Obstacles, inner strength, resilience and philosophy – what do they have in common?
They all help us get out of our own way. Yes… even the obstacles.
Let me ask you something else; how many times have you heard the phrase ‘get out of your own way’?
Well, what if it wasn’t just about getting out of your way?
What if you ‘being’ in the way, was the way forward?
Let me explain…
I just heard Ryan Holiday (author and marketing guru) speak at Ontrapalooza in Santa Barbara.
It was an inspiring talk about how we can turn trials into triumphs, everyday. Ryan explained to us the philosophy of stoic optimism – how in every situation, no matter how difficult or trying, we can choose to see the opportunity it holds.
I’d never heard of ‘stoic optimism’, but throughout his talk he made it apply to our everyday lives in such a way that I could see how timeless, how important, how needed it is.
Turning trials into triumph. Obstacles into gifts. Mountains into molehills.
It put much of this past year into perspective for me. It felt deeply healing, and in about 90 minutes, he helped me see the difficulties I’ve faced this year in a whole new light.
They ceased being difficulties. They became the way I’ve moved forwards. I’ve always been a fond believer of the old adage, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or, it’s character building. And this year I’ve had a lot ‘character building’ moments… in business and in life.
Don’t we all?
In the first few moments of his talk, Holiday quoted Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and Roman emperor:
‘The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.’
What does this mean?
It means that what stands in your way is showing you how to move forwards.
You can take what feels hard and brittle and difficult and make it work for you.
You can turn obstacles into triumphs, build bridges over ditches, and get out of your own way.
Throughout Holiday’s talk, I kept thinking about the situation that presented itself to me eight days before the launch of my Heartfelt Harmony Society – when I found out I’d been infringing on a registered trademark and had to change my Society’s name (and all the branding, content and web stuff that came with it!).
It felt incredibly trying. And yet… the obstacle, what needed to change (my product’s name), became the way forward.
In the theories of stoic optimism, there’s an idea called the Discipline of Perception – how you feel and think determines how you respond. You may be familiar with this concept through Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map – working out how you want to feel, and doing what you need to feel that way.
Blend that with stoic optimise; how do you want to feel under pressure? How can you manage a difficult situation in a way that becomes triumphant?
Or, like so many of us, do you stress out, complain and do everything possible to remove yourself from the situation?
Do you make things worse by procrastinating, by not taking action, by ignoring the obstacle?
Holiday presented this quote to us, by Chris Hadfield (an astronaut, the first Canadian to walk in space):
‘Remember… there’s no problem that you can’t make worse also.’
In my situation, I could have easily buckled under the pressure. There were many moments where I felt so overwhelmed and fear-filled, but I knew I had to keep pressing on. I knew this was just an obstacle and that it was up to me to find my way over it.
But of course there’ve been times in my life where I’ve made situations worse, or felt so frozen that I didn’t know how to act; the proverbial crying over spilt milk. What’s the simplest answer? Mop up the mess and learn from the experience.
I know that sometimes it’s easier to allow things to feel as though they’re swallowing us, because stepping up and showing up can feel hard. We often have expectations about how things should have been, and we don’t want to let go because we don’t know how else things could be.
So… what does it mean to get out of our own way?
To start off with, I don’t think it means ceasing to work on ourselves, or being lazy, or stepping back.
On the contrary, I think getting out of our own way means taking leaps over obstacles, choosing how we respond to difficulties, and seeing the opportunity in every obstacle.
In every situation, we can choose excellence.
We can choose strength.
We can choose growth.
I love the way Holiday explained it in his talk; instead of seeing your cup as half full, work out how you can fill your cup up. The obstacle? A half full (or half empty?) cup. The way forward? Filling it up to the top.
He says, ‘Hope is not a strategy’ – but what can you do to take action? If you and 10 others are in a boat with a hole in it that’s quickly sinking, you’d be better off patching the hole first, and then working out who made the hole. Imagine if you all just sat there talking about the hole, where it came from and what you had to do about it. You’d sink. But if you take action, if you turn the obstacle into an opportunity, if you patch the hole, you’ll stay afloat… and then later, you can work out why it happened (if you even need to!).
Is it about being optimistic and thinking that everything will just always work in your favour? Holiday says no, actually.
It’s about aligning yourself to things working out as well as they can, or better.
But… if things don’t turn out as you ‘expected’, it’s about being resilient and focused and determined to control and master your attitude, to find the gift in what you’ve lost, dropped, or missed out on.
If you see the opportunity in an obstacle, you can turn it into a gift.
Changing my Society’s name from The Body Harmony Society to the Heartfelt Harmony Society has certainly been a gift. It allowed me to open up the space and energy of the Society, and to focus it even more on some of my passions – the mental, emotional and spiritual side of our lives, beings and worlds… instead of just on the physical side.
Was it a hectic, upsetting, expensive obstacle? Sure.
But did I turn it into a gift? I think so.
How can you apply this to a situation you’re currently going through?
If you’d like some support in turning obstacles into gifts, I’d love to help:
- Join the free call I’m running on Friday 30 October on releasing 2015 and settings intentions for the new year (only available to members of my Heartfelt Harmony Society – join us here!)
- Work with me 1:1 using kinesiology to help you clear blocks and truly get out of your own way
- Work with me through a program, whether it’s health + wellness, or business blocks you want to clear
- Further reading: I’m about to start Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way. I am sure it’ll be a book I’ll highly recommend!