how many burpees you’ve done in the past, they are always painful.
The moment this Instagram model stops exercising and eating healthily, the funding will stop because her body won’t be “worthy” for the sexy-pics-loving crowd. Yes, this sounds shallow, materialistic, and even gross – and it is – but that’s how life is.
You don’t get what you want, you get what you’re willing to suffer for.
Yet, there is a large group of people who don’t accept that fact. They don’t want to believe that life is about dealing with hardship. They are convinced that living in the 21st century is all about partying, having fun, and streaming shows.
And I can’t blame them. I believed the same not long ago.
But sorry folks, I have to disappoint you.
Life is about handling obstacles.
Why Avoiding Obstacles is Dangerous?
You just got a salary raise? Good job! Why don’t you buy a new car? I mean, the one you have now is surely not as good as what’s currently available on the market. Saving money is for suckers. We only live once!
You wake up around noon after drinking all night? Attaboy! You deserve it. After all, you have a job. According to statistics, nearly 40% of Americans aren’t working. So, since you have a job, you deserve a treat.2
Or at least that’s what we’re told.
We’re constantly pushed to take a step back and to relax. To go on vacation. To travel more. To buy more things that promise high status.
Everything that’s advertised promotes the path of least resistance.
But if you choose the easy path, the route where there are no obstacles, a sequence of events it’s triggered and a couple of things happen. Not necessarily now, but in the upcoming future.
You get fat, indebted, addicted to nicotine narcissistic with more than 1,000 friends online but not a single person visiting you in the hospital when you’re actually sick.
How To Handle Obstacles?
Challenges are trying to bring you down the moment you wake up.
Here are some of the things we daily face:
You need to fight your way through traffic; You need to finish a report ASAP; You’re trying to read a book per week but your kid’s interests clash with your intentions; Your wife’s birthday is coming close and you need to organize a party…
And on top of everything, the most intelligent part of us – our brain – this complicated system of neurons, is not helping. When there’s an obstacle ahead, the default response of the brain is to forget about it. To turn around. To flee. After all, every challenge requires mental power. And mental power requires resources – something the brain tries to reduce all the time.
So, how to deal with hardship then?
Well, it really depends on the challenge you are facing, but in general, there are a few steps that will help you:
A Short Practical Process to Handle Obstacles
Step 1: Don’t Panic
When you’re facing a big task that seems impossible, don’t panic. Going hysterical about how “this is so hard and impossible,” won’t help you – nor complaining to your best friends.
Instead, we should stop for a moment and identify the small problems inside the big task. The ones that are less hard to do.
Step 2: Spot the Small Cracks
Let’s consider reading for a moment. A book that’s 400 pages looks like a massive challenge – especially if you’re not a vivid reader.
In the past, I was quite nervous to start a lengthy book. But now I have a system.
When I’m about to start a new read, I don’t pay much attention to the length. I do something else. I divide the pages to the amount of time I have to finish it.
For example, If I want to finish a book that’s 400 pages in a week, this will mean that I have to read 58 pages per day. Compared to 400, 58 pages looks much more achievable.
But I go even further. To ease my mind even more, I consider it like this: 1) read 29 pages before noon 2) read another 29 pages before going to bed in the evening.
Now, after doing this short calculus, my brain is more prone to start reading. I’m no longer facing the obstacle of 400 pages, I just need to read 29 pages.
Step 3: Make a Plan and Start With The Easiest Thing
The third step of the obstacle-handling process is to prioritize the problems inside the big problem.
If you have a task to prepare a presentation, it’s best to start with something easy – outlining the main points. After that writing the draft. Then, editing the draft… and so on.
The idea is to make it easy. To trick the brain into starting by scheduling the easiest thing first on your to-do list. Or as the author James Clear states, in his best-seller book Atomic Habits, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
When the task feels easy, you no longer consider it an obstacle. It’s just another thing you need to start doing.
That’s basically it.
This 3-step process will help you handle big nasty challenges that initially seemed impossible. Still, there are two additional things you might consider when facing challenging situations:
Bonus Steps for Overcoming Obstacles
Obstacles Never Stop
Don’t wish for carefree life because it’s not going to happen. Instead, realize that life is a constant uphill battle. Once you let this idea sink into your veins, find obstacles you’re OK with handling.
For example, as a pro book summarizer, I face the same obstacle every week – to read a book and to write the key takeaways. Is it hard? Yes. Is it stressful? Sometimes. But it’s something I chose myself and I love doing it.
On the other hand, a weightlifter is faced with the task of training every day. A professional tennis player? To get better at tennis.
“And why push yourself so hard?” you might ask. Simple. Here’s the answer:
There’s An Opportunity in Every Obstacle
There’s an old zen story shared in the book The Obstacle is The Way that states: “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”
What happens when you regularly exercise? You get stronger. What happens if you regularly write? You get a better writer.
Normally, these things create opportunities. People are constantly looking for writers and strong muscular people are always trendy on social media.
Some Closing Thoughts
There’s a reason movies have a happy ending. And the reason is dead simple: a happy ending makes the viewer feel happy, and a crappy ending makes the viewer feel crappy. People don’t like discomfort. After all, viewers want to feel good about spending 30+ dollars for a ticket and some popcorn. If they don’t, they’ll go home angry and write nasty reviews online. Or in other words, it’s bad for business to end your movie on a bad note.3
But as you certainly can figure out on your own, real-life is nothing compared to what happens in the movies. After the final scene, regardless of the outcome, life continues for you. You still need to feed the cat. To get up and go to work tomorrow. To make sure your business stays afloat.
You still need to handle obstacles!
And while challenges won’t ever vanish, you have the luxury of choosing, at least partially, the obstacles that come into your life.4
So, take some time and choose what obstacles to invite in your life. Once you decide, don’t stop climbing uphill.
- It’s harder because I have a lot to lose.
- Apperently, more than 40% of all Americans aren’t working because of “reasons.” Source.
- The information in this paragraph is based on the witty comments inside this funny forum: LINK.
- I’m saying partially because there are things that we can’t predict: illness, financial crisis, etc. Still, what we can do is to prepare in advance.