There are two obstacles. Or maybe at least two categories of obstacles.
Internal obstacles and external obstacles.
Internal obstacles include fear, doubt, our inner voice, regret, commitment, procrastination, and fear (yes I put it on the list twice).
External obstacles include time, resources, location, people, bosses, organizations, regulations, climate, and the entire world.
When we do not accomplish something it is so tempting to blame the external obstacles.
You didn’t have the time.
You didn’t have the resources.
The organization got in the way.
Those people derailed you.
The weather didn’t cooperate.
In reality, our internal obstacles play a larger role.
You were afraid.
Your inner voice reminded you that you are an imposter.
You thought you might fail.
You were afraid.
You didn’t commit.
The genius of the internal obstacles is that they convince you to look elsewhere. To look outside.
Internal obstacles hold up a magnifying glass and convince us that the external obstacles are large. Larger than life.
We forget that a magnifying glass, although helpful in viewing details, is a distortion of reality.
This distortion convinces us that we have no power to move forward. The external obstacles are too large, too menacing, too much to overcome.
The internal obstacles get off easy by blaming the external obstacles.
Next time, don’t let them off so easily.
Put down that magnifying glass, and take that first step.
Fear not the obstacles in your path.
(I can no longer type or say OBSTACLES without thinking of this movie scene. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. However, now all I hear is “OB-STACK-ELLS”)
“I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them…”
Our youngest daughter recently began running with me. We found some new shoes and planned a run.
“How far do you want to go on your first run?”
“How far do you normally go when you go off running?”
“Well my typical everyday route is a 5k.”
“How far is that?”
“Okay we should do that.”
We ran. We talked. We laughed.
We had to slow down a few times. She is used to sprinting on the soccer field.
As I watched her, her stride, gate, and frame something became clear: it is only a matter of time before she can out run me. With a combination of pride and a little envy, I realized my job is to coach her well, enjoy this time with her, and help her excel in something that she seems designed to do.
Each step confirmed that she is a runner.
But there is a hill.
In addition to providing encouragement and some tips on breathing, I explained that there is The Hill Rule in running. For those of you not familiar with this particular rule, let me explain.
The Hill Rule: when running up a hill, you are not allowed to stop. If you need to stop there are only two options.
1. Stop before you get to the hill, catch your breath, then proceed up the hill.
2. Stop at the top of the hill, after you run up the hill.
The reason for The Hill Rule is simple. A large part of running is a mental game. Stopping in the middle of a hill imprints a pattern that you cannot run hills, and you will tend to stop when faced with the next larger hill. The Hill Rule breaks this pattern, and does acknowledge that hills are hard, but there are options to overcome them.
The more I thought about The Hill Rule, the more I could see how it applies to any obstacle we face. When we give up or stop in the middle, we develop a pattern that can continue the next time that obstacle arises. Frankly, a large part of life is a mental game.
Try applying The Hill Rule to your next obstacle. Either stop and rest before you tackle it, or rest when it is over. No stopping in the middle.
We ran up that hill without stopping. We rested at the end, and celebrated the run.
We are looking forward to the next run, and there will be hills.
We are all faced with tasks or assignments that are not always our first choice. Some are placed upon us from others, some just arrive at our doorstep. I am not talking about the great tasks we enjoy, and are excited about starting. These are the tasks that you would rather not complete. The tasks we tend to procrastinate.
What makes these tasks less desirable? Sometimes these tasks are just unpleasant, but more often a different pattern emerges. These tasks typically invoke a fear or insecurity that wakes the narrator. These tasks combined with that negative voice become large obstacles. Obstacles that cause us to stop.
More recently, I have recognized this pattern. Now when that task combines with my inner voice I pause and size up the obstacle. Is it really as bad as I thought? Will I really fail completely?Probably not!
At these times I reflect on something I heard recently. (I cannot remember where I heard it so if you can attribute it, let me know.)
“Do the next thing you know the least about…”
This reminds me to push beyond the obstacle, and look for the opportunity. Will it be perfect?Nope.Will I learn?Yes.
As scary at it can seem, I am looking forward to the next opportunity. I just have to remind my narrator to be quiet, because I have work to do!